Friday, 21 December 2012

I must say, I have been rather diligent these last couple days. I can foresee the storm of posts coming after my trip to Spain so I'm mentally preparing myself by clearing the decks, so to speak. Biota Dining is situated in Bowral, nestled in the Southern Highlands of NSW. En route back to Sydney we made a little detour which definitely paid dividends. 

Bienvenue! You know you're in the country when you actually have space for a sign out the front.

Opening in the third quarter of last year, executive chef and co-owner James Viles and the team have already been awarded two chef's hats (16/20as well as the Good Living Sustainability Award by the SMH Good Food Guide 2013. It was also ranked within the Top 100 restaurants by the Australian Gourmet Traveller for 2013 (at #100 mind you, but I'll pay that). 

Lightbulb moment - totally don't know why I haven't been here earlier. If you like the relaxed country vibe you should definitely make a visit. The Welcome Party (right): upon arrival you are greeted by the Biota Kitchen Garden (to which we don't have access to, shame!), two extremely well fed geese and a flock of ducks.
The thing that struck me right away was how spacious the grounds were. Apart from the main dining room there was also a private dining room, a more casual lounge bar as well as a terrace overlooking the 'pond' and garden. I was actually inclined to roam around before our meals were served so I did take the liberty...

Finally, a restaurant with some decent lighting i.e. sensible! If there's one word to describe this design it would be organic. That or "flowy". The kitchen was in plain view and at any one time there were always 2+ chefs plating alone. It was tweezer heaven over there (more on that later). On the right side of the pass sit three massive blocks of pink salt - quite the showpiece!
The menu works like this, there is no à la carte as such - the minimum you can order is 3 courses. The plates are between entrée and main size and you pick which dishes you like from an impressive list of 12 dishes. Oh, decisions! There was a pretty clear delineation between what was considered an entrée or main (+/- slab of protein) but there aren't any rules! You can go for 3 savoury or 2 savoury + one sweet. There were also the options of having a 5 or 7 course degustation but these were both 'set' already. I'm sure the portions would be greatly reduced as well (not a bad thing when you're still facing 5 to go). 

'Amuse' me. An amuse bouche of pecorino marshmallows.  Certainly something different, and awesome. The texture was gorgeous, beautifully light and fluffy and the cheesiness was not too overpowering. This was also served with some crusty whole meal rolls and some freshly churned butter.

Local sheep milk curd, new season asparagus, hen yolk and smoked rye. I am SO glad I ordered this little baby, I had been tossing up whether to order another seafood dish (I'm such a fiend). Well thank GOD! Once you delight in bursting the egg yolk, you are met with a translucently thin sheet of pasta cloaking the white asparagus stalks & creamy sheep's milk curd (with just the amount of resistance, in texture).I just cannot fault the execution here, it was done so, so well. Love the cute little bandaid-shaped slither of ham. Hands down favourite dish of the day

Charred hanger, licorice root caramel, garden beets and horseradish. A beautiful looking dish, we were wondering what the vegetables on the left were, unusual looking things but they were definitely beets! The beef, which had been cooked for so long was meltingly tender. You needed only a fork to see that.

Something that was almost immediately obvious to me was how the kitchen would call wait staff for service. A chef would 'clap' twice for them, and then minutes later a waiter would come scurrying to the kitchen. There is something inherently wrong in this. Not only is it plain out rude (we do live in the 21st C people, not in the dark ages) but it was extremely off-putting for me and I'd assume other diners. What ever happened to ringing a good ol' bell?! They have a point of difference here that does not do them any favours.

White corn dumplings, mushrooms, truffle, puffed grains and spring onions (left) and Burrawong duck, cauliflower, white raisins and pear & pine needles (right). Apologies for the miniaturized photos, I thought I could save some space here! The dumpling were completely moorish, served in a lovely, clean broth. The dumplings were filled with a lovely puree of corn that brought out all its natural sweetness. Divine. Now under all those pine needles, I mean talk about intricate work (!) was the duck breast. There were some inconsistencies here (3 ducks came to our table of 4!), where the fat was not completely rendered and hence, not crispy enough. 

Brooke trout, summer squash, samphire, truffle sand and mussels. My baby, another astonishment in the plating department. It would probably take as much time to plate as to prepare some of the dishes, I mean DANG. My fillet of trout was the bed for a couple of mussels, discs of zucchini, roe and old mate, samphire (which incidentally I saw at the grocer for the first time last week!).  The trout was cooked beautifully, as you'd come to expect now! I didn't pick up my knife, until I was trying to get every skerrick of fish onto my fork! I will say though that with all the accoutrements of the dish it did get rather salty. What with the truffle sand (salty), roe (salty) and samphire (sea salty) it got all a bit too much by the end. I'm loathe to leave anything on the plate but truffle salt was my sacrifice. More truffle in there might have done the trick ;)

And most importantly, DOLCE.

Cherries & their juice, almond milk tofu, white grape & eucalyptus sorbet. I must say the wobbly cylinder of almond infused tofu looked great. Pity I couldn't steal any haha

Sweetened root vegetables, chocolate, artichoke ice cream, warm carrot sponge. My dessert, you know me - fan of 'savoury' desserts that I am. The stand out on this plate was THE artichoke ice cream, for sure. The aerated white chocolate provided the perfect sweet note to balance out the dish. The block of carrot at the bottom of the dish was a bit clunky, it was a massive chunk that was steamed (?) but I found it very bland and wrong for the dish. Maybe a ribbon or two would suffice.
So there you go, my impressions on Biota Dining. The moderately new kid on the block, making waves in regional NSW. A few flaws in the running of the restaurant (clapping?!) are almost completely offset by spectacular food at its core. The dishes were bold, experimental and looked like fine art. Pat Nourse of Australian Gourmet Traveller writes, "leaves just about every other country New South Wales contender for dead". They are definitely on to something.

Thanks for reading and merry christmas folks! xo
Biota Dining on Urbanspoon


  1. Your photos are making me drool!

  2. I'd love to go to Biota one day, definitely on my MUST VISIT list. Clapping is actually quite common in the kitchen in a restaurant as some find it less intrusive than the constant bell dinging donging throughout the night. Each to its own I guess.



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