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Written by Donna Rishton-Potter

In the mood for a succulent steak? Whilst meat features on most restaurant menus, there’s only a few places on our doorstep that truly focus on elevating our humble regular into an unforgettable epicurean experience…

Australia is known for producing some of the highest quality beef in the world, yet whilst our region boasts an annual celebration of all things Bos taurus during the Casino Beef Week, it’s the cities that have dominated when it comes to the best steak restaurants. Till now.

Enter EMBER – an exclusive steakhouse situated on Jonson Street, Byron Bay. Nestled in the treetops within the Mercato on Byron complex, this chic, recently refurbished space hums with the vibe of local patrons and holiday makers alike. Multi-purpose areas have been designed for a diverse dining experience - a seat at the bar, the high tables or on the upholstered lounges is perfect for pre-dinner cocktails and entrees or a late-night snack, whilst hidden beyond the checkerboard floors is an elevated steakhouse experience with a New York aesthetic. There’s also dining on the deck, where, amongst the gum canopy you’ll find a gorgeous breeze heading directly from the ocean. An impressive spot that can be separated completely to cater for group bookings; from celebrations and parties to micro weddings, it’s all been done here.

The ambience and warmth are further enhanced by the exceptional service of an obviously close-knit and knowledgeable team, all of which is credit to owner, chef-turned-restaurateur, Troy Lister. “I want my team to love their work, so supporting them is of utmost importance” he says. “There’re no egos. We value our locals, and we are all just working to create an outstanding dining experience every time.” A local of 30 years himself, Lister’s reputation for excellence precedes him - as the previous owner of the Beef & Beach at the Lennox Hotel, he spent 12 years building it into an award-winning steak and seafood destination - and it's his passion for hospitality and love of the community which brought him to Byron.

Ambience, service and business acumen may be a winning alchemy but it’s the steak we came for, and here’s where Lister’s knowledge, experience and determination to become the ‘standout destination for premium steak’ comes to the fore. “We looked around and realised there were no steak specialists in the area, so we made this our mission” he says. Lister’s dedication to excellence starts with sourcing the freshest and highest quality produce available and, whilst giving me a tour of the impressive kitchen, he educates me on the flavour difference between grain and grass-fed (grass-fed gives lighter, sweeter flavours), the beef grading system (which considers the fat content of your cut), and the process of dry aging (which produces a distinct nutty, ‘popcorn’ flavour). But the secret weapon in this heady mix is undoubtedly, a premier piece of cooking equipment fondly known as the ‘Josper’. An enclosed charcoal grill, that cooks at temperatures of 400-500 degrees with controlled/low oxygen – helping to render the fat in the meats and imparting in the process, deliciously smoky, sweetly caramelised flavours. “The Josper changed everything in terms of how we cook food and especially, our steak. There’s nothing else like it, and the outcome is incomparable.” For Lister, it’s all about producing uncomplicated, delicious and consistently high-quality food or, as he says, “a product without the B.S.”

He's right, it may be high-quality, but pretentious it isn’t. After cocktails and freshly shucked local oysters – Natural, with Gin & Rose Mignonette and fresh lemon, we share plates of the Ember Wagyu – a premier 8+ scotch fillet 380gm steak of tender grain-fed Shimo, that melts in your mouth and is unsurpassed in terms of flavour – as well as succulent strips of lean grass-fed Eye fillet 200g steak, perfectly paired by Stuart, our experienced sommelier, with matched regional wines. Whilst our sides are a light rocket, roast pear & goats cheese salad and honey glazed roasted carrots with fresh rosemary. Simple yet extraordinarily delicious. The kind of meal you think about for days afterwards.

Steak may be the star of the show, but Ember’s menu is diverse and caters to all tastes and dietary requirements - including gluten free and coeliac - as well as vegetarian, and vegan options for those who really can’t bear the red stuff. Still, for all the enthusiasts of the carnivorous kind, Ember is the place to go for the region’s premier steakhouse experience.

If you’re looking for another true steak experience head north to the border, where you’ll find a steakhouse of the Wild West variety – Choofas Smokehouse & Seafood in Coolangatta. Modelled off the traditional American-style BBQ restaurant and bar but given a distinctly Aussie outback twist, the fabulous and bustling atmosphere of Choofas never disappoints. Serving up succulent and flavourful prime cut steaks from the heart of Central Queensland, as well as the freshest locally sourced seafood. A family run business with a passion for BBQ, owner Scott has developed a unique Dark Dry Rub and a mix of specialty sauces for his meats to appeal to the discerning local palate. A man of talent, he also designed himself a commercial sized smoker which balances flavours and cooks meat to perfection every time. Meals are large, the menu plentiful (there’s over 11 steak options to choose from) and the ‘Horn Bar’ is stocked full of your favourite whiskeys, rums and ales. Try the chargrilled Black Angus T-bone or the flavoursome Aged Wagyu Sirloin with a choice of sides and discover why Choofas has a cult following.

Okay technically not a ‘steakhouse’, but reviews like “…hands down one of the juiciest, most delicious steaks I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating” make the Three Blue Ducks at The Farm in Byron Bay, a must visit. Thursdays are also Surf ‘N’ Turf nights, so you’re guaranteed to find a premium cut of steak cooked to perfection. The ‘Ducks’ are known for their ethical and sustainable business practice and work primarily with local growers and producers to deliver the highest quality meals. Try the 200g pasture fed Pinnacle Eye Fillet MB4+ or The Classic, a mouth-watering Surf ‘n’ Turf combo consisting of a 300g NAPCo regeneratively raised beef rib eye, with coal roasted prawns and a garlic cream sauce. Coastal-inspired cocktails, tasty sides and breezy beats add to the warm local vibe.


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