The Australian - Wish Magazine - - FOOD -

Walk­ing into Light Years bar and restau­rant in By­ron Bay is like be­ing trans­ported down south into a cool laneway eatery in Mel­bourne. Tucked away at the back of an ar­cade on Law­son Street – the beach­side town’s main drag – you would miss if you did not know it was there. But that is part of the at­trac­tion: the retro-style Asian diner was cre­ated to serve good food pri­mar­ily to lo­cals.

“We wanted to de­liver a prod­uct to the By­ron Bay com­mu­nity that was fun, invit­ing and in­clu­sive,” says Light Years owner Kim Stephen. “This is a tourist-heavy town but we didn’t feel there were many great places solely fo­cused on the lo­cals that main­tained a lit­tle bit of an edge, whilst mak­ing sure the prices didn’t creep up too high. We want our cus­tomers to come and have a ca­sual drink and bite to eat with us a cou­ple of times of week with­out it feel­ing like they are break­ing the bank.”

Stephen, who is from Mel­bourne, opened Light Years last De­cem­ber after notic­ing a gap in the By­ron Bay mar­ket. The restau­rant, with chef Rob­bie Oi­j­vall at the helm (ex-China Diner in Bondi), of­fers Asian­in­spired street food and cock­tails in a pink-walled pa­tio with loads of hang­ing bas­kets (very 1950s Hanoi) and a “killer sound­track”. When WISH vis­its mid­week, on a rainy and cold evening in Septem­ber, it is still packed and even has a queue out the front. De­li­cious dishes in­clude pork belly with sticky chilli caramel, cumin­spiced fried cauliflower, King­fish ce­viche with co­conut, chilli and kaf­fir lime and Light Years fried chicken.

It was the first per­ma­nent ven­ture for Stephen, whose brother, Ry Stephen, is a choco­latier and the mas­ter baker be­hind Su­per­moon Bake­house in New York. “His ideas were ec­cen­tric but they worked and they blew me away,” Kim says. He fol­lowed his brother into the kitchen and opened a pop-up café in Mel­bourne with a friend, but soon re­alised he would rather be in the op­er­a­tional side of things.

“I wanted to cre­ate in­cred­i­ble places, de­velop new and ex­cit­ing con­cepts and de­liver amaz­ing food with the help of great ex­ec­u­tive chefs like Rob­bie,” he says. Stephen ad­mits the open­ing night of Light Years was “ab­so­lutely nerve-rack­ing”, but he need not have wor­ried. Word spread, and it quickly be­came a place for tourists to seek out as well as lo­cals.

After a suc­cess­ful year at By­ron, Stephen and his part­ners will open a Light Years in Noosa and one in Vic­to­ria’s Sor­rento by Christ­mas. “Our goal is to do res­tau­rants in coastal towns around Aus­tralia.”

Stephen will con­tinue to be based in By­ron Bay, although he will be on the road a lot more man­ag­ing the three venues. “You are sur­rounded by the most amaz­ing coast­line, beau­ti­ful moun­tains and for­est, and there is a great lit­tle sup­port­ive com­mu­nity to tie it all to­gether,” he says of By­ron Bay. “To be able to make a liv­ing with all of this on your doorstep is re­ally a dream come true.”


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