Review: Town Cafe and Choux Choux Patisserie, Bangalow

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.

Oh So Mojo Iced Tea (Lemongrass, spearmint, goji berries, papaya, pineapple, apple, rosebuds), $5.75
Oh So Mojo Iced Tea (Lemongrass, spearmint, goji berries, papaya, pineapple, apple, rosebuds), $5.75

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.

"The Town Dog" (toasted panini with grilled chorizo & roasted peppers with kimchi), $15.50
“The Town Dog” (toasted panini with grilled chorizo & roasted peppers with kimchi), $15.50

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.

Gazpacho served with goats cheese & avocado toasts, $12.50
Gazpacho served with goats cheese & avocado toasts, $12.50

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.

Town Cafe & Restaurant on Urbanspoon


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.

Angelique cake and chocolate jaffa cake, $6 each
Angelique cake and chocolate jaffa cake, $6 each

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.

Choux Choux Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Review: Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, Murwillumbah (Tweed Valley) NSW

Look, I’ll be the first to say it – I’m not an easygoing person. I can be quite highly strung and demanding, I’m a person of action rather than reaction, and it wouldn’t be untrue to say that I have unnecessary high expectations. Generally what this means is that I expect my holidays to be action-packed, with a different activity or place to explore every day. Simply sitting around a pool or on a beach at a resort really isn’t my scene.

Luckily, K is the opposite of me. He’s very easygoing, laidback, and has a general attitude that it’s okay to simply sit back and relax – and his attitude really does help me take things a bit slower than I normally would. At the same time, I help him take things a bit more seriously…and it was interesting how many of the speeches at our wedding made reference to this dynamic in our relationship.

Despite these differences, we’ve always managed to travel well together, if more in my preferred style than his. We’ve always taken jam-packed holidays where we do something every day, but still take time to relax by going for massages or getting back to our rented apartments earlier at night for a lazy night in.

In recognition that we would probably need something a bit more relaxing than our usual break-neck pace of travelling for our honeymoon post-wedding, we decided to book ourselves a short five-night honeymoon at Crystal Creek Rainforest Retreat, inland halfway between Ballina and the Gold Coast. It was a perfect compromise – it was secluded enough to provide a relaxing break, while not so remote that we couldn’t go out for short day trips.


After flying into Ballina Airport two days after our wedding, we jumped into our rental car (free upgrade, thanks Budget Car Rental!) and drove one and a half hours up the coast to Crystal Creek. Greeted by Mark, one of the hosts at Crystal Creek, we were taken to Carabeen, our Creekside Spa Cabin. With only 10 cabins set discreetly away from each other on their 250 acres of rainforest, you’re guaranteed complete privacy in the off chance that you decide to walk around your cabin naked…the floor to ceiling windows hardly matter as no one can see in!


Mark quickly took us through the cabin, introducing us to the various features. I liked the little kitchenette, especially as we chose a honeymoon package that included ingredients for breakfasts each morning as well as two dinners, to be cooked at our own leisure.


The soft cushy couch was also large enough for us both to lie down head to head as we watched a selection of the 1000-strong DVD library available at Crystal Creek.


The outside deck had a BBQ that we made ample use of, BBQing up some steaks and chicken wings from the local butcher on the nights that dinner wasn’t provided. Unfortunately the season meant that there were so many bugs about that we couldn’t really sit outside and eat our meals without getting eaten alive ourselves.


Though I did brave the bugs once or twice and sat out on the lounges on the deck with a inch-thick coat of insect repellant spray to read in peace.


The bedroom…again, the eight pillows on the bed. I don’t know how many heads fancy hotels seem to think their guests have, but I never need more than two pillows myself! I did like the soft fluffy robes provided for our comfort, as well as the soft slippers and eye masks for a good night’s sleep.


Not to mention the amazing view out to the rainforest as we had long lazy mornings in bed!


The open plan bathroom was a little confronting at first, until you realise that you truly are in a secluded cabin – without a walking track in sight, it is impossible for anyone to see you as you soak in the two person spa. You really begin to lose any inhibitions that you may have had on arrival, as you get really accustomed to wandering around the cabin naked just because you can.

Included in our five night honeymoon package was five breakfast baskets (normally $38 per couple) and two delicious dinners (normally $88 per couple). Given that we only paid $2250 for their whole package, it was really very good value!


One of first dinners was the Lamb Tagine with Cous Cous, described as:

  • A Moroccan stew with prime tender lamb, red onion, tomato, red pepper, zucchini, garlic, herbs and spices.
  • Served with cous cous, peas & broccoli.
  • Ciabatta, harissa, chilli and yogurt on the side.

The meals are delivered ready-made to your cabin, and all you need to do is to heat them up according to instructions in the microwave. It’s extremely simple and the large quantity means that you actually have a full serve left over for lunch the next day.


And when served with the complimentary bottle of Moet on your first night at the cabin…well it’s a bit of a special experience especially if you don’t normally go in for indulgences like tealight candles on the table.


And when you finish it off with a slice of chocolate mousse cake, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about!


The Healthy Breakfast Basket was a hit for me – though again, the serves were very generous. It came with muesli, yoghurt, multigrain toast and fruit, though I ended up just having the muesli and yoghurt, and saving the toast for an afternoon snack.


Another favourite breakfast was the Vegetarian Basket with haloumi. I did a bit of a sneaky thing, and as they deliver two days worth of food to the cabin at a time, I actually mixed and matched the breakfasts a bit by having elements of one basket, and elements of another basket. The mangoes we bought on one of our expeditions out into the local area – there’s so many honesty stalls along the road in the area!

crystalcreek-14Our last dinner was the Chicken and Mushroom Stroganoff:

  • Tender chicken breast, caramelized leeks with pure cream and sautéed mushrooms in a butter, olive, white wine, parsley, shallots and garlic sauce.
  • Rice, fresh broccoli and peas with garlic butter.
  • Ciabatta.
  • Dessert cake of the day.

Delicious, creamy stroganoff and rice made for a simple but hearty dinner on our last night at Crystal Creek.


We finished off our stay with the Crumpets and Cream Cheese breakfast hamper on our last morning. With a bowl of delicious stewed rhubarb and a glass of mango nectar, it was a simple country-style breakfast that really hit the spot.

All in all, I really couldn’t fault our stay at Crystal Creek. The accommodation, although we chose the ‘cheapest’ cabin, was impeccable, and the food was amazing. Its location is incredible – set in from the coast so it’s secluded, but at the same time, still within easy reach of larger centres in the North Coast/Gold Coast area.

We had a few lazy days where we just lay around the cabin reading and watching movies, but also had days where we went out and explored the local area. We even went to Dreamworld on the Gold Coast one day with all the 18-year-olds on their Schoolies trips for a more ‘action-packed’ day to satisfy my need to do things.

It’s absolutely the perfect retreat for a honeymoon couple, and offers everything you could want and more. We’re talking about going back to Crystal Creek every couple of years to celebrate our wedding anniversary – five year anniversary, ten year anniversary, etc. How special would that be?!