The small historic village of Bangalow, around 15 minutes’ drive from celebrity mecca Byron Bay, is developing a reputation as a culinary destination – largely thanks to the 2021 opening of pizzeria Ciao, Mate! and its sister venue, tapas-style corner bar You Beauty, which opened in 2022. Both are led by lauded sustainable chef Matt Stone and co-owned by Eltham Hotel publicans Matt Rabbidge and Luke Sullivan. Now, those who base their travels around food have yet another reason to head to the Byron Bay hinterland, with the launch of Mexican and Latin American eatery Corner Cartel.
Located on the next block down from You Beauty, Corner Cartel offers a mix of tacos and tapas. The menu changes regularly depending on available produce, but popular dishes so far have included crispy salmon tacos with coriander roots, shallots, red chilli and jalapeno mayonnaise; charred octopus with kipfler potatoes and chorizo; and ceviche with piquillo, coriander and roasted garlic. There are also plenty of enticing vegetarian options, such as roasted king brown mushroom tacos with field mushroom crème, and flame-grilled cauliflower with yellow mole and crispy eschalots.
The restaurant is the work of US-born Lisa Fisher, who also runs Pantry 29 deli and cafe further down the main street. She fell in love with Mexican street food when she spent six months living there and learning Spanish as part of her university degree. She moved down under in 2002 after meeting an Australian man while travelling in Europe. She stayed in Australia when the relationship ended, and moved to Bangalow to open Pantry 29 in 2010.
With many of the kitchen staff coming from Argentina, and chef Maurice Munoz Labart’s grandparents hailing from neighbouring Chile, the menu draws from the wider Latin American region.
“We’re not just Mexican, we’re really Latin American,” Fisher tells Broadsheet. “Our bartender is also Argentinian, so he features some flavours from South America.”
Munoz Labart has also travelled throughout South America. The produce-driven chef – who has worked at Merivale’s Coogee Pavilion and, most recently, at Byron’s The Mez Club – is relishing sourcing meat from Herne’s Butchery in Bangalow, oysters from nearby Shuck Oysters and straight-off-the-boat fish from Northern Rivers Seafood in Ballina.
“The menu has evolved into more of a modern Latin American feel, more like an eating house than a stuffy restaurant,” he tells Broadsheet. “We’re quite rustic in our approach, and one of the advantages of having a small restaurant in a town like Bangalow is you get to know your demographic really well.”
In designing the 53-seat restaurant, Fisher chose a neutral palette with a heavy use of timber and metal. She sourced Turkish lampshades from The Dancing Pixie in Byron Bay, had a bar custom-made for the space, and tiled the tops of the old tables from the Chinese restaurant that the building previously housed.
She chose the name Corner Cartel because it’s located on the corner, and cartel historically referred to political parties that joined forces to promote a common cause, which Fisher says is also the ethos of Bangalow’s growing number of acclaimed restaurateurs.
3/43 Byron Street, Bangalow
(02) 5661 7537
Wed to Fri 8am–2pm, 4.30pm–8pm