What Would They Know? Belinda Kirkwood of Byron Beach Cafe

by | Venue Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Belinda of Byron Beach Cafe

How do you package up a premier restaurant, right on the beach in Byron Bay no less, with understated luxury,  spectacular views and the sound of the sea as your wedding song? It’s all at Byron Beach Cafe of course – the award winning venue that has it all. Positioned perfectly it’s only a short walk from your beach ceremony to the bubbles and yummy food that awaits you at Byron Beach Cafe. At Byron Bay, somehow the stars shine a little bit brighter, the feeling of relaxation and fun is everywhere – the perfect place for a destination wedding.

Tell us about Byron Beach Cafe – where it is situated and how close to the beach is it.

We are literally right on the beach! The cafe is located on the dunes at Clarkes Beach in Byron Bay and overlooks Julian Rocks with sweeping uninterrupted views stretching in all directions from The Pass and the Byron Lighthouse in the south to Mount Warning and the Byron hinterland in the north. We are actually the only absolute beachfront café in the area.

Every part of the Byron Beach Cafe has been created with passion and attention to detail – a far cry from the rundown cafe we inherited in 2006. After two significant renovations, in a space of five years, we are committed to providing Byron Bay’s best dining experience. We know we’re doing it right when our guests arrive and we watch a huge smile transform their face.

 

Byron Beach Cafe 1

You’ve recently won some awards. Could you tell us about them?

It’s always nice to win awards and be recognised by your industry and peers. We’ve been extremely blessed in the past 12 months winning 4 major accolades, including ‘Best Cafe’ at the Australian Small Business Champion Awards and ‘Best Tourism Restaurant and Catering Service’ at the NSW Tourism Awards. We were up against some really big capital city venues, so it’s great to see our family-run business be acknowledged as the best in Australia and the state.

These awards also pay tribute to our hard working staff, our wonderful customers and to our suppliers, including some of the region’s most ethical and sustainable food growers.

Byron Bay Wedding 4

Please describe your wedding space/s and how it is best utilized for the reception?

Being the only purpose-built wedding venue on the beach in Byron Bay, we offer our clients a unique opportunity to exchange their vows on the beach and then it’s just a short stroll up the dunes to their wedding reception.

Our team is on hand to greet guests on our expansive deck with champagne, cocktails and canapés. We also provide towels and scented foot baths to wash the sand from their feet! This gives our newlyweds time to have their wedding photos taken; and, with one of the world’s most beautiful beaches on our doorstep, their photos are always stunning!

We love what we do. My husband and I have invested an enormous amount of time and resources into renovating this iconic Byron Bay building into a quality landmark. Inside, the interior has been designed with banks of bi-fold doors that open right up to offer stunning ocean and hinterland views from every table, both inside and out. The interior is a light, bright space filled with natural sunlight and warm wood-trimmed walls, which are, actually, reclaimed 100 year old Sydney Harbour piers.

For weddings and special celebrations, the space is transformed using everything from floating silk lanterns, chandeliers hanging from the trees and jam jars filled with candles. Steering clear of convention and looking to nature, invariably, produces some of the most atmospheric results. Think driftwood, shells, beautiful scented flowers and sand sculptures. We also encourage the wedding party to personalise the space with whatever colours and décor they choose.

Do you have a wedding planning service available?

Yes we do! We have a full time dedicated wedding team, so whether it’s a little or a lot of assistance needed, we are here to help. We don’t offer packages or off-the-shelf generic weddings. Our approach is to work closely with our couples to ensure we deliver the wedding of their dreams. We feel it’s important to create and design weddings that make a special connection for each individual couple, that will touch their hearts, and be something they and their guests remember forever. This can only be achieved by a hands-on personal approach.

Getting the assistance of an experienced team, and having people on the ground who know the nuances and unique aspects of a Byron Bay wedding, can make all the difference, especially for couples getting married away from home. Trying to remember and coordinate every tiny detail is stressful and time consuming and our empathetic and professional team can help with hints and tips that couples may never have considered on their own.

And as they say, the devil is in the detail. And this could not be more so than when considering outdoor wedding ceremonies. A beautiful beach wedding, a lighthouse ceremony or a garden party are all stunning options. But, what if it rains? Many of Byron Bay’s dream wedding ceremony locations can be compromised by the rain. Having a backup plan is essential for both the ceremony and the reception. Couples having their wedding reception here at the Byron Beach Cafe can discuss options with our team, in case of bad weather. Engaging our expert team ensures a swift and seamless reaction to any obstacle, allowing everyone to stay calm and relaxed and, if necessary, dry.

Byron Bay Wedding 2

What does the complete planning package include? 

