As we arrive at Beach Byron Bay, we see a pretty, apron-clad staff member racing into the car park after two departing guests, ensuring they leave with their umbrella. It makes us smile, and bodes well for the evening ahead, despite the inclement weather.
The picturesque white, weatherboard cottage setting has you dining on a large covered deck. While the view is a whiteout on this particular evening, there’s still something charming about eating a meal somewhere you can hear the roar of the ocean and rain lashing the clear plastic blinds.
Charming quickly gives way to damp however, when we find the roof over our coveted front row table leaks. With surprising difficulty, considering the ratio of universally tanned and beautiful floor staff to diners, we flag down someone to move us one row back.
Both the cocktail list and the wine list are interesting. The ubiquitous Negroni is styled four different ways. I’m immediately drawn to the Spanish Negroni ($19) that teams my current favourite gin – Gin Mare – with Campari and Lustau ‘Vermut’ Tinto (a sherry-based Spanish vermouth). It makes for a beautiful drink, with a whisker of savoury rosemary cutting through the mix.
A Martini ($24) of Tanqueray 10 and Noilly Pratt is smooth and pleasurable, though the empty glasses of both drinks outstay their welcome, remaining on the table long into our A. Rodda ‘ Willow Lane Vineyard 2016 Chardonnay ($89). With toasty barrel notes, grapefruit and white peach, this is an elegant but powerful chardonnay. It would be even more enjoyable if our glasses of it were topped up without having to make a request. While we’re at it, we also ask for the empty cocktail glasses to be removed, an hour and a quarter into our booking.
From the concise menu, geared towards simple Italianate presentations of seafood, we ask about the Oysters ($4/each) only to be told they’re “from Sydney rock”. More probing and a trip back to the kitchen reveals they’re sourced from Wallis Lake. They're a bit creamy, meaning they're not quite as good as the Hastings River oysters we bought in Port Macquarie one day earlier.
The catch of the day is snapper, which scrubs up beautifully in their Raw Fish ($23) presentation, which sees it teamed with fresh horseradish, crème fraiche and mache.
Grilled King Prawns ($27) are given a simple lemon and chilli salsa treatment. The produce is good, but two of the three prawns are overcooked, making them torture to separate from the baked-on shells.
We wait a considerable time for the empty entree dishes to be cleared. The floor manager walks by, noting the dishes, but makes no attempt to fix the issue, or send someone else to do so. When diners start stacking plates on their table, it’s a pretty broad hint they should have been cleared. This seems lost on the next attractive floor team member to pass by, who bluntly asks: “Are you done?” "Quite some time ago, actually," my dining companion snipes. The waiter foolishly goes on to ask how the food was, and ends up making an awkward apology for the overcooked prawns.
Service seems a little more attentive after this exchange, though it's the kitchen now that drops the ball. Caserecce ($32) with spanner crab, negligible chill, garlic and parsley, is so boring I’m over the dish in two bites. The rustic twists of pasta are overcooked, with all the textural interest of spaghetti from a tin. The crab is lost, which is surprising considering not much else in the dish has any flavour.
Following the lead of the adjacent table, I request salt. We end up using an entire dish of salt to try to fix the pasta and a weird, bland Heirloom Potatoes ($12) side. In case the menu descriptor of 'heirloom potatoes, sheep yoghurt, chives, pecorino', doesn’t clue you in, it’s a potato salad sitting under a cloud of grated cheese.
Sardinian Fregola ($42) fares better, with the semolina pasta correctly handled and the accompanying seafood – clams, mussels and Moreton Bay bugs - eating well too. I’m less enamoured with large nude lump of stewed octopus.
It’s hard not to see neglect from the floor team as personal when there are so many staff, and so few other tables, so we are disinclined to stay for dessert.
Lulled into a false sense of security by this being a Fink Group restaurant, we thought yes it will be expensive but there will be a minimum standard across food, beverages and service. Only the wine and cocktails lived up to that promise; and while we did receive a 10% discount from our $277 bill for providing negative feedback, I can't say I recommend Beach Byron Bay.
Beach Byron Bay
2 Massinger Street, Byron Bay
Ph: (1300) 583 766