Archive for June, 2012

Biota Dining, Bowral

June 16, 2012

18 Kangaloon Road,  Bowral, NSW

Lunch, dinner & a breakfast….

This place has been on my radar for a while and with baby in tow it’s just about finding the time to go. Local, ingredient led food is all the rage (who’d have thought) and Biota has been carving out a bit of a reputation in this area, riding the coat tails of The Royal Mail and other grow your own restaurants.

Our first meal here was what’s described as “Sunday Celebration” – a set lunch menu on the last Sunday of every month. It’s a brisk 90 minute drive from home and although the restaurant is next to a run-of-the-mill motel, the layout and decor is really pleasant and relaxing for a Sunday. Service is suitably charming and very child friendly in the open lounge area. The $55 menu is a bit of steal….

Excellent wholemeal roll with homemade butter on a fridge cold stone (it doesn’t slide off)

It’s a nice dense loaf. Butter could do with a bit of salt, but it’s on the table and so crisis averted.

A selection of entrees continues the good start…

Excellent olives, served warm with garden aromatics (herbs), ham croquettes, a crunchy salad and crispy fried prawns – All are fine examples.

The main event is spit-roasted pork:

The cut, preparation and presentation is enough to make the hardened carnivore weep. How can you not love the look of it? You get a good range of cuts in one piece – rib to cutlet. The only downer is the over-salting. It makes the divine crackling almost inedible. A real shame – too much of a generous hand….

And there’s the sides – sauteed mushrooms, potato salad & polenta

All perfectly good renditions, especially the polenta, but not sure why it’s there with the potato salad…. One of them is unnecessary, when it’s crying out for something green. There’s some weird decision-making in the kitchen, but maybe it’s all that was available on a Sunday. It is a celebration!

Our lunch though ends on a high – a tasting plate of desserts….

Chocolate & salted caramel mousse, apricot & vanilla quenelles, lemon tart with candied pecans and raspberries, cannoli with pistachios. It’s sensational. Not a duff element amongst them. All awesome. The polenta and over-salted pork is forgotten and all is good with the world.

It’s clearly not a meal without its faults, but the quality is evident and the restaurant is so pleasant, it’s an easy decision to come back and give the dinner menu a go…..

And so a month or so later we find our way back. We’ve got a room at the mundane motel next door, we’ve got a sleeping baby in a pram and it’s time to hit the wines. No tasting menu this time, we go for the gastronomy menu.

Salmon jerky to start….

Lightly smoked, pleasant….

Vanessa’s entree – pulled beef, beetroot, horseradish & pickled onions

Feels more of a main dish with the size of flavours – rich, savoury, sour and sweet, but nothing masks the excellent slow-cooked beef.

I opt for a pasta dish: smoked scallop, morcilla, stracci. peas and zucchini

An ingredient led dish with a lot of promise, but it lack a little oomph. The scallops have the lightest of smokes, the peas are subtlety sweet, the morcilla not as bold as it could be and the pasta a little thick. It’s a dish that should have sung, but dare I say it, was a little bland.

My main: glazed pig cheek, turnips, cauliflower, figs and mushrooms

Another attractive dish, but it’s a seriously fatty piece of meat, overly gelatinous. While the other elements are perfectly pleasant it doesn’t stand up to the pork. It needed a little contrast in flavours and textures.

Vanessa again gets the better of the main: Snapper, jerusalem artichoke, oyster, wild garlic, jamon

A sweet succulent fish, with the good smooth, nutty flavour from the artichoke. The oyster so late in the meal is scary for her, so I get to myself. Pretty good all in all.

And so on to desserts: raspberries, mojito disc, berry sorbet and pomegranate

Again good in concept, but not perfect in execution – fresh and frozen fruit is good, but the mojito disc needs some serious elbow grease to break through.

mead soaked banana, buckwheat cake, corn ice cream, honeycomb

Good imaginative combination – the textures are pleasant and it’s something you can’t wait to get stuck into, but flavours are a little muted with no real highs, just quiet satisfaction.

We’re back 10 hours later for breakfast:

The natural light flooding into the various rooms, makes this a very nice day-time venue. Staff were of course excellent and happy to accommodate Nina’s request for plain well scrambled eggs.

We both order the same dish – home cured ocean trout with avocado and slow-cooked egg.

One of the best breakfasts I’ve had this year – very simple, excellent ingredients, handled well with a decent slug of olive oil for good measure to chef it up. We dwell for a couple of coffees and slowly make our way back to Sydney.

It’s easy to like Biota – a beautiful venue, very pleasant staff, with quality ingredients. We’ve often come to hear that chefy mantra of “using seasonal produce, treating it with respect and doing as little to it as possible.” My experience of Biota shows this at it’s best, because also some of the pitfalls. You can have too much a generous hand. But you do need to properly season food to amplify it’s natural flavours. You can also get too technical with the pursuit of interesting textures when what it comes to meat at least, you can’t beat a bit of roasting.

So I’m unconvinced about Biota as a fine dining restaurant, but as a casual dining venue with it’s excellent produce, it’s worth a visit….