On the last day of our honeymoon in the Tweed Valley / Byron Bay, K and I dropped into the quaint town of Bangalow, only fifteen minutes drive inland from Byron Bay proper. A small single-main-street town, Bangalow has the appearance of being slightly more ‘up-market’ than Byron – there’s a few less dreadlocked heads and shirtless surfers roaming the streets, and quite a few more independent boutiques that think nothing of charging $400+ for a plain white Tshirt.
We walked up and down the main street trying to decide where to go for lunch, and finally settled on Town Cafe and Restaurant. We decided that the place with the longest queue of people waiting to get in was most likely the most popular place in town – and it certainly helped that they had a Good Food Award sticker on their shop window, and numerous positive newspaper reviews as well. While apparently these awards are for their “Uptown” restaurant (upstairs for dinner), their “Downtown” daytime cafe concept is clearly popular with the locals.
Given the hot weather we were experiencing that day, I ordered an iced tea to help cool me down. As it arrived with little drops of condensation on the unironically hipster jar, I was only just able to stop myself from eagerly gulping down the beverage so that I could quickly take a photograph. Cool, crisp and palate-cleansing, the icy cold iced tea really helped to reinvigorate me as I was feeling quite lacklustre as a result of the heat of the day.
Town Cafe does a number of baguettes and paninis on their regular menu during breakfast and lunch service, but K opted for the panini special of the day – a “Town Dog” which contrary to expectations, isn’t a hot dog at all. Made of spicy chorizo and sweet roasted peppers with optional kimchi with a strong chilli kick, it’s a simple panini that doesn’t try to get too fancy with too many ingredients. The chorizo is grilled to crispy-skin perfection and is very more-ish. Unfortunately, the side salad is a sad and limp mere mouthful of lettuce, adding nothing to the dish.
Keen on further eating later at the patisserie that we had passed down the road, I opted for a lighter meal of “soup of the day” – a cold spiced gazpacho served with cheese & avocado on toast fingers. Full-bodied but refreshing, the first few spoonfuls of gazpacho really hit the spot – but unfortunately, got a bit too same-ish with every mouthful. If you prefer difference of textures in a meal, this probably isn’t the dish for you! The goats cheese and avocado mix was a real hit though – and will inspire some variations on my usual “avocado on toast” breakfasts from now on!
Overall, Town Cafe is a nice stop for a casual meal, though overpriced for what you get. It’ll be interesting to see if their “Upstairs” fine dining option is any better value, or if it does more than provide an inoffensive and unmemorable dining experience.
But look, our dining experiences in Bangalow weren’t all bland and unmemorable. Having had my lighter lunch, I was more than ready to move on from Town Cafe and Restaurant to Choux Choux Patisserie up the road. Having walked past it earlier in the day, I had already earmarked it as my stop for dessert.
Equal parts French patisserie and old-fashioned Australian country bakery, Choux Choux does everything from fancy special-occasion croquembouche towers to the traditional vanilla slice. With a few savoury options as well (sandwiches, pies, pastries, quiches), I found myself wishing I’d had my main meal here as well.
K and I ordered a little individual cake each – chocolate jaffa for myself, and a custom ‘Angelique’ cake for K. The girl behind the counter explains that the Angelique cake was created by the owner of the bakery, who named his creation after his wife. Now that’s a sweet story!
My chocolate jaffa cake was light and airy, with melt-on-the-tongue orange-y flavour. K’s Angelique cake a revelation though – while it looks like a creme brulee with a toffee crust, the cake is filled with light meringue with a sweet berry centre. With every spoonful of the Angelique cake, you find another layer of deliciousness.
If we’re ever back in Bangalow again, I’d definitely make a stop in at Choux Choux Patisserie – its mix of fancy French fripperies and classic Aussie sweet staples make it an attractive choice for anyone with the slightest semblance of a sweet tooth.