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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale

Making cheese fries at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale

There's a lovely story behind Bernie's Diner, one that isn't immediately obvious as you scarf down burgers and fries in this 1950s themed American diner. Bernie's Diner pops up out of nowhere, in the small town of Moss Vale in the Southern Highlands, population 7,792. It's cute and gloriously kitsch with black-and-white chequerboard tiles on the floor, gleaming chrome stools at the counter and cosy red vinyl booths down the back.

Counter stools at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Counter stools at Bernie's Diner

The joint is heaving on a weekend. Row of dockets are jammed on the rail above the grill, there's a queue of people waiting for seating and the call-out for burger pick-ups is constant.

Vintage cash register at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Vintage cash register and soda bottles

There's one lone guy in the thick of female staff serving customers. He's the only staff member on the grill, flipping burgers while managing the flow of orders in the kitchen. Ioannis (pronounced Yar-ni) Benardos is the grandson of Emmanuel Benardos, after whom the diner is named.

Low back swivel stools at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Low back swivel stools

Emmanuel was born in Greece and became an orphan at age ten. At age 18 he left Athens for Australia, a journey that would take six weeks at sea. In 1925 he ended up in Moss Vale, opening the Central Cafe and, when that closed, started a new business on a different site called Bernie's Cafe.

Emmanuel's grandson, Ioannis, had hospitality in his veins but he had bigger fish to fry. From a career start at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Double Bay, Ioannis' CV included stints in the front of house at Claridge's in London, concierge for the Quay Grand in Sydney and assistant manager at The Grand National Restaurant in Paddington.

Ioannis Benados in the kitchen at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Ioannis Benardos directing staff in the kitchen

In 2013, life came full circle and Ioannis opened up Bernie's Diner on the same site where Bernie's Cafe once stood.

Chocolate thickshake at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Chocolate thickshake $8

The menu is huge here, scrawled in chalk across ten blackboards that hang above the open kitchen. They do malted milkshakes, eggflips and soda floats but we're more than happy with our chocolate thickshake, so dense with ice cream that we struggle to suck it up through the straw.

Booth seating at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Booth seating

We're warned about the thirty minute backlog on food, but staff remain smiling and cheerful throughout. Our thickshakes keep us entertained anyway, and it's easy to people watch the happy mix of locals and blow-ins from our booth.

Burgers and onion rings at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Burgers and onion rings ready to be picked up

Bernie's Burger at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Bernie's Burger $13
The whole kit & kaboodle

The Bernie's Burger is a behemoth, a towering stack of beef, bacon, fried egg, pineapple, salad and onion rings. We can't even imagine the size of the Double Bernie ($24)!

Double Bernie burger from Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale

Ok I couldn't resist. Here's the Double Bernie from their facebook page. Apparently Alisdair didn't make it but "made a valiant effort". Um. Wow.

Cheeseburger at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Cheeseburger $7

The cheeseburger is a little off kilter with the meat to bun ratio, and the we find the patty a little heavy on the binder, but the range of burgers is impressive, including pulled pork ($11), Waikiki bacon and pineapple ($10), Vegas Baby chicken and jalapeno ($11) and The Bro, a vegetarian option for $8.50.

Chili fries at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Chili fries $10

Chili fries are practicallly a meal in itself, a huge basket of fries tumbled through with chilli con carne and served with a scoop of sour cream on top.

Chili dog at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Chili dog $9
Texas chili, onions and cheese

We also get the chili dog. The pleasing snap of the frankfurt makes a contrast to the soft bun, beef mince and beans, scattering of onions and drizzle of tomato sauce and mustard across the top.

Onion rings at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Onion rings $7

I'll admit it. I pushed for the large serve of onion rings even though the small one ($3.50) would probably have sufficed. The actual onion slices are wafer thin but the crunch on the batter is incredible, still crisp even after ten minutes.

House made hot smoked pastrami on caraway rye at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
House made hot smoked pastrami on caraway rye $15 for 150g
with Russian dressing, slaw and housemade dill pickle

The house made hot smoked pastrami is impressive but it's not really a surprise given the back story. The beef brisket is brined for two months then rubbed with spices and smoked for four hours over beech chips splashed with beer. After smoking, it's slow cooked at 80 degrees for 11 hours.

House made hot smoked pastrami at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
House made hot smoked pastrami

That would explain why there's such a terrific smokiness to the pastrami. It's shaved super thin (losing some of that satisfying chew) but the meat is tender and doesn't suffer from dryness. It's jammed between two slices of caraway rye with a generous amount of slaw. On its own the pastrami eats a little salty, but in the sandwich the seasoning balances out perfectly.

I love the house made pickle too - sweet, salty and sour with plenty of crunch.

Cheese fries at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Cheese fries $8

And because we're gluttons for punishment, we round everything out with a basket of cheese fries. It's nothing fancy. They just toss those fries through a puddle of melted cheese until everything sticks together in one giant golden love-in.

Eating a Bernie's Burger at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Burger time

There's a kids party while we're there. Everyone joins in to sing Happy Birthday and then says good bye (at Ioannis' prompting) when he leaves. It's not fine food but it's not supposed to be. It's Happy Days here - the only thing missing is The Fonz.

