1. Raes on Wategos exterior of hotel
    Photograph: Supplied | Raes on Wategos
  2. The kangaroo tartare at Raes on Wategos
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  3. Raes on Wategos exterior of hotel balcony
    Photograph: Supplied | Raes on Wategos
  4. The fish dish at Raes on Wategos
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  5. Raes on Wategos room overlooking water
    Photograph: Supplied | Raes on Wategos
  6. The lemon meringue bombe at Raes on Wategos
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  7. Raes on Wategos white bedroom with balcony
    Photograph: Supplied | Raes on Wategos
  • Restaurants | Modern Australian
  • Sydney
  • Recommended


Raes on Wategos

5 out of 5 stars

One of the country’s most beautiful spots, Raes on Wategos offers relaxed coastal elegance at its finest – and just like the surfers below, we’re frothing

Avril Treasure

Time Out says

Perched on a hill overlooking one of the most magical beaches in Australia – where surfers glide on seemingly endless gin-clear waves – is where you’ll find Raes on Wategos. Built in the 1960s, the Mediterranean-style boutique hotel and restaurant is surrounded by lush, tropical bush, and features a whitewash facade complete with curves and arches – and it's without a doubt one of the country’s most lusted-after institutions. A long lunch here, and getting that shot along the tiled staircase, is as synonymous with Byron Bay as the Lighthouse and the Hemsworth brothers. But does Byron's iconic restaurant rest on its good looks? Let’s find out.

If the outside of Raes is good, the inside is even better. Sunshine and fresh sea air pour through the open windows overlooking the rolling blue waves below. One wall is covered in vintage black-and-white surfing photos, philodendron vines trail along the curved arches, and there’s a warm glow from clam-shell lights. Blue-green glasses add a pop of colour against the white tables and wooden floor, and banana palms gently sway in the breeze outside.

The waitstaff, dressed in white and sage-green linen shirts and cream pants, move with the same grace and energy as if we were in a day spa. Truthfully, I feel so relaxed I could be in a day spa. On that note, it’s time for a drink.

The menu is made up of mostly European wines by the glass with a handful of Australian drops, alongside beers from local breweries: Stone & Wood, Seven Mile Brewing and Common People Brewing. There’s a selection of signature cocktails and a solid offering of non-alcoholic tipples and mocktails.

I begin with Raes Margarita, a twist on a Margarita and a Martini made with Patron Reposado tequila, mezcal, mandarin, grapefruit and salt. Instead of the usual salt rim, the cocktail has an impressive white foam which tastes like a cloud of ocean. The fruit adds a touch of sweetness and it’s lovely.

Jason Saxby heads up the kitchen and brings with him a wealth of experience from his time working at Freshwater’s Pilu, as well as Quay and The Ledbury in London. Here, the brief is modern Australian food with a Mediterranean touch. That’s encapsulated in an exquisite snack of kangaroo ‘tart-are’, which sees a small and crisp tart topped with creamy, salty tonnato, kangaroo meat, local capers and pickled chilli, and finished with nasturtium leaves that look like brooches. It’s an explosion of umami flavour; a celebration of both cultures.

A dish of tomato tagliolini with coral prawns, shellfish XO soffritto, bush tomato pangrattato, finger lime, and shiso is so pretty it deserves to make it to the grid. The prawns are flawless; just cooked so they are meltingly soft and finished with a quick torch so the meat is imbued with a hint of charcoal flavour. Pretty beads of finger lime burst with freshness and the pangrattato adds crunch. Though I would like one more pinch of salt to really kick it into gear.

A waiter comes to my table holding a huge wooden bowl with paperbark and lemon myrtle leaves burning inside. It smells like the Australian outback and I breathe in deeply. On top are two thick slices of local fish – today, mahi mahi from Mooloolaba – the flesh light pink and rosy. He then places it on a bed of heirloom zucchini and squash, fresh basil and wakame. The fish is glorious – one of the nicest I have ever had – and flakes apart at the touch. It’s even better paired with the zing of pickled veg and creaminess from a buttermilk velouté. It’s the best of the coast and the bush in one knockout bowl. I pair it with a glass of Albanta Albariño from Spain, poured at the table, that tastes of citrus and apricots. If there’s a heaven, this is it.

For dessert, a lemon meringue bombe – Raes’ take on the classic bombe Alaska – arrives looking like a spiky echidna, the mini meringue mountains bronze and caramelised. Underneath is a bright sorbet made from native lemon aspen, lemon myrtle parfait, a layer of white chocolate and almond shortbread. The sweetness is balanced by the sour and tart notes – and it’s the bomb.

So, is Raes on Wategos one of the most beautiful restaurants in Australia? Without a doubt. But it backs it up with truly delicious, refined food, instinctive service, and a feeling of bliss. This is relaxed coastal elegance at its finest. Now, I just need to save up to come back and stay the night.

(Time Out tip: If lunch is out of your budget, there’s a more casual offering below which takes walk-ins).

Time Out Sydney never writes starred reviews from hosted experiences – Time Out covers restaurant and bar bills for reviews so that readers can trust our critique.

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