Biota, Bowral NSW

Biota is a stunning two-hatted restaurant in Bowral in the Southern Highlands.  I was fortunate to enjoy lunch at Biota after spending the morning picking blackberries at Montrose Berry Farm.

Outdoor dining under umbrellas

Outdoor dining under umbrellas

I wasn’t actually sure whether or not I would write a blog on my experience at Biota for several reasons. The restaurant was closed to the public but open to the group of us that was having a day experiencing the berries of the Southern Highlands so I wasn’t able to experience the restaurant during a normal service.  We also didn’t eat from the menu but instead were privileged to enjoy a menu featuring berries.

Entrance

Entrance

However, the restaurant has such a wonderful philosophy, I just had to share my Biota experience with you.  The word ‘biota’ means the animals and plants of a particular region.  The philosophy behind the restaurant is that the food served should come from what’s grown on the property or very close to it.  It’s a ‘what’s on the doorstep’ philosophy.

Outdoor fireplace

Outdoor fireplace


The Southern Highlands has an enviable climate with a very distinct four seasons that’s perfect for growing produce.  The climate, the rich and fertile soils, and the area’s proximity to major cities like Sydney and Canberra, has encouraged livestock producers, dairy farmers, and fruit and vegetable growers to the Highlands.  There is now a wealth of wonderful fresh and diverse produce that has given rise to quality eateries and restaurants in the region that create seasonal menus around what is being produced.

Feature

Interior feature

Biota’s philosophy of sourcing only local produce also extends to the bar.  Only Australian wines and spirits feature on the menu.  While sitting on a couch lined with sheepskin, you can sip on Australian gin infused with locally grown feijoas with an artisan cheese platter to share.

Somewhere to relax

Somewhere to relax

I understand Biota is situated on what was once the premises of a motel.  While there is seemingly no evidence of the former motel, the original accommodation still exists but has been renovated and beautifully upgraded providing 12 guest rooms.

Comfy lounges

Comfy lounges

Biota is also the scene of many events.  There’s a private dining room that seats 14 and weddings and other special occasions have been celebrated under marquees erected in the landscaped grounds.

Open fireplace for wintry nights

Open fireplace for wintry nights

Chef and owner of the two-hatted Biota is James Viles.  He has quickly become one of Australia’s most respected young chefs who is acknowledged for his commitment to sustainability and for his imaginative food.  He has produced a cookbook titled Biota – Grow, Gather, Cook.

View through to the kitchen

View through to the kitchen

The restaurant’s workshops are very popular.  Most attendees arrive the night before and enjoy the dining experience, then head off to bed in one of the on-site rooms.  After brunch the next morning, the workshops begin.  Places in the workshops are limited to 10 to create a better learning experience.  Workshops offered are natural bread making, natural grains, cooking with vegetables, the garden experience and the Bollywood oven.

Wine racks line the wall

Wine racks line the wall

When we arrived we were shown to the courtyard where a long table had been set with large umbrellas providing shade from the strength of the sun.  It was certainly a beautiful setting that is private, tranquil and scenic.  I think there’s something very soothing about being able to see water and from our table we could see the restaurant’s very large pond that’s surrounded by very green landscaped grounds.

A serene and picturesque setting

A serene and picturesque setting

The first dish to arrive at the table was the house made rye bread with home made butter.  As wonderful as this warm bread was, I was even more taken with the cute kangaroo pouch it was presented in.

Housemade rye bread

House made rye bread in a kangaroo pouch

Our berry-inspired menu gave a choice of two different options for each course.  For an entree I had sheep’s milk curd with lightly pickled raspberries and beetroots bloomed in their own juices.  I loved the presentation of the dish and the crockery used by the restaurant is on par with the uniqueness of the dishes.  The dish combined many wonderful elements with the sheep’s milk curd being smooth and creamy, the beetroots providing some acidity, and the raspberries providing some fresh sweetness.

Sheep's milk curd with lightly pickled raspberries and beetroots bloomed in their own juices

Sheep’s milk curd with lightly pickled raspberries and beetroots bloomed in their own juices

The other entree option was raw kingfish with blackberries, blood plums and purslane.  This was a very pretty dish and a very popular option at our table.

Raw kingfish with blackberry, blood plum and purslane

Raw kingfish with blackberry, blood plum and purslane

For a main course I chose the lamb with carrots cooked in whey with blackberries.  The lamb was beautifully cooked to a medium-rare however I did find it quite under-seasoned.  The purple carrots were very delicately sliced and brought a beautiful colour to the dish.

Lamb and carrots cooked in whey from Pecora Dairy with blackberries

Lamb and carrots cooked in whey from Pecora Dairy with blackberries

The other option was kangaroo with cooked and raw native raspberries.  I was surprised by how many people chose this dish as kangaroo isn’t a meat many have grown up eating regularly; however, it was very popular at our lunch and all those who ordered it thoroughly enjoyed it.  I loved all the colours on the dish from edible flowers and plants gathered on the premises.