Wrapping takeaway burgers at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Wrapping takeaway burgers

Burgers, fries, hot dogs and pastrami at Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale
Weekend at Bernie's

Bernie's Diner, Moss Vale

Bernie's Diner on Urbanspoon

Bernie's Diner
402-404 Argyle Street, Moss Vale
Tel: +61 (02) 4869 1502

Opening hours
Open 7 days 6am-10pm
Public holidays 10am-8pm

No reservations. Walk ins only

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Bowral - Biota Dining
American - Hartsyard, Newtown

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/31/2015 07:33:00 pm

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Top 10 Sydney Cheap Eats for Tourists

It's easy to be distracted by the spectacle of the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the golden sands of Bondi Beach, but we all know that the lifeblood of any city is in its food.

But how do you eat the best of Sydney on a whirlwind schedule?

I first compiled this resource in 2009, but a lot can happen in six years in the restaurant world. I've reworked this listing to include newcomers as well as maintaining a couple of old favourites.

Top 10 Sydney Cheap Eats for Tourists 
(listed in alphabetical order)
    Deep frying pa tong go donuts at Chat Thai, Haymarket
  1. Chat Thai, Haymarket Got the midnight munchies? You're all set at Chai Thai which closes at 2am every night. Night owls get to ravage the supper menu that switches over at 9pm. Make sure you order the pa tong go donuts fresh from the fryer served with warm pandan custard.
  2. Panna cotta lamingtons at Flour and Stone, WoolloomoolooMud crab with ginger and shallots at Golden Century, Haymarket
  3. Encasa Deli, Sydney Wrap your mouth around a bocadillo, a Spanish sandwich made with a crusty baguette. The tortilla bocadillo, a thick and fluffy potato omelette with strips of roasted red capsicum (peppers) is a must.
  4. Flour and Stone, Woolloomooloo has taken Australia's iconic lamington and made it even better. The panna cotta lamington is life changing. This quaint bakery has limited seating so you can make a meal of it with sausage rolls, meat pies, sandwiches, coffee and dessert.
  5. Golden Century, Haymarket is your best bet for seafood cooked fresh from the tank. Order the mud crab with ginger and shallots and pippies with XO sauce with a fried bread stick for dipping. They're open every night until 4am - after midnight you'll often spot Sydney's best chefs hoeing into a post-work feed.
  6. Harry's Cafe de Wheels, Woolloomooloo is a rite of passage for every tourist. Grab one of the legendary meat pies piled with mashed potato, mushy peas and a well of gravy and enjoy one of the city's cheapest waterfront views - seating not included.
  7. Kim Restaurant, Potts Point is Korean Fermented prawns at Kim Restaurant, Potts Point food beyond the usual bulgogi beef. Crunch your way through pancakes chock-full of seafood, feast on Korean fried chicken wings and make sure you try order prawn jang, fermented in soy and prawn-tastic.
  8. Malay Chinese Takeaway, Sydney It's noisy and crowded but it's all worth it for the best laksa in Sydney. If you're really worried about collateral damage to your white shirt, you can buy a plastic bib.
  9. Mamak, Sydney Making roti at Mamak Sydney has queues every night but at least you get a free show out the front as you watch the roti masters at work through the windows. Save room for the roti tisu, glazed with butter and sugar, and make sure you ask for condensed milk, not ice cream.
  10. Menya Mappen, Sydney might feel like a canteen, but lining up for your meal is an easy trade-off for bowls of udon or soba noodles that start at $3.90. The best part? The self-serve tempura bar.
  11. Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont  Smoked brisket at Vic's Meat at the Sydney Fish Market, Pyrmont is the best way to discover one of Sydney's best highlights: our bounty of seafood. Load up on sweet prawns, freshly shucked oysters and sashimi-grade salmon and tuna and feast on the wharf with the pelicans. If meat is more your thing, stop by Vic's Meat Market on the other side of the carpark for bbq pork ribs and smoky brisket sandwiches. 
  12. The Eight, Haymarket is Sydney's biggest yum cha restaurant with a barrage of trolleys circling the floor. Join in the fun with every other Chinese family on the weekend. And remember no yum cha is complete without har gow prawn dumplings and fung jao chicken feet. 