We don’t offer wedding packages per-se and we can honestly say that no two weddings at the Byron Beach Cafe have ever been the same. The reason for this is simple. Every couple is different and we plan weddings that are unique and specific to each and every couple. We enjoy spending as much time as is necessary with each couple, helping them design a menu that’s original as well as delicious, sourcing beautiful pieces to make their day truly unique or working with the groom to plan a special surprise for his new wife! And vice versa!

We feel so lucky that this is our job and that includes all the marvelous network of people who work with us from the celebrants to the florists to the amazing wedding cake artists. And then there are the talented musicians, videographers and photographers. The pool of talent in this area is almost unlimited. We know the ropes and, by working with all the local authorities, can assist our couples in obtaining the required permits and all the necessary paperwork for the actual ceremony and photographic locations.

However laid-back or lavish couples want their Byron Bay wedding to be, the necessary key is planning and organisation, the detail. While not the glamorous part, our team know it is absolutely essential to ensure a perfect day.

Are there any items the couple need to source/provide themselves?

Not a thing! Seriously, we’ve got it all covered. Our team has over 15 years of experience organising local weddings and we can take care of everything. Or, for couples who prefer to be more hands-on, we can advise and guide them to the most professional service providers for their big day. Everything, from entertainers, makeup artists, photographers, cake decorators, venue decorators and all other wedding day essentials.

However, planning a wedding in Byron Bay can present some unique challenges, particularly without local knowledge. Getting married on the beach in Byron Bay does require a good deal of forethought and there are a lot of details involved from the very practical matters of obtaining permits and checking tide times to transportation and styling. We find that the best way to start planning a Byron Bay wedding is to pick up the phone and give us a call. We’re here to help.

Can you suggest some gorgeous places to have a wedding ceremony around Byron Bay?

Byron Bay has so many spectacular and unique locations for a wedding ceremony that clients are spoiled for choice. Everything, from the traditional to the unexpected! For beach weddings, it’s hard to go past Clarkes Beach with its sweeping views of the bay, Byron Lighthouse, Mount Warning and Julian Rocks. Unlike other beaches in Byron Bay, Clarkes Beach is uncrowded whilst close to everything, including the Byron Beach Cafe. Which is great, if you’re looking for a relaxed yet stylish beach location for your reception, one that your guests can stroll up to after the ceremony. In the event of bad weather, couples also have the luxury of having their ceremony at the Byron Beach Cafe, including a stunning beachfront backdrop.

For jaw-dropping views and iconic locations, the Byron Lighthouse is ideal and nothing says a “Byron Bay wedding” like this location. There are, however, limited times when ceremonies can take place at the Byron Lighthouse precinct, so our advice is to check before booking or contact one of our wedding planners to help you with all the required council permits and paperwork.

For a more traditional ceremony, the 100 year-old St Oswald’s Anglican Church is a beautifully intimate venue with pretty lead light windows, antique wooden pews and a lovely bushland setting. Full of charm and character, this church is perfect for couples wishing for a church ceremony whilst not compromising on location. This venue is a 10 minute drive from town, so you may wish to consider transport for your guests or we can organise buses or private cars for you.

And, of course, we can’t leave out Wategos Beach. With its white sand, palm trees and stunning Pacific Ocean views – it truly is paradise. Wategos is also home to some of the most luxurious beachfront accommodation in Byron Bay, making it an ideal location for wedding parties to stay. Choose from the many truly unique hotels, guest houses and private bungalows. However, couples do need to check the tides for this beach and have a standby plan in case of bad weather. If you’re holding your reception at the Byron Beach Cafe, our team can help you with an indoor ceremony back-up plan and transportation there and back.

No matter where couples choose to say ‘I do’ in Byron Bay, one thing is for certain, they’re spoilt for choice when it comes to gorgeous wedding ceremony spots.

Byron Bay Wedding 5

Are you able to serve post ceremony refreshments at these places?

For weddings at Clarkes Beach and Wategos Beach, our team can be on hand at the Byron Beach Cafe to greet guests with post ceremony cocktails and canapés in the garden or on the deck. The bride and groom can relax whilst having their wedding photos taken on the beach and surrounds knowing their guests will be catered for and enjoying the chance to mingle.

Currently it is not possible to serve food and drinks on any beach in Byron Bay, but for all other locations, we can provide post ceremony refreshments including drinks, champagne and canapés before the wedding party make their way to the Byron Beach Cafe for the wedding reception.

Our award-winning offsite catering team can also bring the Byron Beach Cafe food experience to many locations in and around Byron Bay. We have created the ‘moving feast’, so wherever our couples’ weddings take place, we can cater it.

