Story S Haslam
It’s easy to get excited about Byron’s new MVP restaurant in Lawson St – it’s not only got standout dishes such as Blue Spirulina Linguine with blue swimmer crab and Yamba prawns, and Fettuccine al Ragù with Hayters Hill beef ragù sauce, feta and baby peas, but it’s also all sustainably sourced from local growers, available in takeaway (even delivered if you’re close to town) and more than half of the menu is plant-based.
While the restaurant has great options for seafood and meat eaters, it’s very inclusive, which makes friend and family gatherings easy. If you’re not into the beef ragù, vegan options include the Pappardelle al Ragù di Funghi, featuring wild mushroom ragù with delicious kale and pepita pesto, or a Bucantini Carbonara, made with charcoal bucantini, pancetta made from smoked mushroom, and a vegan egg yolk that actually oozes to give the dish that creamy carbonara texture. All pastas have a gluten free option using locally sourced gluten free pasta, or MVP’s own hand-rolled gnocchi.
Our children loved their beef ragù, my wife loved her crab and prawn linguine (although the gluten free version of the pasta isn’t blue) and I thought my $35 takeaway Obe One Cannoli (yes, pasta puns are a speciality of the house) with three distinct courses (stuffed zucchini flowers, mushroom ragù and delicious chocolate-filled arancini for dessert) was terrifically good value. All were served in sustainable containers and ready for pickup exactly when promised.
Of course, owners Mark Filippelli and mate Vince Pizzinga are experienced operators, with some of the best dishes from Mark and Vinny’s Spaghetti and Spritz Bar in Surry Hills now appearing on the menu up here, but even so, I was surprised at the relaxed way Mark, now locally based, described opening a restaurant in Byron in the middle of an unprecedented wet spell, combined with a COVID scare over the Bluesfest period. Especially after he’d decided to just have a break in Byron after ‘a difficult year’ running a restaurant in Melbourne (the Matcha Mylkbar in St Kilda) during the pandemic.
‘I’ve been here pretty much every year for 20 years, it’s a favourite spot, so when a friend told me this restaurant space was coming up, I just gave Vince a ring and said ‘How about it?’, laughs Mark. ‘It’s been really successful, I’ve been surprised in fact. Actually, opening away from the busy season, and with the COVID restrictions and rain, has been a blessing. It’s helped us to get to know the locals and give good service right from the start, and it’s also spurred us to get the takeaway system operating quickly. We’re very grateful for the good reception we’ve enjoyed’.
Even getting staff didn’t present an insuperable problem for Mark. ‘We were aware of the situation here, but we brought a chef and a manager with us to ensure the transition was as seamless as possible – not only were they stoked to live in Byron, but they also ensured all our local staff were trained properly. We were lucky to have family and friends up here who could recommend staff, so that’s gone very smoothly’.
One thing that has been very satisfying for Mark, with his commitment to sustainable food sources, is being able to source high quality food from right nearby. ‘More so than Sydney or Melbourne, Byron has a great ecosystem of very local suppliers, and you can taste how good the food is, with much of it coming from the farmers market just down the road. Even the drinks, with Jilly Wines, Brookie’s and Stone & Wood just nearby, people can see the local produce when they come to the restaurant, which I think just adds to the great feeling. In fact we joke that MVP (Mark and Vinny’s Place) is really in honour of the ‘Most Valuable Producers’ of Byron’, he says.
MVP: dine in + takeaway + delivery, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon. 7/7 Lawson St, Byron Bay (near Cardamon Pod).
Bookings via mvpbyronbay.com