Kangaroo with cooked and raw native raspberries

Kangaroo with cooked and raw native raspberries

For dessert I ordered the blackberry softie.  It came to the table in a chilled stone bowl with a lid on it.  Removing the lid revealed house-made blackberry soft-serve swirling around the bowl with fresh blackberries.  It was a very hot day and so this softie was a welcome way to end the meal.  I was impressed with the chilled stone bowl that assisted in preventing the softie from melting too quickly.

Blackberry softie

Blackberry softie

The other dessert was a biota raspberry fool.  A cheeky dessert that everyone loves.  It was very smooth and creamy with plenty of berries.

Biota raspberry fool

Biota raspberry fool

The menu we enjoyed showed how berries can be used in a menu from entree through to dessert.  It was fascinating to see how they can be paired with everything from meat to fish to cheese to vegetables.  While we weren’t able to experience Biota during a normal service or enjoy its menu, we certainly were able to see what a unique, inviting and special place this is and one I will definitely be visiting again.

Part of the vegetable garden

Part of the vegetable garden

Verdict:  I’ll be back for dinner and the overnight stay.

There's a large pond on the property

There’s a large pond on the property

Biota:  18 Kangaloon Road, Bowral NSW 2576

Comments

  1. Sounds like a great place! We’ve got a bunch of restaurants that source most of their ingredients from within 150 or so miles of here. Some exceptions though — like salt! 🙂 But it’s always fun to see how creative the kitchen can be given those parameters. Fun post — thanks.

  2. I love that chilled stone bowl. The kangaroo pouch and kangaroo meat, not so much.

    What I’ve noticed in many of your restaurant images are the clean lines, the minimalist decorating styles and the predominance of white in decor. I’m not experienced in fine dining, thus I can’t compare to the U.S.

    And I’m also always amazed at all of the food you are served when you dine out. Here I order an entree and that’s it. Sometimes it’s accompanied by soup or salad. The portion sizes are so large that I never have room for dessert.

    But then I don’t live in a major metro area. My dining options are limited by choices and budget.

  3. Sugar: we probably could have met since I have just spent weeks at the Southern Highlands Hospital in Bowral 🙂 !! Yes, am managing sort’of at home!! Absolutely love everything about Biota: how they think and how they do it!!!!!!! Love the food you have shown and since I eat kangaroo about 2-3 times a week, really must try it with at least some form of raspberries! Personally kangaroo is quite my favourite lean, flavourful meat at the moment: normally I never eat sausages because of fat content – of the kanga kind I even manage these occasionally . . . . 😀 !!

  4. Hi Charlie, what great adventures you have, this place sounds wonderful, love the concept.

  5. Wow! Loved seeing your photos. What a special day you had! And a snack in a kangaroo pouch? so fun. I am sure the berry based dishes were terrific. I LOVE coming over to your site and checking things out because it is LOVELY there when it is cold and dreary here. Thank you for sharing!!!

  6. Sounds like a delightful spot to have lunch. I am mighty envious of all those berry dishes AND your glorious weather 🙂

  7. I love the clean simple decor of the dining room here – and I especially love that stone bowl your ice cream came in!

  8. I really enjoy restaurants devoted to cooking only with locally sourced ingredients. Many of the fresh and local ingredients in the dishes you’ve shared with us could also be found in California. However, I’ve certainly never encountered kangaroo! That’s a surprise, for sure. It’s a lovely establishment with wonderful food options!

  9. I love when restaurants are into where their food comes from and how it is grown. Sounds like a really nice place. So what does kangaroo taste like?

    • Slightly ‘gamey’ Bobbi! If you like lamb./mutton you would love this! Honestly kangaroo is available everywhere in Australia now: supposedly the disposal of the animals is humane, and they mostly do eat a grass-fed-diet and no the cancer-producing grain one . . . .since I cannot access elk and deer etc et al, I am so in love with the ‘kanga’ in this form also . . . and, at the moment: it is SO cheap as yet 🙂 !

  10. The kangaroo pouch is kind of creepy, LOL! But surely makes it memorable 🙂 I like the berry theme, I’d take that kingfish with blackberries!

  11. I do love the philosophy of this restaurant, and I enjoyed reading your experience (even tho I can’t make it there). The kangaroo pouch! Very Australian and I like it. I’ve never tried kangaroo meat before, but I heard from friends who tried in Australia and liked it. I really wish to visit one day….and see you too. 😉

    • Namiko-san: darlingHeart, you will visit here sooner than you believe 🙂 ! OK: the ‘pouch’ is an advertising ‘gimmick’ new to us too: so one has never heard of a fur jacket ? !!!! I just think of what you believe and I can assure you you would absolutely love this place . . . and the climate . . .and the atmosphere . . . no hurry, no scurry: lovely . . . just keeping along Down Under lines . . .

