Located metres from the beach in Byron, Loft has always been a great place, many would say the best place, in Byron for a north coast cocktail. With an airy interior and terrace that overlooks Jonson Street, a range of wines and food, coastal chic styling featuring natural elements and luxuriously oversized seating it is a wonderful destination right in the heart of town.
With the recent arrival of Chef Steven Haby at Loft, the dining menu is receiving a rightful new focus, and soon, to complement those changes, an expansion at the quality end of the wine list. Having owned a restaurant in Williamstown, and earned a chef’s hat at his Ice Bar Cafe, Prahan, and then at the Walters Wine Bar Melbourne, Haby has lived locally for the last 12 years, giving him not only true local knowledge of Northern Rivers produce and food culture, but also, because he’s been running his own guest house, an insight into what visitors enjoy most about their Byron experience.
‘It’s all about the relaxed vibe and lifestyle that Byron has to offer,’ says Haby. ‘People love the casual, laidback feel. That’s why Loft is so loved. It’s breezy, it’s coastal and it’s relaxed. You really feel like you’re on holidays!’. Well, that’s true when you’re dining, but the venue was really busy when I dined there, so I asked Haby what had lured him back into working hard again instead of kicking back and running a guest house?
‘I can assure you running a guest house is not as easy as it may seem, however, running a sizeable commercial kitchen is quite pressured. Customers have high expectations these days with so many food shows around. They are far more educated when it comes to cooking processes and styles than they were 30 years ago. I have always been a passionate person when it comes to food. I live and breathe food, and am always following the food pages with great interest. I guess I missed the challenges that a commercial kitchen brings and at times I do ask myself “why?”. But after a busy night and lots of compliments and great feedback, it all brings an incredible amount of satisfaction, that a lot of people never experience in their daily working life. A glass of wine after a busy service also helps!’ he said.
The menu is dynamic, with smaller plates such as Moreton Bay Bug tacos, or Ballina Squid ‘fritto misto’ designed to have as a bite with a drink; ‘medium’ plates such as Oven Roasted Ballina Prawns with XO butter and chives, or Kinkawooka Mussels in chilli, lemongrass and kaffir lime; and larger mains such as Cape Grim Sirloin or local ‘fish of the day’; and for those looking to try a range of dishes there is a very good value full four-course set-menu experience for $69.
The food is wonderfully balanced, with sophisticated orchestrations of flavours, and generously portioned. Even the Frank’s Burringbar Potatoes side dish was first-rate, served with confit garlic and the best side of flavourful mustardy mayonnaise I’ve eaten.
The Seared Hervey Bay Scallops (from the small plates menu) were perfectly cooked with a sensuous golden-brown searing. The Karaage Agedashi Tofu was a hit, the flavour was multi-dimensional. The soft inner tofu had a delicate flavour, the tofu crust was crunchy with its own distinct flavour, and the accompanying shitake and ginger Asian broth was a wonderful combination. Even though this dish was classed as a ‘medium’ sized option on the menu, it was substantial.
Other dishes include Hiramasa Kingfish Ceviche served with pink grapefruit and lime; Burrata with heirloom tomato, chorizo pamplona, roasted red peppers, basil and caper berries; and Japanese Chicken Slider. Amongst the main-sized dishes the barbeque chicken was the best chicken dish we’ve eaten in recent memory; as well we tried the Roasted Sugar Loaf Cabbage with beautifully roasted macadamias, roasted chickpeas and more.
In step with the addition of more restaurant-style items on the menu, there are imminent plans to expand and upgrade the wine selection to include a greater range of quality wines; a deserved accompaniment to the food. We had a bottle of the current ‘wine of the month’, a delightful 2019 unwooded chardonnay, more flinty than rich, from Cloudbreak in the Adelaide Hills, that went well with the seafood, chicken and vegetarian dishes we chose.
Loft is a favourite of many, all the elements work; prompt, friendly and knowledgeable service, a range of sizes and styles of wonderful food, a world-class beverage selection – and it’s all at our back door.
Open every day 4pm–late
From 1 October Loft will also be open for weekend lunches 12 noon (Saturday and Sunday).