DUK IN THE BAY
A TINY NEW RESTAURANT ON THE NSW NORTH COAST HAS A SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED MENU BASED ON THE CLASSIC CHINESE BARBECUE.
DUK is a modern Chinese restaurant in Byron Bay that does not have a wok. It sounds a ridiculous notion but that was part of the attraction for chef Sarah Swan and her business partner Jeremy Burn in opening up DUK; it is a tiny 40-seat restaurant with a tiny kitchen that serves only five dishes.
“The focus is on classic Chinese BBQ and roast dishes. It’s simple, straightforward and delicious,” Swan, a former Sydneysider, tells WISH. “The one thing I miss living in Byron Bay is good Chinese food and it’s the first thing I seek out when I head back to the city. Creating a tight eating space with a focus on great produce and traditional dishes was always a good idea in my eyes.”
Open since November, it is the second venue for Swan and Burn in Byron Bay. The pair also run the hugely popular café 100 Mile Table and a catering business. DUK opened at the end of last year and has been doing a roaring trade ever since, with locals and tourists packing the tiny place out.
Swan’s love of Chinese food comes from spending 13 years working with Neil Perry at Rockpool as well as training with Kylie Kwong at Perry’s Wokpool. She decided she wanted to be a chef at 14 and did her apprenticeship at the Sheraton Wentworth Hotel in Sydney. “I remember telling my mother one day when I came from school,” Swan says of her career choice. “I can’t remember what I had seen or read but I knew. I’d make very simple dinners for the family occasionally and on weekends make pavlova. My mother and grandmother were also both amazing cooks.”
After a number of years working in Sydney and holidaying in Byron Bay, Swan and her husband Dan “jumped off the waterfall” and relocated to her dream destination. Swan initially ran Rockpool’s websites and social media accounts from her home office a few days a week before opening a small catering business that grew two years later into “an operation” that was too big for just one person. So she convinced friend Jeremy Burn, who worked in the New Zealand wine and hospitality industries for years, to move from Auckland and join her and open the café 100 Mile Table. Then came DUK.
“The plan was always to create the classic Chinese BBQ: duck, chicken and pork, add steamed greens, rice and some cracking chilli sauces and it’s all taken care of,” Swan says. “Diners come to us because they are looking for a specific taste or dining experience – they want char siu and greens or duck. When you crave Chinese food, it’s all you want and you don’t want experiments.”