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“My Happy Place”. That’s how I think of The Armchair Collective in Mona Vale. Over the past year or so, it has become a favourite place, a place to which I love returning.

Why is that? Is it the atmosphere, with the fun furniture and other odds and ends for sale, colourful, with lots of textures? Or is it the jumbled collection of things spread throughout the cafe, so there’s always something new or different to see wherever you are? Or is it the consistently good food? Or is it the friendly staff? Or is it that the people and the vibe all fit the beach feel? Or? All of the above.

Armchair Collective Mona Vale

The Armchair Collective is a sister to The Boat House at Palm Beach. It has many things in common with The Boat House, with a similar menu, scaled down a bit, and masses of flowers for sale.

The Environment

While being seated at a table surrounded by furniture or other things sounds like it could be like being in the middle of a furniture shop, it’s nothing like that. The colours and the textures and fabrics add a relaxed and happy vibe.

Armchair Collective, Mona Vale - collection 3

Everywhere you look are things to tempt you – furniture, teapots, teatowels, flowers, yummy food, sweets to take away such as caramels and fudge.

Armchair Collective, Mona Vale - collection 1

Rather than being jumbled and over-full, somehow the large bunches of flowers and all sorts of interesting goodies seem to add to a feeling of abundance.

Armchair Collective, Mona Vale - collection 2

The Food

The food at Armchair is good everyday food, but tasty, interesting, and good quality.  Whatever I’ve eaten there has been better than I was expecting.

Green papaya squid salad - with Thai dressing, peanuts, and crispy fried onion

Green papaya squid salad – with Thai dressing, peanuts, and crispy fried onion

The squid salad was a perfect balance between salty and sweet, with lots of textures and flavours in there.

Berry smoothie (huge) and coffee

Berry smoothie (huge) and coffee

Milkshakes and smoothies are served in those old-fashioned bottles, with huge serves.

Moroccan chicken salad - with chickpeas, pistachio, sweet potato, snow peas, and minted yoghurt

Moroccan chicken salad – with chickpeas, pistachio, sweet potato, snow peas, and minted yoghurt

The menu usually includes a few different salads, so you’d be sure to find something to suit. And not just your average salad, with interesting combinations of ingredients.

Roast vegetable rosti

Roast vegetable rosti

The rosti is something light for breakfast. Breakfast is served daily from 7:30 am.

Wild mushroom bruschetta - with balsamic reduction, fetta cheese, pine nuts on rye toast

Wild mushroom bruschetta – with balsamic reduction, fetta cheese, pine nuts on rye toast

The mushroom is on the part of the menu available all day, from 7:30am – 3pm.

Winter pie

Winter pie

The menu varies with the seasons. A hearty winter pie or freshly made soup are ideal in the middle of winter.

Tomato soup (winter menu)

Tomato soup (winter menu)

And now for one of the Collective classics, the burger. There’s no way that you can that without some disassembly!

Collective beef burger - with beetroot marmalade, tasty cheese, fresh tomato, onion, with thick cut chips

Collective beef burger – with beetroot marmalade, tasty cheese, fresh tomato, onion, with thick cut chips

The thick cut chips at Collective are a specialty: crisp on the outside, soft in the middle. Many people order just a bowl of chips with an aoili or mayonnaise.

Steak sandwich (earlier menu)

Steak sandwich (earlier menu)

It’s all good everyday dining food, with something to suit every palate.

With Mona Vale beach being a short stroll away, after a good meal at Armchair, a walk along the beach is perfect, breathing in that fresh ocean air.


Here are the details about The Armchair Collective at time of posting. Please check their web site for more current details.

Web site
Address 9A Darley St East, Mona Vale NSW 2103
Phone 02 9999 2871
Open Open daily 7:00-4:00
Breakfast 7:30-Noon & Lunch Noon-3:00
  • Breakfast (served before 12pm):
    • Priced from $6-17
    • Includes Sonoma walnut & raisin toast with fruit compote & ricotta, a variety of egg dishes, oatmeal and buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana and blueberry ricotta.
  • All day menu (from 7:30 am to 3 pm):
    • Priced $8-17
    • Includes items such as a sesame bagel with smoked ocean trout, neufchatel cream cheese & baby capers, or the wild mushroom bruschetta in a photo above.
  • Lunch menu (12 – 3 pm):
    • Priced $17-25
    • Includes beer battered fish & chips with house-made tartare, or Armchair Salad (with roasted beetroot, quinoa, spinach, goats cheese, sesame seeds and pine nuts), or the Collective Burger (in the photo above), or a Vegetable Burger, or several salads.
The Armchair Collective on Urbanspoon

Where is your favourite “local” – a place you can keep on returning and love it every time?

Biota Dining, Bowral

January 20, 2013 — 5 Comments

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.

The Setting

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.

Biota gardens

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.

The courtyard

Outdoor dining areas spread around the building, with a fountain, and a fireplace for the cooler days.

The Restaurant

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.


The Menu

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

The Food

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.

parmesan marshmallows 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!)

smoked kingfish ham - cabbage juices - paleta - peas and shoots

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).

house baked rye with house smoked cultured butter

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.

wild boar neck - jerusalem artichoke - amaranth - onions

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.

burrawong duck - cauliflower - white raisins - pear and pine needles

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.

preparing the snow

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.

season's stonefruit wth mum's roses

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.

season's stone fruit - mum's roses - chamomile - bee pollen - white tea snow

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).

In Conclusion

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.

Web site
Address 18 Kangaloon Rd, Bowral NSW 2576
Phone (02) 4862 2005
Open Monday: Lunch, Dinner
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday: Closed
Thursday: Lunch, Dinner
Friday: Lunch, Dinner
Saturday: Lunch, Dinner
Sunday: Brunch, Lunch
Menu 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.
Biota Dining on Urbanspoon

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?