Biota Dining, Bowral
A weekend away is no longer just a weekend away, it has to be carefully researched around the dining options in the area. So when the opportunity arose for a long weekend with the in-laws the first place I thought of was Biota Dining… I mean, “How about we try the Southern Highlands, darling? We haven’t been that way yet.”
Around 1 1/2 – 2 hours from Sydney it’s the perfect distance for a short trip and the area is a food and wine lovers paradise. There are wineries, fresh produce, cheese… Not on the grand scale of other regions of Australia but certainly enough to keep you happy for a few days.
We admired their crop of broad beans growing in the garden and sure enough they appeared on our plate for course four, with some Mulloway, Morcilla, spring peas and gelatinous bone stock. The perfect showcase for seasonal delights.
The amuse bouche certainly lived up to its name. The trout “biltong” was like nothing I have tasted before. It shouldn’t work – a dry piece of fish, a touch on the rubbery side – but it does. It left me wondering a) how I could recreate this smoky goodness at home b) if they can do this with smoked trout what on earth are they going to present me with for the following seven courses.
I like to try the tasting menu at restaurants because I like to be challenged with my eating. If the decision is left to me I always go for the same old things. I avoid pasta as I can do that at home, I love duck and venison and fish is good but I’m afraid to say meat will always trump it. Having said that, I am rarely disappointed with the offerings presented to me by the chef and I am often pleasantly surprised. My surprising course for this meal was the cuttlefish. I don’t dislike squid and cuttlefish but I would always choose something else, as I live in fear of ocean tinged rubber bands.
Of course there was not a hint of elastic, and I chastised myself for allowing the thought to even enter my mind. Paired with the salty Jamon, sticky ink and cucumber, (I was challenged by another food no, no; I’m generally not a fan of cucumber) but it worked, and I’ve been persuaded to cook more Cephalopods.
To pick a favourite course of the seven is nigh on impossible. I was torn between the sheep’s curd and pork neck. The sheep’s curd clearly interests me with my current cheese making project. Unfortunately I can’t get hold of sheep’s milk to recreate this at home, but I was impressed by the balance of texture and flavour. There was sharp, soft curd, paired with a sheet of pasta and a crispy, golden crumb. To top it off, there was a slow cooked egg yolk with a sprinkling of egg white pearls.
Biota Dining isn’t just about the food, the restaurant manages to deliver the complete experience with pleasant, modern surroundings and friendly, knowledgeable staff. I often think the staff groan when I enter a restaurant with my camera and my questions. I like to know exactly how my meal was prepared in case I want to give it a go at home. All of the Biota waiters humoured me and my questions and were even happy to engage in conversation about the local wineries and must visit cellar doors.
The waiter was also keen to explain the intricacies of the slow cooked pork neck with slow cooked and charred leek. He even confessed that in isolation the leek shards would be considered “burnt” but when eaten with everything else on the plate it enhanced the experience providing a crispy edge to the otherwise soft, slow cooked ingredients.
To finish the meal we were served a cheese course of bloomy white with carrot marmalade. No longer is a cheese course just a plate of cheese with some biscuits. You know you are in a good restaurant when they turn the cheese course into a dish in it’s own right.
And finally, if six courses are not enough you can complete the afternoon with a light delight of mandarin, meringue and champagne sorbet. It’s the mandarin scented meringue shards that sets this dish apart form your average Eton Mess type dish.
At $124 for seven exquisite courses it actually feels like good value for money and I would definitely be keen to return to sample the menu at different times of the year to examine how the menu changes with the seasons.