Celebrity Chef Sean Connolly (Astral, Sean’s Kitchen, The Morrison) has breathed new life into the top floor of Byron’s landmark building on the corner of Lawson and Jonson streets, with his upstairs eatery now known as the Balcony Bar & Oyster Co.
Along with restaurateur-publican and co-owner Fraser Short, the Balcony is sporting a fresh look along with its extensive new menu. Former Merivale interior stylist and Bangalow resident, Katie Cameron, was engaged to help retain the building’s iconic character and charm, which had lost its lustre over the years along with the patronage of many residents like myself.
“We made little changes slowly rather than closing for a period of time and opening as a new venue,” Fraser explains. “We wanted regulars to come in and notice subtle changes with each visit to keep things exciting. The idea was to freshen up the entire feel of the venue, starting with a coat of white paint and bringing life to the building with tropical greenery. Katie employed Caroline Le Jeune, a local artist who painted some of the art in venue. To be honest we just wanted to put a bit of lipstick on the old girl. There’s a lot to love about the Balcony and we are so proud to be the new owners – and we know how fond the local community are about her too.”
The breezy new décor evokes the feeling of a Hamptons beach house on New York’s Long Island – think white walls, light colours, timber floors, rustic furnishings and loads of natural light – while still being true to its bohemian heritage.
The Beautiful Bivalve
“New chefs, new style, new vibe but nothing too jarring” is how Sean has described his autumn menu, one that he hopes will appeal to a wide demographic with its simplified culinary style.
“Here at the Balcony Bar & Oyster Co, we adopt an Eat Local Philosophy as Byron has some amazing produce, with so many wonderful local growers, farmers and suppliers that we want to support as a new member of the community,” he explains. “This also means we are serving the freshest produce possible as we’re getting most of it close by.”
The extensive menu, which ranges from crab and lettuce tacos to slow cooked communal dishes, showcases a number of well-known Northern Rivers providers including, Borrowdale Free Range Pork, Barcoo Beef, Inglewood Organic Chickens, Byron Bay Mozzarella, The Bread Social, Stone & Wood Beer, Richmond Valley Free Range Eggs, The Farm Gate Providore, Cultur’d Butter and, as the new name suggests, a host of local seafood suppliers providing “some of the best oysters in the world.”
“Fraser came up with the initial concept after visiting New York City,” Sean explains. “There was much doubt in the beginning, as at the time oysters just weren’t that popular here in Australia. However, people seem to have completely fallen back in love with them, so [we thought] why not extend the concept to Byron Bay? We are on the ocean and it makes a lot of sense to be celebrating great seafood. After all I believe that oysters are an affordable luxury and we all deserve to treat ourselves as often as possible.”
Depending on the temperature and quality of the waters, guests can dine on oysters from Tasmania, South Australia, Byron, and pretty much the entire east coast. “I have been passionate about oysters for many years – I would have had up to six varieties at any one time on my menu and in my venues – so I think that’s why Fraser and I got on so well in the beginning: We both have a passion for the beautiful bivalve,” says Sean. “Our oyster program at the Balcony is small and growing gradually, but as with everything at the Balcony, we are taking small steps.”
Sean’s menu also includes a selection of beef, lamb and fish dishes, all prepared according to Sean’s rustic philosophy. “Wherever I can, I cook everything on the bone and in the shell,” he says. “Since man created fire, we have been eating cooked meat on the bone and in the shell where the meat remains as close to its original state as possible. I choose to cook my food very simply and usually on the grill then let the produce speak for itself. Thats how I roll; it’s my style.”
While you can still enjoy a selection of shared small plates and items on the tapas menu, you’ll now find influences coming from New York instead of Spain. “Most of my menu is designed to share and we still have a huge paella cooking in the restaurant on the weekends,” says Sean.”
Residents and visitors have a lot to look forward to over the coming months, with the Balcony hosting a number of events ranging from culinary masterclasses to girls picnics. For now, there’s plenty of weekly events to capture your attention.
Monday’s Night Time in New Orleans – satiate your senses with soul food and southern hospitality
Tuesday’s Byron after Dark – unwind at Balcony’s industry night from 9pm with DJ’s and $5 drinks
Wednesday’s $1 oyster hour – devour freshly shucked $1 oysters between 5pm and 6pm
Thursday’s Live lounge 6pm – (coming soon)
Saturday and Sunday’s Paella & Sangria – indulge in Spain’s signature dish and beverage from 3pm
Daily Sunset Happy Hour specials – $12 selected cocktails, $6 stone & Wood beers, house spirits and wines by the glass (4pm -6pm), and $12 espresso martinis (after 9.30pm)
Monday to Friday – 11.30am lunch, 3pm limited menu, 6pm dinner
Saturday & Sunday – 9am Breakfast, 12pm lunch, 3pm limited menu, 6pm dinner
MENU – Extensive, ranging from gastropub dishes to slow cooked communal fare. My food picks: freshly shucked oysters, “orgy” of mushroom gnocci, Chef Connolly’s now-famous duck fat fish and chips, and the chocolate brownie with cornflake crunch. De-lish!
SERVICE – friendly, efficient and knowledgable
LOCATION – perched above Byron’s busiest intersection
AMBIANCE – fresh, super-stylish, relaxed
Photos by Amy Mackay
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