Please describe the style of food your chef prepares for weddings?

Our head chef and I really love simple food that is fresh and full of flavour. Rather than following trends closely, our food evolves from a close collaboration with our local food producers. Our starting point for each new wedding menu involves sourcing the best local in-season produce and designing dishes that are then made from the freshest raw ingredients. Almost all our dishes have some kind of connection to the local area, be it Bangalow pork, Byron Bay seafood or the best Byron hinterland organic produce.

For weddings, share plates are our idea of wedding heaven! We love this style of dining and how it brings people together. And it’s a bit of fun too. Our share plate feasts include a large variety of dishes from classics like salt and Szechuan pepper squid and mini wagyu beef sliders to such plates as Thai smoked trout, char su pork Vietnamese rice paper rolls and crispy duck and shitake mushroom wonton. Our dishes are designed to be the perfect champagne or cocktail companion, leaving the taste buds tingling.

Grant MacIntyre Photography

What is his current favourite dish?

That’s a hard question! With every wedding it’s something new. Currently, I’d have to say, it’s either between the slow-cooked Bangalow pork belly with cauliflower parsnip puree, spiced plum mandarin glaze, king prawn and crispy pancetta or our Beach paella with prawns, mussels, chicken, chorizo and saffron. But then there’s dessert… Our musk coconut tapioca sprinkled with sherbet musk dust is unbelievable!

Does Byron Beach Cafe have a food philosophy?

For us, it’s all about what’s in-season and available at the local farmers’ markets. Our head chef and I like putting together menus that reflect not only Byron, but also the bride and groom, whilst always having a signature Byron Beach Cafe touch of understated luxury. Our philosophy is to let local provenance guide our menus, with home-grown ingredients looming large. How we put these together is a result of consultation between the couple and ourselves.

Can a bridal couple request an a la carte menu or shared platters for their sit down reception dinner?

Yes and yes! However laid-back and relaxed or formal and opulent couples want their Byron Bay wedding to be, our team will provide a wide range of menu ideas. Everything from sit-down dinners, cocktails and matching canapés, share plate feasts to formal fine dining menus with expertly matched wines.

We can also create menus to suit specific styles, themes, budgets or dietary requirements.

You also offer a catering service for events held off-site. So could a bridal couple choose to have their ceremony and reception on the beach, or by the lighthouse, for example?

For couples getting married at the Byron Lighthouse or elsewhere, yes. We can help with all arrangements, including all required permits for their wedding ceremony, reception and wedding photos. For beach weddings, it is currently not possible to hold your reception on the beach. Byron Bay is a very special and unique part of Australia and permits are subject to conditions designed to ensure the conservation and integrity of our beaches and reserve areas. We can assist couples with exchanging their vows on the beach, but, due to current regulations, no one is allowed to serve food or drinks on any Byron Bay beach. This is one of the reasons why the Byron Beach Cafe is Byron Bay’s favourite venue for beach weddings. Being the only absolute beachfront restaurant and wedding venue in Byron Bay, couples have the luxury of being able to say their ‘I do’s’ on the beach then it’s just a short walk up the sand for them and their guests to their beachfront wedding reception venue.

Byron Bay Wedding 3

Are there plenty of accommodation options for wedding guests, close by?

There are plenty of great places for couples and their guests to stay, which cater for all styles and budgets from five star luxury resorts, Bali inspired villas to cosy beach shacks. As a town which is a popular holiday destination, accommodation is plentiful. We will advise our clients the best times to take advantage of special pricing and full availability at locations best able to meet their special interests.

What are your favourite things to do around Byron?

Aaahhh…where to begin? There is so much to do and see in Byron Bay!

For me, because work is so all consuming at times, a pamper package at a local spa is always welcome and, often, necessary. For most locals, including our family, the beach is a focus of life here too. Everything emanates from and revolves around the water from surfing to swimming to stand-up paddle boarding to kayaking with dolphins. There is something for everyone.

Staying fit and on top of my game is important and sees me at the gym a few times a week as well as regular runs up to the Byron lighthouse. When the kids are on holidays, we also love exploring the hinterland, finding secluded and intimate places to camp, fish and go bushwalking. My husband, when he can, enjoys a game of golf at the local course as well.

Wandering around the abundant local farmers’ markets is another favourite pastime. I love starting the day with a freshly brewed coffee and chatting to the local food producers before selecting some great produce for the cafe and to take home.

For all of us, though, we never forget how privileged we are to live in the best area in Australia.

Thank you Belinda for sharing your story with us. To find out more about Byron Beach Cafe visit the website.

All images courtesy of Byron Beach Cafe.

 

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