In the Southern Highlands of NSW sits the small sophisticated township of Bowral, about one and half hours drive from Sydney CBD – and home to the epitome of excellence in NSW regional dining – Biota Dining. Two-hatted Biota sits unassumingly on a corner block of land attached to a motel of only 12 small rooms, where you can stay the night – perfect really. Chef and part owner James Viles’ philosophy for his restaurant is very simple – ‘it’s about telling the stories of our land, the seasons and the produce it provides us with. Our role as cooks is to tell these stories’.
And they tell those stories at Biota with a religious confidence – in the produce they aim to source from within a 20 km radius of Bowral and their own produce from the Biota Kitchen Garden.
At Biota, you choose from a 5 or 7 course tasting menu or a choose your own 3 course menu – you can also go for the matching wines. We chose the 5 course menu – it started with an amuse bouche of trout jerky – a piece of trout, cooked like beef jerky and served on a metal spike impaled in a piece of marble, an assault on the palate, so simple and to the point – brilliant.
Next Smoked roe – storm clam – charcoal – sea lettuce. This was a visual and taste sensation like no other, smoked roe mousse – topped with fresh roe and surrounded by shards of charcoal created from lavosh. This was ever so smoky – with a gentle crunch of the edible charcoal followed by the natural sweetness from the smoked roe. The storm clam, sourced from Narooma on the South Coast, was placed on seaweed, presented on a stone from the beach – when you opened the clam, the taste was a subtle blend of the sea and vinaigrette that had been splashed over the clam meat. This whole course was a playful narrative and a masterpiece. Hen yolk – cooked curds – rye – chickpea. This was a definite contrast from the roe and clam – a rich egg yolk nestled amongst the rye crumbs and rested on curds. The rye delivered a nutty texture against the smoothness of the egg and curd. Lamb breast – dried lactose – fresh & cooked oats. A strip of rich sweet lamb that comes from a nearby Robertson farm, about 30 minutes away – it was sitting on the oats covered in gossamer thin, broken sheaths of dried lactose that disappeared in the mouth like a communion wafer and created a smooth milkiness with the lamb.
Duck – pine – cauliflower – white raisins. Duck three ways – succulent duck breast, duck heart and confit duck leg. It was served with cauliflower – raw, finely sliced and puree – plump softened white raisins that exploded with sweetness, deep fried pine needles. This dish was rich dark and so juicy – a tribute to the duck.
Chocolate – soft crème – fermented apple juices – pear. One of the surprises here was the conifer needle, coated chocolate ball that encased the soft creme – placed in fermented apple juice, alongside chocolate ganache, pear sorbet and batons of dried pear skin. This dish showed the originality of James Viles’ cooking – getting the diner to try components of ingredients that you’d usually discard. To accompany this food adventure, we asked head sommelier Ben Shepherd for a local wine recommendation – we tried the Pulpit Rock 2007 Pinot Noir.
Biota Dining is a restaurant that knows its agenda – the food is innovative, simple and wonderful. Chef James Viles’ thinking delivers a memorable food experience that is world class and sits next to some of the best.
PS Check out the great food and wine from the Southern Highlands at the Southern Highlands Food and Wine Festival- Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th September 2014.
18 Kangaloon Rd, Bowral NSW 2576
Open Mon – Sun for dinner
Mon, Fri, Sat and Sun for lunch
Sat and Sun for Brunch