My favourite restaurants always seem to have a gorgeous view of the water! The Restaurant at Rae’s Wategos is located on Watego’s Beach in Byron Bay. Its beach location is just one in a list of attributes that has me convinced it’s the place to dine.
We were shown to our table by the most genuine and lovely waiter I have had the pleasure in meeting. His name was “Possam”. He positioned us in a corner table with comfortable lounge seating by the garden. We had a beautiful view over the beach through the large, open alfresco windows.
The sound of the waves rolling in was a lovely backdrop as we took a moment to look over the menu. Possam returned to our table with an Amuse Bouche which signalled the commencement of our dining pleasure. Tempura Tasmanian oysters were presented in a sweet dash broth and dotted with a miso sauce. The batter was so incredibly light and crisp. The crunch was perfect with the deliciously salty miso and glorious seafoody oyster centre. The finish of a sweet dashi broth completed the balance of flavours and textures perfectly.
We were off to a fantastic start!
As I went through the menu I noticed so many interesting dishes. I love reading a menu and finding ingredients such as finger limes, lemon myrtle and other interesting native Australian ingredients. These ingredients appeared in dishes that were innovative and centred around our local produce and flavours.
I’m sure readers will know by now how much I love pork belly… hmm YUM! Taking it one step further, pork and seared scallops are a match made in heaven! The entree I chose showcased seared scallops and slow cooked pork on a bed of creamy cauliflower puree. Lending another layer of flavour to the dish was roasted charred cauliflower florets which were deliciously lemony and tender. Just when I thought the dish could not get any better I tried the rich, sweet accompanying muscatel jam. The sweet muscatel conserve consisted of plump sweet fruit and crisp almonds. It took this entree to another level!
We were certainly experiencing some delicious dishes!
I was really looking forward to the Agedashi entree. This dish was served on a wakame salad which was so fresh and lush. It was beautifully crisp and included some kimchi which added a more complex flavour profile. The Agedashi and salad was dressed with a sweet and syrupy lemon, ginger dressing and garnished with sprouts and coriander.
The tofu was an absolute winner! It was so silky and soft. It tasted like it had been marinated in soy sauce as there was so much favour going on in the tofu. Possam checked with the chef Guy Hutchinson and I found that the chef had indeed quickly marinated the tofu in sesame and sweet soy sauce prior to crumbing. It was a stroke of genius as it gave so much more flavour to the tofu. If all those flavours were not enough, I have to report that the panko crunch was sublime. A super crisp, fried sensation with the most silky salty tofu centre…amazing!
A third entree may seem a little indulgent but there were too many tempting choices to stop at just one entree each. Alesah & I decided we would share the crispy soft shell crab with salsa de diablo and white bean, with an heirloom tomato & coriander salad.
This rich Italian feeling dish had a cosy homely flavour while still being incredibly special. The heirloom tomatoes salad included deliciously salty anchovy and a rich wine sauce. Again the tempura batter used on the soft shell crab was incredibly light and crisp. The flavour of the crab with the salsa de diablo was the perfect combination.
When the mains were served Possam presented an oversized Balmain Bug with the most perfectly cooked sweet and salty flesh. The Bug was partnered with a large, generously stuffed ravioli.
The ravioli was bursting with a delicious, light, fresh seafood filling and was served in a rich seafood bisque.
Even the side dishes were sensational. These steamed greens included broccolini, green beans and zucchini. They were served in the chef beautifully named, Emerald Sauce. The sauce gave life to the side dish. It consisted of pistachio, parsley, butter and was seasoned with just the right amount of salt.
Our final making was the roast saddle of wild rabbit which had been wrapped in prosciutto and stuffed with pork and pistachio. The saddle was then roasted until the prosciutto was crisp and the rabbit meat was tender and perfectly cooked. The rabbit meat retained all the flavour and moisture, it was slightly gamey in flavour which was balanced by the creamy Jerusalem artichoke puree. The jus was made from pan juices and heightened all the lovely flavours of the dish.
