Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Biota Dining, Bowral.

Just this weekend the boyfriend, Michael, and I spent a lazy few days in the Southern Highlands. A quick hour and a half drive from Sydney, Bowral is the perfect location for a short getaway, particularly in the Autumn/Winter when the leaves are turning orange and the air is fresh and crisp. Perfect!

A few months ago I picked up a Cudo voucher for the new Gilbraltar Hotel (more on that experience later). Obviously a popular voucher as we had to wait a few months before we could book. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it meant we arrived in Bowral post opening of Biota Dining, the new venture from James Viles. I spied a review of Biota on Gastronomous Anonymous just before our long weekend, and thankfully Michael agreed that it was a must visit.

 “Biota is a dining experience supporting both local farmers and growers, focusing on artisan produce incorporating seasonal botanicals in all aspects of its menus and environment.. Our onsite automated glasshouse grows over 40 varietels of seed imported from france, netherlands and local suppliers which gives us a constant seasonal harvest of shoots, cresses and seedlings getting put to into gastronomic practice on a daily basis.” - biotadining.com
We book for a Saturday night and upon entering the restaurant we find that we’ve scored the premier table – right in front of the kitchen! We have an amazing view of the servery and can see/hear every movement from within the bowels of the kitchen. Around the opposite side of the building is the lounge. Comfortably decked out and featuring a separate menu of tapas style food. Watching the working of the kitchen all night makes me realise my job is mundane in comparison.

The wine list is extensive and features a few local wines. I choose a sauvignon blanc from Centennial Vineyards, which is right next to our hotel, only to discover that they are all out. The waitress recommends another local wine and I am horrified to discover that I’ve just agreed to a chardonnay. It wasn’t too bad and the glass size was overly generous (I hear chardonnay is making a comeback, though?).

We start off with warm bread and smoked butter, followed by an amuse-bouche of apple, tomato and Chamomile. The tomato is overly acidic on its own but is palatable with the apple pure.

For entrée I opt for the banana prawns in cured scallop broth with cucumber, green tea and dill seeds ($19). The severing was huge, with a whopping six large banana prawns on my plate. The prawns were perfectly cooked and the broth was tasty, however I did find it to be a tad salty.

Michael ordered the barbecued calamari, dressed with sugar snap peas and celery ($22). I managed to wrangle a small mouth full from him and again, the calamari was perfectly cooked. I despise rubbery, overcooked calamari!

Moving onto mains, we argued for quite some time as to who would order the lamb rump ($41). I came up winner (or should I say, Michael was generous enough to change his order at the last second). The lamb is cooked medium rare (I wasn’t asked for my preference) and is placed on a creamy bed of olive caramel. What I loved most about this dish was the oat milk rolled in garlic ash and hazelnut. Michael summed this up perfectly when he compared the texture of the oat milk to ‘yogo chocolate yoghurt’. It is creamy and light and not at all what I was expecting – more of a bocchini texture? I try a smear of the oat milk with the lamb and it isn’t bad. But what I find to be even more enticing is crumbling the overly crunchy bacon rind over the milk oat. The creamy texture with the salty, teeth shattering bacon is divine!

Michael has ordered the grouper with oysters and nashi ($38), this is a scary prospect as he wouldn’t normally order fish. But I am assured the fish is flaky and the oysters well cooked.

Letting our food settle, we peruse the dessert menu while taking in the exciting scene unfolding in the kitchen. It seems the apprentice was left in charge of picking salad and herbs from the garden for tonight’s dinners, and he hasn’t picked enough or decent quality produce. After a fantastic spray from James, (Michael is highly amused to hear the ‘f bomb’ dropped a couple of times) we see the apprentice with a big bowl running out the back door into the garden to grab more salad.

It was amazing to see James and his kitchen at full steam. By now (approx 9.30pm) the restaurant is about three quarters full and we overhear whisperings from waiters and the kitchen that there are VIPs dinning in the lounge. Even with all this on his plate, James notices that we are still sitting, staring at our dessert menus and he calls over a waitress to send in our direction and take our order. Did someone say Super Chef?
There will be no sharing when it comes to dessert. Michael orders the caramel pear, raw cacao ice cream, warm buckwheat and malt ($16), while I opt for the slightly more exotic silken honey and pumpkin cream, pumpkin seed shortbread, curds and whey, ginger juice sorbet ($15). The pumpkin cream is light and airy, and the shortbread is buttery and melts in the mouth. But my favourite part of the dish is the ginger sorbet. Delightfully fresh, I only wish I had a bigger serve!

We have to roll ourselves out to the car, bellies bursting at the brim thanks to the huge servings we were dished up. Michael isn’t normally one for fine dining, he can’t understand why someone would pay an exuberant amount of money for a tiny portion of food on a oversized plate. Our bill comes to around $160, which we both believe to be unbelievably cheap considering the quality and quantity of food. Even a week later, Michael continues to tell me, over and over, how impressed he was with Biota. This was definitely one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had. The service, the food, the ambiance - everything was fantastic. I hope to return very soon to try out their lounge menu – the mini wagyu burgers sprawling out of the kitchen looked amazing!

Move over, Eschalot. There is a new player in the Southern Highlands and I’m sure the awards will be flooding in very, very soon.

Biota Dining
Address: Kangaloon Road, Bowral, NSW 2576
Phone: 02 4862 2005
Website: biotadining.com


  1. "no sharing when it comes to dessert" HAHA good stuff

  2. I haven't been to Bowral in years and years and years - had *no* idea there was a restaurant of such quality there! Amazing!

  3. I just met a lovely lady from Bowral who invited hubby and I up there! This looks like a great place to stop and eat :D

  4. Bowral is a great place for foodies, isn't it?! The meal looks lovely :)

  5. the desserts here look delish!!

    hope to see more of ur cakes soon!!