  12. Darling Charlie – apologies for both ‘inadvertent’ sends ! Just remarks for some of my most lovable repost recipients . . .Could not resist!!! For me this is such a wonderful local place to learn and to enjoy and have fun . . . my apologies if I went overboard . . .

  13. I have been wanting to go to Biota for so long. one day Charlie. in the meantime you have written about it so beautifully. I do love that ice cream bowl too.

  14. What a beautiful setting and I love their philosophy too. I’m also impressed with the array of berry dishes they created!

  15. Biota looks beautiful and the food although a special menu so delicious. I love the clean lines of the furniture and the restful colours of the decor. It looks wonderful. GG

  16. I heart Bowral but have never made it to Biota – either it has been booked out, or we’ve had kids with us. It is def on the ‘must eat’ list. I would love to stay there, too.

  17. What a fabulous meal Charlie!!
    I have actually never been to Bowral!! … Can you believe that, the countryside looks so beautiful from your pics, really lush and green!

    Thanks so much for sharing
    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

  18. This does indeed look wonderful and so lovingly presented! Liz xx

  19. So sad we didn’t get to tour the kitchen garden when we lunched here. Am always impressed when a restaurant has the commitment to invest in growing its own produce!

  20. Sounds like a lovely place! The presentation of each course is so pretty, and the soft serve ice cream looks delicious!

  21. I love their philosophy, and what a beautiful place…thanks for sharing 🙂

  22. Lucky bugger Charlie! I’d love to go to Biota one day.

  23. What a unique experience and so glad you shared it with us, it will definitely be on my list of things to do when/if I get to Australia. The food looks and sounds marvelous. I’m not sure about the kangaroo, we can get it here from a specialty butcher in burger form and although I have been tempted to buy it to try, I haven’t as yet.

  24. Funny how lots of chefs are not seasoning their food anymore. What is that about?:). This food looks so interesting. I love the look of the blackberry dessert in the stone bowl. I have had kangaroo once and also wallaby. Quite tasty.

  25. That Raspberry Fool has made me very hungry (gooseberry fool was my childhood fav. growing up in NZ – where we also went on loads of berry picking expeditions). A great weekend location xxx

  26. Isn’t Biota great? Absolutely well worth a drive there just for lunch or dinner 😀 A morning berry picking sounds heavenly followed by this.

  27. What a wonderful philosophy to have – all local. Sounds like a fabulous place to enjoy a special meal Charlie.
    Have a wonderful day.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  28. Sounds like a great experience! The food was beautiful. I look forward to hearing what their public menu is like and seeing the accommodations. 🙂

  29. Kangaroo meat is really consistent with the idea of looking for food in the local environment. I’m impressed that you say so many of your group were eating it! Fascinating post.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  30. Yay caught up with your blog again, man that ice-cream looked so delicious in the stone bowl. In fact the whole menu looked great, hhhmmmmmm will keep this in my Aussie folder as a must do if we head back to Sydney again 🙂

  31. Bread served in a kangaroo pouch…. is that cool or totally gross?! I havent eaten or even stopped in Bowral, but seems I am missing out, now that is totes the BEST way to do a day, all the food is beautifully presented, and the crockery is lovely. Have a super weekend! xo

  32. I don’t know why I missed this post… perhaps because we were travelling. I’d love to dine at Biota, Charlie, thanks for this review xx

  33. What a delicious and delightful day you had…it must have been a treat to have lunch at the restaurant. While I’m not particularly fond of the dishes, they do fit in with decor of the restaurant. I personally think some foods look prettier served on white plates, especially with the colorful berries used in the meals. I do however think the stone bowl was a wonderful way to serve the desserts.

  34. I love the fireplaces there but when I saw the bread in the kangaroo pouch I thought that was a bit too cute for me. All the rest was very impressive.

    What a lovely spot that is and I’d spend a lot of time in the veggie patch.

  35. What a great place and delicious meal! The blackberry softie looks divine but the house made bread in a kangaroo pouch is definitely memorable 🙂

  36. Loved seeing your photos and the mouth-watering photos. What a treat. I’ve read short bits and pieces about Biota but now have the full scoop. Would love to visit and do a class – without any of the kids!

  37. What a delightful restaurant. What did you think of the kangaroo meat? Taste like chicken? LOL Love that blackberry soft ice cream and that stone bowl is beautiful. Hope all is well with you.

  38. All ok? You haven’t posted in a while (then again, I am the worst person to point that out, given I haven’t posted in almost a year… but intend to get my act together again soon)

  39. Sweet Posy Dreams says:

    Hope you and family are doing well. Not like you to take such a long break.

  40. What an interesting post, Charlie. I didn’t realize I had missed this one as I had put several aside to properly enjoy at my leisure. I am glad I didn’t miss this. The bread in the kangaroo pouch made me laugh. Fun. Interesting dishes in general.

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