Biota dining, Bowral
It has been a while since I had a guest blogger. I have wanted my dear ‘Uncle’ to guest blog for a while now. He has a way with words and as you can see below from his photos, he is an amazing photographer! An office worker by day, a photographer on weekends and not to mention his culinary skills – a chef by night! Check out his fantastic work here, and if you need a photographer, let me know – I will ‘hook you up!’ Anyway, this is what he had to say about Biota dining in Bowral – I will have to go there myself one day! Thanks Uncle…
The last of the long weekends for a couple of months. This is the part of the year that most (NSW) working folk dread, because it’s not till October another public holiday comes along. So for the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, Lala and I decided to take a drive down south and check out Biotadining. I first came across Biota dining from a fellow foodie tweep, and for someone that prides himself on having a decent memory for details, for the life of me, I can’t recall who exactly (sign of old age), but she did say it was worth it, in spite of the trek out of town.
So when I mentioned to Gastronomous Anonymous that I was going to Biota dining, she asked if I was willing to do a guest blog! So here it is. I did say that if I ever wrote a food blog, it will only have ONE of the following TWO words: YUM / YUCK. Let’s see how this experience pans out, shall we?
Sydney siders will know that we’ve been playing hide and seek with the sun, rain and wind all throughout this week. Today was no different. It took us just a touch over an hour to get to Bowral from where we live. Traffic was brisk and easy down the M5. Being the long weekend also meant double demerits, but as Lala says, I drive too much like an old man to need to worry. Finding Biota dining was easy. Parking was also easy and plentiful – note to Sydney siders: one plus to dining out of town.
First impressions of the exterior of the restaurant were as expected. It had that organic, earthy feel. Nothing fancy, nothing over embellished, it felt true to its philosophy “animals and plants of a particular region”. We saw kids running around the pond, ducklings waddling around and the restaurant garden. Upon entry, we were immediately greeted by a very pleasant scent of fig. For those who know me, I am obsessed by scented candles and so the aroma of sweet, woody fig filling the dining area was working quite nicely.
As usual, I am distracted by the details of the restaurant, and I send Lala and Boo Radley off to find our seats. The lovely staff at Biota show us to our seats….bonus! We have a great view of the kitchen. Chef and owner, James Viles and his head chef Shaun Quade are busy as bees calling out orders and plating up dishes at the pass. I scan our surroundings and am very impressed with the decor. White leather cushioned seats, good use of wood and funky ‘bare bulb’ lights; it sure didn’t feel like we were in sleep Bowral!
I leave LaLa to look at the menu and grab a few shots around the restaurant, which is split into 2 dining rooms. The bistro is bathed in natural light and looks over the pond, with communal tables, oversized paintings – there is a quiet-buzz about the bistro dining area. No visit to a restaurant is complete without a visit to the bathroom. This time around, I made sure I didn’t use the Ladies by mistake. I take a quick peek, and was pleasantly surprised that the bathroom had a light chocolate scent.
Ok, back to the menu. It’s pretty simple, a page each for entree, mains and dessert. I had the wagyu for entree. For mains, we chose the lamb rump and the grouper. You can find the menu here (look under Gastronomy menu).
Bread: I am very picky with my breads…as is LaLa with her butter. We get served house baked bread (Rye) with home-churned butter. It was good! Nicely warmed and with the right about of crunch on the crust. The butter was smooth and with some salt flakes that it came with, was a nice touch of flavour.
My entree, blackmore wagyu, raw and cooked radish, sanguinaccio ($23) was nicely presented. Strips of wagyu with nicely reduced sauce and crunchy bits. I love a bit of crunch in my food. The melt in your mouth beef coupled with the crunchy bits worked really well! The last time I had wagyu this good was at Dan Hong’s Lotus Restaurant in Potts Point.
Main no.1 – my grouper, grains, seeds and sand, snow peas, oyster and nashi ($38). Generous portion of white flaky fish. One word: SO GOOD. Okay, two words. Lala will tell you I can’t count. It was very nicely cooked. Sous vide, I suspect. Juices retained, fish cooked to P E R F E C T I O N. The maitre’d explain that the concept is based on a beach scene after a wild storm – seaweed, drift wood washed up on shore. I like the imagination. Food should be presented with vision; we eat with our eyes after all.
Mains no. 2 – LaLa’s lamb, lamb rump in olive caramel, baked carrots, oat milk, eggplant and garlic ash ($41). Cooked over 30 hours using sous vide. It was nice and pink throughout and the flavour if you asked Lala, was Y U M M Y. We were told that the chef wanted to create a scene of a lamb in its habitat. Some bush, some rocks. Portions here were generous. Yes, it’s all about size…. nothing worse than tiny morsels of food on a ginormous plate. I tasted some of the lamb, it was really, really good. Oh, did I mention it also had lamb bacon? Crispy! So good!
For the record, there is no one I know that eats faster than me. Hands down. I like food delivered briskly, course after course. I HATE having to wait too long between courses. It also means that my brain gets a chance to process that I am already ‘full’. So midway through our mains, I put in our order for dessert. Lala had the silk honey and pumpkin cream, pumpkin seeds and shortbread, curds and whey and ginger juice sorbet ($15). Phew, that was a mouthful…. and I had a caramel pear, raw cacao ice cream, warm buckwheat and malt ($16).
How did the desserts fair? For LaLa’s, there was a good play of textures. Hidden underneath the pumpkin cream, there was a plethora of that. Crunchy, not so crunchy… it was a pure textural play. It was a winner.
Mine was similarly outstanding. Ice cream had a wonderful smoothness to it. Oh yeah, I am an ice cream freak. So I know when I have good ice cream!
So we’ve talked about the food, the ambience, the decor… what about the service? The floor staffs are very friendly… which is good. What could have been better: We didn’t get a rundown of what the restaurant stood for. I would have expected that. I think in that respect, the maitre’d didn’t convey Chef Jame’s vision and is a little disappointing, as there’s so much they could have highlighted – vegetables from their backyard, local produce. We also found that our plates weren’t being cleared efficiently enough. Often, it was not until the next course arrived did our plates from the previous course get taken away. Twice also, the maitre’d himself knocked my water glass and my cutlery as he was clearing our plates. Again, it’s a small issue, but it’s also these little things that dull the experience. My biggest issue: a chef that loves to clap. WHAT? You read it right… whenever a dish is ready, the chef would clap (one clap) for the floor staff to come to the pass. Sitting right next to the open kitchen, it wasn’t the most pleasant sound. I’d much rather hear swearing than claps. I’ve worked in a fine dining restaurant with a kitchen well out of sight and ear shot of wait staff: no claps were used. A better system could be used…. please, stop with the clap.
In spite of the let downs, I’ve decided that it’s already my favourite restaurant. I’d go back in a heartbeat. Yes, there are a few operational kinks, but it will get better with time. The food is outstanding and you forget for a moment that you’re just an hour outside of Sydney!
It gets a YUM from me. Finger-licking-yum! Hope everyone else had a productive long weekend!
Or in Gastronomous’ style of rating: 8.5/10
Ph: +61 2 4862 2005
To the foodie tweep that gave me the heads up about Biotadining, if you happen to read this, please shout out!