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  • Milt Barlow

Hotel Marvell, Byron Bay

Accommodation 4/5 Food 5/5

Staff 4/5

Value 4/5

Would I return 5/5

Overall 5/5

Byron Bay has been in much need of a deluxe 5-star hotel right in the middle of town and with the arrival of Hotel Marvell they finally have one. Located in Marvell Street, this end of Byron is fast becoming the new ‘hip’ end of town with Jonson Lane just up the road and the new Raes of Wategos apartment hotel - The Bonobo by Raes - under construction. Directly opposite Hotel Marvell another new boutique hotel is being built - name yet to decided I am told.

Our region is rapidly becoming home to some great ‘staycations’ and Hotel Marvell is no exception. The hotel is a new creation by Melbourne entrepreneurs Scott Didier and Scott Emery who also recently splurged on the iconic Great Northern Hotel for a cool $80 million.

The hotel

It is a little bit strange to have a 5-star hotel right next door to Vinnies but there is nothing second hand about this new baby. A clever feature of the of the hotel is the ‘laneway’ that the developers created from Marvell Street to Keesing Lane behind it. It’s perfect for hanging out with a drink or coffee and the cool breeze funnels through the laneway, making it a great spot to relax after a hot summer’s day at the beach. Towering above are three stories draped with tropical plants which hang down into the laneway, creating a great relaxing environment that is also pleasing on the eye. The hotel has just 18 rooms and six suites with rates starting at around $600 a night. One of the big standouts of Hotel Marvell is Byron’s only roof top swimming pool and bar. You get to see glimpses of the beach and the lighthouse from here, perfect for sunrise or sunset where you can enjoy a cocktail or two and simple snacks from the hibachi grill.

The room

Minimalistic is the name of the game here. Overseeing all design elements of the hotel was Byron Bay based architect Harley Graham. The rooms cleverly and beautifully blend natural materials like concrete and wood, and compliment these with wonderful Bemboka & Eadie linens and towels, a Nespresso coffee machine - with local coffee from Zentvelds, a walk in rain shower and a mini bar stocked with the best of local products along with Leif hand washes, shampoos and lotions - bliss. The colour scheme of muted earthy fabrics combines with the design elements to create a warm Zen feel.

The best of electronics is incorporated into the rooms with a (very) Smart TV, electronic switches for lighting and black out curtains. We found these are bit fiddly to work but a call to reception quickly put us right. Opening the door took a bit of a ‘shoulder to it’ as we were told that the door handles were just for appearance - after you did the swipe card you just needed to push the door open. Not quite. But the hotel was only weeks old when we visited so these were just normal ‘teething’ issues you would expect and General Manager, James Pearce, was all over it.

While the rooms themselves are quite compact there was a large deck off our room with beautiful tropical foliage hanging down which quickly created a sense of space. It’s great to see ‘home grown design’ in action and the Hotel Marvell delivers in spades here.

The food

The absolute star of the Hotel Marvell is the fabulous Bonito restaurant. While Bonito is the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast and dinner (and lunch on weekends) this is very much a dining destination in its own right, whether you are staying at Hotel Marvell or not.

The restaurant, like the hotel itself, is very laid back Zen with custom made joinery, beautiful plate ware and water tumblers fashioned from recycled beach glass.

This is some of the best food you will eat anywhere, and certainly sets a new benchmark for Byron. Under the skilled eye of executive chef Minh Le (ex Spices Lodge and Byron on Byron) you will be taken on a journey of extraordinary tastes and flavours with a heavy leaning to local produce from the freshest of local seafood, beetroots from Bangalow Farm, mushrooms from Byron Gourmet and tomatoes from Coopers Shoot. Fresh and local rules in this kitchen.

Servings are small to medium which is great for grazing and sharing, which my wife and I did in abundance. We started with organic sourdough served with Bonito’s house-cultured miso butter, followed by wonderfully fresh oysters from the South Coast with a sensational Japanese inspired dressing that features yuzu, dashi, saki and mirin – heaven in a shell.

Next up was Byron Bay Stracciatella served with a mouthwatering combination of Coopers Shoot tomatoes, onion jam, basil and vincotto. This was followed by a wonderful dish of puff rice, yuzu custard, sous vide egg, parmesan and asparagus. Again, all the flavors intermingled brilliantly.

We then moved onto Bangalow sweet pork belly that simply melted in your mouth and a Whole Bay Lobster (Bug) prepared with XO butter, crispy shallots and shallot relish. The food is so good at Bonito is was impossible to choose what was the best dish.

Not to be outdone, the deserts of Banana Sponge Cake prepared with wattle seed dulce de leche, banana tuile and coconut sorbet and coconut panna cotta with lychee sago, coconut tuille and lime was superb and lip smacking. A perfect end to a night of culinary delights.

Overall the prices were reasonable for the high quality of the food. Of course, as you would expect there is a terrific wine and cocktail list to accompany your feasting. At the end of our meal, it was such a pleasure to walk up to Minh Le, and say ‘well done Chef’.

The wrap

Hotel Marvell is a wonderful escape for an overnight, a few days ‘staycation’ or for a special occasion. Bonito has set a new level for dining in the Northern Rivers and is a must visit even if you at not staying at the hotel. But go on, treat yourself and do both.

Author stayed as a guest of the hotel.


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