Biota means “animals and plant life of a particular region”. That sums up Biota Dining’s philosophy, growing herbs and produce in their garden, and purchasing meat and fish from the local area. After just a year and a half of operation Biota Dining has been awarded two hats in the 2012 SMH Good Food Guide, in the top 3 NSW regional restaurants.
Biota Dining is in a building surrounded by gardens, a pond, and kitchen garden, where they grow herbs and veggies, picked just before service. Can’t get fresher than that.
On the last Sunday of the month from February through November, a market is set up in the carpark to sell the surplus produce, along with food and products from local suppliers.
Geese roam the gardens. A picturesque setting.
Outdoor dining areas spread around the building, with a fountain, and a fireplace for the cooler days.
Extending the natural theme, throughout the restaurant are beautiful touches to help bring the feeling of bringing the outdoors inside.
The decor has a Scandinavian feel, with the natural tones and touches of green. Restful.
The kitchen is clearly visible, so you can watch the chefs preparing meals, seeing the way they pay such attention to detail. Even the private dining room has a large TV screen on the wall showing what’s going on in the kitchen so that people there don’t miss out on the action. It’s not a stressful, running-around kitchen, but orderly and quiet.
On Thursdays Biota offers a “local produce-inspired” set menu (although all meals are sourced locally), with 2 courses for $38, or 3 courses for $48.
The other option was to go for the “five”, the 5-course menu, for $86, or $141 with wine paired with each dish.
The table has to choose the same number of courses. That seemed a bit odd, but then for logistics that makes sense. It took a while to get consensus in the group whether to choose the 3-course menu, which had two choices for each course, or to go with the 5-course.
We decided to go with the 5-course menu. Here is our menu, along with the wine served with each dish:
smoked kingfish ham – cabbage juices – paleta – peas & shoots
09 Tertini Reserve Riesling – Southern Highlands, NSW
local sheep milk curds – new season asparagus – hen yolk – smoked rye
10 Domain des Espiers Les Diabontines – Rhone Valley, France
wild boar neck – jerusalem artichoke – amaranth – onions
2012 Lucci Margaux Bais en Bois Chardonnay – Adelaide Hills, SA
burrawong duck – cauliflower – white raisins – pear & pine needles
2011 BK Wines Cult Syrah – Adelaide Hills, SA
season’s stonefruit – mum’s roses – chamomile – bee pollen – white tea snow
NV Rallo Normanno Zibibo Liquoroso IGT – Sicily
At the beginning we were served a surprise amuse bouche: parmesan marshmallows with hay ash. These were the lightest, fluffiest, totally melt in your mouth marshmallows dipped in parmesan, sprinkled with hay ash.
Next up was the “smoked kingfish ham – cabbage juices – paleta – peas and shoots”, a gentle, light start to the meal, helping us see more of the direction the meal was heading. (I really had no idea what to expect, except that I knew that it was a 2-hat restaurant, and so must be doing something right!)
We were served house-baked rye small loaf, with house-smoked cultured butter. The bread was light but satisfying, and if I hadn’t been told it was rye I probably wouldn’t have known. It had a lovely wheat, slightly sweet flavour. The butter was tasty, and could have eaten more with the bread (I didn’t taste any smokiness).
The next dish was the “local sheep milk curds – new season asparagus – hen’s yolk – smoked rye”. Oh this was so good. The curds and asparagus wrapped ever so softly in a layer of pasta, topped with an egg yolk, with crumbs of crispy rye at the side. The yolk was perfectly cooked, so that it quickly ran over everything else. The flavours worked together well. And by this stage I thought it worth going to Biota just for that dish.
You can see the collection of glasses gathering by this stage, with a new wine with each course. The wines well matched the courses, and I thoroughly enjoyed every one selected.
The next dish, “wild boar neck – jerusalem artichoke – amaranth – onions”, was the only one I didn’t enjoy so much. The first mouthfuls of the boar were tender and flavourful, blending wonderfully with the the accompaniments. But the last portion of it had so much connective tissue in it that my knife couldn’t cut it, despite sawing and sawing and trying to attack it in numerous places. I know that’s probably the nature of the boar neck, but the first mouthfuls were so good that I wanted to be able to eat all of it.
Whenever duck is on the menu it’s a favourite choice, so I was glad to see the “burrawong duck – cauliflower – white raisins – pear and pine needles” dish.
The duck lived up to my hopes. There was meat from the duck breast and from the leg, adding variety to texture and flavour. The white raisins in the duck jus added a gentle sweetness to the duck. I wondered what one stick I ate was, which tasted sweet, but not too much, only to discover that it was pear skin dried, and curled into a small stick. Hard to imagine, but it was good.
Now the dessert. We had no idea what to expect, other than what we read on the menu, that it was “season’s stone fruit – mum’s roses – chamomile – bee pollen – white tea snow”.
Then, the dessert dishes with a variety of fruits, some dried, some as sorbets, were brought to the table. Then, they brought out a container with liquid nitrogen.
Oooooo … aaaaaahh.
Into the liquid nitrogen was squirted, using insulated foam canisters, a white tea egg yolk mixture (meringue mixture), which “cooked” in the liquid nitrogen, becoming solidified small pieces of meringue, looking like clumps of snow.
When that was spooned out onto the fruit already on the plates, the liquid nitrogen continued to spread out across the plates. The “snow” was cold and crispy crunchy meringue. The whole dish had so many different fruity flavours, but all without being too sweet.
Truly the pièce de résistance.
A great way to finish the meal, with a bit of drama and fun! I’d love to try the dessert again, because there were so many great flavours. I think the “wow” factor with the white tea snow meant that I didn’t pay as much attention as I should have to every detail.
Here’s my collection of wine glasses by the end of the meal!
At many restaurants I don’t dare to order coffee because I’m often disappointed with the lack of care in this detail, totally ruining the coffee, so it’s better to have none than coffee that’s horrible. I thought I’d give the coffee a try, and I was not disappointed with my long black coffee. A good strength, with good crema, in an interestingly-shaped cup (unfortunately in the shot above you can’t see the shape of the cup, just the good coffee).
The whole Biota Dining experience was a good one. Staff were friendly and helpful. The food was fresh and clean-tasting, fascinating with the use of aromatics, beautifully set out on the plates. As happens with meals like this, bit by bit the dishes creep up on you until you realize by the end that you’re well satisfied.
I’d love to get back again to Biota and try the Thursday “local produce” menus, which looked to be a bit more simple (and I’m sure just as tasty, prepared with care), and reasonable prices.
The whole package, the variety of dishes, and the wines selected, covered a spectrum of flavours. Many of the flavours were new to me, which made it all the more interesting. Each dish was a work of art. Loved it, and look forward to getting back again. Next time I’d like to try one of the cocktails.
If you’re looking for a meal with hearty food and traditional flavours and styling, then this is not that. If you’re looking for a meal to please the mind and the tastebuds, an experience, watching and eating a work of art, then this it.
Here are the details about Biota Dining at time of posting. Please check their web site for more current details.
||18 Kangaloon Rd, Bowral NSW 2576
||(02) 4862 2005
||Monday: Lunch, Dinner
Thursday: Lunch, Dinner
Friday: Lunch, Dinner
Saturday: Lunch, Dinner
Sunday: Brunch, Lunch
||3 courses: $58; 5 courses: $86 or $141 with wine; 7 courses: $118 or $195 with wine. The table has to order the same number of courses, e.g. all ordering the 3 courses, or all ordering the 5 courses. See the menus for more details.
Where have you eaten lately where you’ve been wowed by new tastes and textures, where you saw that much care as given to the smallest of details?