Bangalow is a particularly pretty blend of rolling green hills and federation architecture, with a quaint main street of heritage buildings that now house hip boutiques, galleries and cafes. In the middle of this strip that begs greater exploration, you’ll find Town Restaurant & Café.
Downstairs it’s a café by day, which, locals tell me, punches above its weight, particularly with Reuben sandwiches. At night, you can head up the stairs – uptown – for a seven-course Degustation ($85/head) if you’re smart enough to book ahead…
The lure is the pedigree of owner/chefs Karl and Katrina Kanetani. Their restaurant pedigree includes Sydney big hitters, Est., Quay and Tetsuya’s. Karl’s stamp on the menu is the influences from his Hawaiian and Japanese heritage, which keep even a seven-course degustation menu feeling quite light, starting with green gazpacho with house-made olive and olive oil crackers. Katrina’s contribution is her considerable dessert expertise, culminating in her becoming the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide’s Chef of the Year in 2006.
Winding through a series of art-filled rooms, we arrived at our table in the small front room of this double-storey terrace. The wine list, chosen by Karl, is weighted towards lighter styles. While our first selection is unavailable, we’re kept content with the 2015 Farr Rising Pinot Noir ($95), handled well by the floor staff who keep it cool on this warm night, without allowing it to become cold. The spicy plum notes drink well against an elegant orange finger of miso-cured salmon presented with almond cream, salmon floss and shin giku (chrysanthemum greens).
Greens are also a highlight in the prawn, presented on mustard zuke (pickled mustard leaves) with a ponzu dressing. The high quality toothsome crustacean and the macadamia nuts give this dish a wonderful sense of place. The single prawn portion size is perfect for me, ensuring I’m still hungry for the next course; however the increasingly long gaps between courses are driving my dining companion a bit mad. The restaurant seems to be labouring a bit with just one big group table and two tables for two. We’re kept amused by universally great music that’s wide ranging but within an appropriate band. The early nineties is well featured, with a track from Nightmares on Wax inspiring a conversation with the neighbouring table to pass the time.
Choko is a surprising twist in the snapper, presented in a mostly delicate broth with shallots and ginger. It’s a childhood dish for the chef, but there’s a salt-like intensity to the broth that feels like MSG, and knocks back the delicacy as you reach for more water or wine.
It’s nearly three hours in and we’re still awaiting the final savoury course. We distract ourselves with bathroom visits where Aesop products ensure we leave smelling like a day spa. We tour the art, before returning to our place under the nasturtium plant for teriyaki beef. While the beef is a little tough, the flavours in this dish excellengt and unique. The charred nasturtium leaves are a highlight (I quietly apologise to the plant looming overhead), the teriyaki isn’t cloying, the horseradish cream is in balance, and there's even textural interest provided by Jerusalem artichoke chips.
With our attention span well surpassed – we are Sydney diners after all – we probably don’t really give our desserts the careful consideration they deserve. The pre-dessert is a delicate pear sorbet with honey rye crumb, caraway powder and Parmesan that probably needs to be sharper to stand up to the intensity of the crumb.
It’s followed by saikyo miso ice cream – a subtle soy ice cream with a sweet, mild flavour, teamed with lemon aspen and candied pineapple and fennel, under thin pastry croustades. It’s wonderfully exotic collection of harmonious flavours, that only has me wishing I were eating it was earlier in the evening without the hour-long winding drive back to our hotel still ahead.
Town Restaurant & Cafe
33 Byron Street, Bangalow
Ph: (02) 6687 1010