In July 2023, Byron welcomed one of its only sit-down Middle Eastern restaurants in the form of The Smoking Camel. Created by the same hospitality owners as popular Byron spots Light Years, Pixie Food and Wine, and Moonlight, The Smoking Camel was designed as a Middle Eastern discoteca.
“We really wanted to be sure that the space transported diners away from Byron Bay, taking them to Cario, Tel Aviv, or Istanbul,” says Kim Stephen, one of the venue’s co-owners.
“Erring on the side of kitsch to encourage diners to sink into the playfulness of the atmosphere and menu, we used bold colours and gold accents to create a venue that feels like you are entering the most vibrant Bedouin tent imaginable, down to the arched doorway.”
Curated by executive chef and co-owner Robbi Oijvall, The Smoking Camel’s menu focuses on flavours from Lebanon, Turkey, and Israel. Stephen describes the menu as bursting with spices and methods from all over the region.
To start, choose from mezze-like hummus with harissa oil, smashed falafel with green goddess tahini, and sumac spiced tuna tartare. Mains include shawarma spiced chicken, halloumi and veggies, and BBQ king prawns with café de Cairo, curry leaf, and lemon.
“I personally love the Baharat beef shish,” says Stephen. “The tender meat off the charcoal mixed with the perfectly balanced Baharat flavours is a centrepiece for any meal I have at The Smoking Camel, paired with any of the side salads or a dollop of hummus from the mezze section.”
A dessert highlight is the ‘dessert mess’, a mix of baklava gelato from the group’s venue, Frankies Gelato, pistachio sand, rosewater, strawberry and honey coco whip. Another option to finish is a saffron rice pudding with mango passion fruit gelato and spiced orange.
“Joachim and I have loved playing around with spices from different regions, seeing how we can enhance traditional dishes to create a unique offering,” says Oijvall.
This twist-on-traditional spills onto the cocktail menu, too, with the likes of ‘Turkish Delight’ with Bookies Dry Gin, pomegranate, cranberry, lime and foam, ‘The Oasis’ with tequila, lime and cucumber and the ‘Dead Sea Ice Tea’ with dark rum and pomegranate tea. Wines were sourced with a focus on Lebanese producers who work with indigenous grapes out of the Bekaa Valley, one of the oldest winemaking areas in the world.
Rounding out the drinks list is a selection of tinnies from Byron businesses like Stone & Wood, Earth Beer Co., and Wandana Brewing.
“It’s been incredibly nostalgic to watch this venue transform,” says Oijvall. “Closing our first Light Years was a bittersweet moment for us all. But the reincarnation of the space has been one for the ages, and we’re beyond excited to have our customers reacquaint themselves with the old stomping ground.”
The 55-seat venue was designed by Week Days Design, the same team that curated the group’s moody Japanese Hibachi and wine bar Moonlight last year. It centres around colourful, gilded interiors that match the opulence and festivity of the Middle East. Think curved archways, billowing curtains, and cutouts of gold camels above the bar.