For those of us who work hard, or even just feel like we do, an alternative life of pleasure and simple luxury can have an irresistible appeal. But if we can’t live carefree by the Mediterranean, we try to enjoy that feeling in moments, at lunch with friends. The Hut is a restaurant with a beautiful country setting, and its menu is inspired by the Mediterranean way of life and shared eating – expect to feel like you’re in the southern Italian Riviera, or on Santorini, with a lot of fresh fish and light produce, eating simple food with delicious flavours. Of course, the Italian backgrounds of the staff, and the carefully selected cocktails and wonderfully interesting wine list, only serve to encourage you to enter that beautiful, but often elusive, state that can be occupied over a leisurely lunch.
The historic old Possum Creek school is a beautiful venue, but while they still welcome events, it has been deliberately repurposed as a restaurant – the long sharing tables have been replaced with smaller ones, and you can just dine with your partner or friends and choose from the full à la carte menu, at your own pace.
Sample menu dishes include: saganaki cheese with honey and oregano; fried baby squid with lemon, parsley, and aioli; and pata negra. This is a special type of cured ham, similar to prosciutto, that only comes from the rear legs of particular black-hooved (hence negra) pigs which must be raised in a free-range environment, many of which are fed a special diet of acorns. Pulpo y su tinta is grilled octopus with squid ink hummus, paprika and taggiasche olives.
‘We try to keep the food really simple, really fresh,’ says very busy Head Chef Bruno Conti, who is also the head chef at the excellent Di Vino restaurant in Byron, runs Terra Catering, and has his first child due in September. ‘As we are only open three days a week, I have plenty of time to think about the menu and change it weekly, with the best produce available that week.’ Bruno always has a backup option on the menu for vegetarians, or even vegans, so it’s an inclusive menu; if you’re bringing a group of friends it’s easy for everyone to find something delicious.
With Bruno knowing what it’s like to work seven days a week, they really are very focused on creating a relaxing dining experience. ‘We do a 2.5-hour first seating and a “long lunch” second seating, for those who want to have a very relaxed late lunch,’ says Bruno.
The wine and cocktail list is curated by Augusto, one of the owners, a certified professional sommelier, who is originally from Brazil but speaks fluent Italian after working in Florence for ten years, including at Michelin-starred restaurants. There are some excellent cocktails: The Hut Old Fashioned is made with La Progressiva Rum 13 and Amaro Rucolino, produced with wild rocket grown on the island of Ischia, which gives it a unique, slightly bitter flavour. You can have either an 80 per cent dark chocolate or 36-months aged Parmigiano Reggiano on the side.
The Estrella Damm Inedit beer from Barcelona is a unique collaboration with famous chef Ferran Adria, or try the Peroni Doppio Malto Gran Riserva, a double malt really rich beer fermented for eight weeks at low temperature, with a really mature flavour. The wine list, featuring an exciting array of Spanish, Italian, Greek, French, and even Slovenian wines, alongside Australian, allowing you to, for example, compare the imported Assyrtiko, a Greek white wine variety, with the one grown in the Clare Valley.
To finish your dining experience, make sure you have the best espresso brewed out of the vintage La Victoria Arduino coffee machine paired with a Sicilian Mandarin Amaro, a Capovilla Grappa of Gravner Ribolla or a plum and almond liquor from North Italy poured in front of you from the Hut’s ‘Amaro Trolley’. For those people who don’t even want to think too much about what they are going to eat, you can just relax and let the well-trained and passionate staff chefs suggest a set of dishes that will really go well together.
The Hut, Byron Bay.
Open lunch: 12–3pm Fri, Sat, Sun.
471 Friday Hut Rd, Possum Creek.
Bookings are essential and can only be made via the website: thehutbyronbay.com.au