Byron Fresh is an enduring cafe favourite, right in the beating heart of Byron, on the corner of the happening Bay Lane (car-free from 5pm every night) and Jonson Street, just back from the beach. There’s an open beachy design with great classic touches. The vibe encompasses relaxed drifting through the day to greeting the buzzing energy of the street in the evenings. With indoor and outdoor seating you can cosy up inside with the fire, or be seated outside to watch the eclectic parade and soak up the atmosphere close to the hip, resident buskers who play dinner-friendly music. The cafe welcomes people early, 7.30am for breakfast, and right up until 10pm in the evenings, seven days a week, and is awash with patrons at any time.
It’s also a venue that keeps it fresh with menu choices. Recently they have added a selection of South American dishes a couple of nights a week – thanks to a Brazilian chef and other South American staff – these are the real deal, the sorts of food you might eat with the Latin American family back home. We tried the Pastel de Papas Argentino ($16), reminiscent of a beef and potato pie looking like a piece of perfection with a golden toasted potato top, and served in a ‘cute as’ enamel pie dish. The Peruvian Lomé Saltado ($20) consisting of beef beautifully suffused with chargrilled flavour – as was the grilled Caponata, which was accompanied by salsa rosa, saffron rice, pickled vegetables and salad. But the South American additions to the menu are different each week – you might like the Brazilian Moqueca ($20) consisting of seafood, coconut milk, tomatoes, peppers, lime rice and fresh herbs. And of course the full normal bill of fare is always available, a menu with fresh food, organic ingredients and local produce.
Fresh has a genuine commitment to local producers, this is seen not only in their produce selections but also in the drinks menu. You can get further into the Latin vibe with a favourite South American export: the caipirinha… it is practically Brazil’s national drink. In South America it’s made with cachaca, a special spirit that is, like agricole rum, distilled from the cane juice rather than being distilled from the molasses (like Bundy), and it has a distinct flavour. Fresh has sourced a local distiller of agricole rum: Husk Distillers, who are pioneering local production of this specialty rum. The commitment to local spirits by Byron Fresh is commendable; they are using the great local producers like Husk, Winding Road, Lord Byron, Byron Bee’s, Soltera, Rancho Relaxo, Seven Mile, Stone & Wood, Bucha of Byron, and Byron Bay Juice Company to create a super-local drinks/cocktail list.
‘A very key thing for us is to work with as many local suppliers as possible’, says long-time owner Markus Hofer, ‘our buy is almost entirely local now – all our major suppliers. We’ve worked hard to achieve this over the years – 16 years ago we didn’t have so many suppliers. Bread Social, FarmGate, Hayters Hill meats, Byron Bay mozzarella, Stone & Wood, Husk, Marvell coffee roasters and Mayde Tea – all of these great suppliers weren’t here 16 years ago. They also seem to come up with great ideas, and offer it to us to incorporate into our range, whether it is seasonal product or something new to the region.’
In addition to the expanding range of local suppliers, there’s also been an explosion in quality competition in the local food scene, which Markus sees as a good thing. ‘It makes us constantly lift our game,’ he says.
If anyone should have their finger on the changes in Byron, it’s Markus, who’s been running the place for 16 years now, since falling in love with the venue after scouting it for a hospitality venue for a multinational, and moving. ‘Despite all the naysayers it’s still an awesome place to live’, he says, ‘I walk up the lighthouse every day and see whales. It was clear to me when I came that we couldn’t keep it a secret from the rest of the country, and despite some hiccups (like the Easter lockdown) we’ve been incredibly lucky since the 2020 lockdown ended. Of course, we still can’t seat as many people as we could pre-COVID, and it’s a bit of a “wait and see” what will happen in the next year, but so far we have weathered these changes well.’
With their incredible opening hours, the cafe needs a lot of staff. ‘With the lack of seasonal staff a lot of cafes have struggled to find staff. But we have sponsored many staff, including those from South America, and I think it’s good for us. Not only do we have loyal workers, but we also have these great additions to our menu from South America,’ says Markus.
Even if you’re not able to come on Wednesday and Thursday nights, the cafe also makes great breakfasts, lunches, dinners and coffees, with a relaxed vibe and friendly staff. They also have Sunday roast nights ($25 for roast and beer or wine) Sunday and Monday, and a lot of other stuff going on. Fresh is an eatery that lives up to its namesake, with fresh, local ingredients and new and invigorating options being offered regularly.
Byron Fresh, 7 Jonson St, Byron. Open 7.30am–10pm every day.