By Simon Haslam
The evolution of the old Sunrise Bistro into the North Byron Hotel is a boon for all of us who visit it.
Set outside the busyness of central Byron, down the road from the Habitat precinct, and hugged by vegetation, it’s tucked away enough to feel like a haven. The place is open and inviting with a chilled coastal vibe. There’s an abundance of natural materials with stylish features, driftwood, and greenery inside reflecting the bushy surrounds.
There are a number of different open spaces within the venue. Large glass doors open out to spacious decks (with heaters); out on the lawn there are hip shaded and sunny outdoor settings including rugs and cushions and fairy lights; there is an elegantly casual dining area; a spacious bar area where you can take in the scenery or pull up on a comfortable stool; and, an essential in any proper pub, the pool table. All of this works really well together and creates a relaxed and beautiful venue. Acoustic engineering isn’t usually a sexy subject but this venue offers a place that engenders easy intimate conversation.
You can move from beers at the bar or cocktails on the lawn to the dining room where there is a display of bottles of wines and champagne – sitting on a bed of ice are white and rosé wines, including three different French rosés, two of which, like many of the whites and reds, were offered by the glass. And, if you really must celebrate with a bottle of Veuve, or an expensive bottle of chardonnay, you can indulge yourself. As for choice in beers, there seemed to be a couple of dozen beers on tap as well. You might consider using their local courtesy bus with pick-ups and drop-offs available as well, if you really want to test out the entire range.
Dining at the North Byron was really enjoyable; the food was tasty, fresh, and generous. They have great share plates: from a simple bowl of Sicilian olives or fried local calamari with kimchi, pickled cucumbers, and Thai basil to a wonderful wood-fired miso eggplant with salsa verde – these are dishes that are hard to find in other pubs! There are pub staples of burgers, steaks, and pasta as well as dishes like local wood-fired king prawns with burnt butter or kingfish crudo with coconut, green nahm jim, heirloom cucumbers and green chilli.
Where the dining room meets the kitchen sits a grand pizza oven, which itself is a work of art, and the wood-fired pizzas that come out of it have already earned a great reputation. The pizzas have all the classic toppings as well as some ambrosial delights, black truffle, smoked speck, rosemary, thyme, and oregano, as well as Salumi’s inferno salami and more.
Complete the meal with one of their generous salads, such as the broccoli salad with pancetta, or the orange, fennel, pomegranate salad – all come with a huge array of potential add-ons like grilled chicken and beef, halloumi, Byron Bay burrata, white anchovies etc, as do the ten different pizzas, if you feel like you want to micro-manage your whole food experience.
The service was friendly, helpful, and prompt, with meals arriving easily and punctually. There are plenty of staff here, unlike many other places! As a result, our food came quickly, but whether we were ordering food, getting served at the bar, or having our table cleared, it was all easy.
The North Byron Hotel is a hidden treasure, where all are welcome. On the Saturday night we visited hip, beanie-headed pool players were there alongside elegant elders, festive family groups, and mirthful mid-agers. In other words, our whole community – everyone is welcome and everyone is catered for, whether you enjoy a beer and a bowl of chips or champagne and crudo, it’s here.