A feast of flavours
I AM unexpectedly, but blissfully released from the nightly slavery of cooking for two fussy adults and one fussy teen.
Oh, and one fussy dog (roo meat and chopped carrots and apples).
Let's be honest.
If the budget was stretchier, we'd eat out more often, not just to avoid the domestic drudgery but the dishes as well (that would get a vote from the teenager, probably on Facebook).
Fortunately, at the Byron Bay Beach Cafe, you don't need a large amount of credit to enjoy a fancy meal.
This is an eatery where the servings are generous and the prices are reasonable.
They say the share plates make great entrees but we found them main course size.
We ordered four dishes (a little ambitiously in retrospect) - slaw of zucchini, carrot, celery and beetroot with seeds, toasted nuts and mustard vinaigrette ($15); miso marinated beef fillet, Chinese broccoli, toasted sesame seeds and wasabi mayonnaise ($26); slow roast crispy pork belly with baked pears, dressed lentils and cabernet dressing ($22) and Salt & Szechuan pepper squid, pea shoot salad, sweet and sour cucumber and chilli caramel ($18).
The evening manager Lara Alberd organised for them to be staggered so it was like an ongoing feast of flavours, us emerging after each dish with increasing doubt about how much more we could eat but, for the sake of Queen and country, persisting.
The slaw was fresh and crunchy and piquant and healthy.
The beef was very, very tender - chef Christian Paulsen (formerly at St Elmo Dining Room & Bar) - told us it has been marinating for four days.
It was a bit rare for my taste, but apparently they can cook it any way you like it.
When the squid arrived, there was so much of it that, even though it is my absolutely favourite dish, I declined the last few pieces.
Fortunately my partner, made of sturdier stuff, pronounced these melt in the mouth and nicely balanced by the sweet sauce and sour cucumber.
Finally it was time for the pork and the four big pieces of it - and the caramelised pears it emerged with - proved irresistible.
There's other share plates - crisp skinned salmon with warm kipfler potato salad, grilled asparagus and lemon, for example -and, if you are up for a main course, plenty of choice there too.
Try the twice cooked half duck with shaved fennel and roquette salad, straw potatoes and blood orange ($28); fish of the day, selected from the local market with garnishes ($28); rolled free range chicken with morels and tarragon, swiss brown mushroom and potato forestiere ($26) and even beer battered fish and chips with mixed salad and house tartare sauce ($22).
Says Christian: "We wanted the menu to be luxurious and experimental but still offer fish and chips."
For dessert, someone at our table who is watching their sweet intake managed to eat the white chocolate and lemon cheesecake with berry compote ($10).
He pronounced every mouthful of it creamy and delicious.
In fact, I only narrowly stopped him licking the plate. If he'd do that at home, there wouldn't be any dishes.
If you have children, there's dishes like mini ham and pineapple pizza with chips ($15) and a dessert entitled Harry Potter's wizard hat ($8).
Of course you could leave them at home and just have a romantic night out but, either way, you'll feel welcome and relaxed.
I almost forgot to mention the view.
If you snare a good table, you can see the sun set on Clarke's Beach and that has to be one of the best views in Australia.
Atmosphere: Casual chic, beachy.
We love: The generous share plates, the ocean view.
Best night to go: Saturday or Sunday, when you just want to relax.
Open: Every day from 7.30am.
Prices:Share plates from $15 to $26, mains from $22 to $28, desserts $10 to $12.