A stand out dining experience is not just about the location, the menu and the delicious food. Great wait staff, who have personality, warmth and friendliness. It really helps to make a meal a total experience.
As Possam was serving our mains he mentioned a recent experience at Watego’s Beach. Whilst on his stand up paddle board he had come face to face with a large turtle!
He had been paddling into shore when a large old turtle the size of our table glided up from the crystal clear waters to take a breath of air. As he broke the surface the turtle saw Possam on his SUP paddle board.
Possam swears the old turtle had an expression on his face and it changed instantly when he spotted Possam. The turtle dove deep into the sea and swam away quickly. Possam said it was a graceful in the water as an eagle gliding through the sky.
This serene and majestic experience happened in the waves just 100 metres from the The Restaurant @ Raes Waegos.
We continued to watch the water, the surfers and swimmers and wondered if we would catch a glimpse of a turtle during our meal.
Choosing a dessert was very difficult, they all looked too good to resist. I left the decision up to the chef.
We were treated to another taste and visual sensation. The dessert was a Vanilla Blackberry Meringue. There were so many components and flavours on this dessert tasting plate.
I started by sampling the sweet floral lychee sorbet. The sorbet was so good! Pieces of lychee fruit gave the sorbet texture and body. I would have been happy to just enjoy the sorbet but there were so many other flavours to try.
Atop the sorbet was a twirled chocolatey tuille which was so light, thin and crisp.
Dotting the dessert plate were mini buttermilk pannacotta which had a creamy yoghurty tartness which cut through all the other sweet flavours.
Another refreshing component to the dish was the freeze dried raspberry crumb. It was the most intense burst of raspberry. Almost as good as a natural raspberry popping candy topping.
Matching the creamy, tart pannacotta with both fresh and freeze dried raspberry was dessert perfection, but there was also a berry sauce to enjoy with the crisp, sweet blackberry meringue. My favourite meringues have a crisp outer shell and a sweet soft marshmallow inside.
There was just so much to love about this dessert, the honeyed popcorn was sweet, salty and buttery with both whole popped corn and popcorn crumb. I thoroughly enjoyed all the fruity, fresh flavours in this refreshing and elegant dessert. The balance of sour from the freeze dried raspberry and sweet fruits and meringue was perfect.
So who is the talent behind this new menu and amazing food? I would like to introduce you to chef Guy Skinner-Hutchinson. He started at The Restaurant @ Raes Wategos in November and his presence has already been noticed by foodies in the Byron Bay area.
I had the opportunity to speak with Guy at the end of our meal. I discovered that he grew up and trained as a chef in Noosa, before moving to England to join the team at Chapter One in Bromley. Chapter One is a Michelin Star restaurant which further enhanced this young chef’s skill set.
Upon return to Australia Guy took a position in Byron Bay as Sous Chef. He enjoyed four years in Byron before taking up the position of Head Chef at The Restaurant @ Raes on Wategos.
At “The Restaurant” Guy has been given the freedom to explore the flavours and style of food he enjoys. His passion and talent certainly shines through in the dishes he presents.
The menu changes seasonally and is largely influenced by the flavours of the season. After sampling the Autumn menu I can’t wait to bring hubby back to take a look at what’s being served throughout winter.
If I was a Byron Bay local I would be a regular visitor to The Restaurant @ Raes Wategos. It really ticks all the boxes for me. Guy and the new staff have given this familiar Byron Bay restaurant a new rhythm… but don’t just take my word for it, make a reservation and see for yourself. And while you’re at it, why don’t you book yourself in a romantic getaway?
Gourmet Getaways would like to thank Rae’s on Watego’s for the opportunity to experience the unique property. The opinions contained in this review are written without bias and in accordance with Gourmet Getaways’ disclosure policy.
Rae’s @ Watego’s6-8 Marine Parade
Byron Bay, NSW, 2481
Ph: 02 6685 5366