10 Eats for the Intrepid
for those happy to travel or test their stomach 
(listed in alphabetical order)
  1. Australian Heritage Hotel, The Rocks Always Cooking yakitori skewers over charcoal at Chaco Bar, Darlinghurst wanted to try crocodile, emu or kangaroo? Here's your chance to try them in the least intimidating way possible: on a pizza. Wash it down with a coldie (beer). The range of Australian boutique beers here will keep you busy for hours.
  2. Chaco Bar, Darlinghurst  You'll think you're somewhere in Japan at this cosy izakaya bar specialising in yakitori skewers cooked over charcoal. Get the chicken hearts, chicken tail (that's chicken butt) and chicken crackling (chicken skin) for a real treat. 
  3. Do Dee Paidang, Haymarket This many Thai customers can't be wrong. Make sure you order the tom yum noodles and test your chilli mettle if you dare with a pain meter that goes up to level seven. Tip: most people struggle with level one. 
  4. Doyles on the Wharf, Watsons Bay Take the ferry from Circular Quay and daydream about which property you'll buy when you retire. Wander the scenic walking paths at Watsons Bay to work up an appetite and then reward yourself on fish and chips on the wharf, soaking up the glorious harbour views.
  5. Gumshara Ramen, Sydney If you love Making tonkotsu soup noodles at Gumshara Ramen in Eating World Food Court, Haymarket
    tonkotsu ramen, a rich broth made from pork bone stock, this tiny foodcourt stall will change everything you know. They use 120kg of pork bones to make a soup that has so much collagen, it starts to solidify within minutes.
  6. House of Crabs, Redfern Forget about cutlery. It's all about hands-on eating with bags of crabs, prawns, clam and yabbies cooked in plastic bags and dumped in the middle of your table. Don't wear white - it's gonna get messy.
  7. Hurricane's Grill, Bondi Beach Sunbake, surf and swim and then tuck into a full rack of sticky smoky marinated ribs that will leave you licking your fingers with bliss. Bibs are provided so making a mess is half the fun.
  8. Kana Express, Sydney Is deep fried sushi is your idea of awesome, then stop by this tiny takeaway shop for Korean snackage at its finest.
  9. The Sparrow's Mills, Sydney  Korean fried chicken with spring onion and wasabi soy at The Sparrow's Mill, Sydney The only KFC you need to know about is Korean Fried Chicken. It's double fried for extra crunch with pickled daikon on the side to cleanse the palate. Get the wasabi soy for tasty dipping and give into the Snow Cheese, sprinkled with cheese powder that will get your tastebuds buzzing.
  10. Wakana Yakiniku, Artarmon If you want to get into marbled wagyu beef, this Japanese barbecue is one of the cheaper places to do it. You'll have to cook it yourself at the table, but that means less time wasted between the barbecue and transfer to your stomach.

Day Trip Food Adventures 
(listed by distance from Town Hall, Sydney CBD)

Sydney is a treasure trove of eats from all around the world, many of them found in cultural communities that cluster in suburban pockets. I often think there's nothing better than hopping on a train and spending a day browsing the fascinating grocery stores, bakeries and restaurants in the suburbs.

Why just visit Sydney when you can visit China, Vietnam, Lebanon, Turkey, Portugal and Korea as well? You won't need to pack your bags, but you might want to pack an extra stomach!

Not sure how to get around Sydney by public transport? Use the 131500 Transport Infoline website or phone 131 500.

Newtown/Enmore (11min train trip from Town Hall - Inner West line)
Once a seedy suburb, Newtown is now hipster central with raw vegan cafes jostling for space with wine and cheese bars and cronut-serving cafes. Chow down on burgers with metal heads at Mary's, try the famous strawberry watermelon cake at Black Star Pastry and stop by the Pie Tin for a massive wedge of peanut butter and chocolate tart. If you're still kicking around at dinner, drop into Hartsyard for southern fried chicken with biscuits and gravy.

Petersham (15 min train trip from Town Hall - Inner West line)
You haven't had barbecue chicken until you've eaten it Portugese-style, flattened in half, brushed with peri peri chilli sauce and cooked on a rotisserie over charcoal. Follow your nose to the row of bbq chicken shops along Canterbury Road and grab a flaky Portugese custard tart from Sweet Belem for dessert. If you arrive early enough for breakfast, swing past Brighton the Corner for homemade crumpets and The Pig and Pastry for homemade baked goodies.

Haberfield (15 min taxi ride or a 50min bus trip from Town Hall)
Ramsay Street might feel quiet but there's plenty to eat in this food rich suburb. Bring your shopping bags and fill them with fresh cheeses from Paesanella, crusty ciabatta loaves from Haberfield Bakery, deli items from Lamonica IGA, handmade chocolates from Colefax and the divine light-as-air ricotta cake from Pasticceria Papa. End your day with traditional wood-fired pizza from La Disfida.

Ashfield (21 min train trip from Town Hall - Inner West line)
Make your own Ashfield food tour through fishmongers, Asian bakeries, Chinese grocery stores, Indian spice shops and Filipino treats. Eat your weight in soup dumplings from Shanghai Night or New Shanghai. Wander into the Polish Club for something different or get your money's worth from the all-you-can-eat Yummy Chinese BBQ.

Campsie (37 min train trip from Town Hall - Bankstown line) Campsie is known as Little Korea, but amongst the Korean grocery stores and restaurants, you will also find Chinese BBQ houses, Indian spice stores and Lebanese baklava. Get hands on with the jeyuk bossam pork and kimchee in cabbage leaves from Korean favourite Se Joung or get into Malaysian assam laksa, curry puffs and more at Albees Kitchen.

Lakemba (42 min train trip from Town Hall - Bankstown line)
Never tried Lebanese pizza? It's yours for just $1. That'll score you a freshly cooked oregano pizza or try a $1.50 spinach pie. Explore Indian spice shops, Lebanese bakeries and Continential groceries on your Lakemba food tour. Work up an appetite for the best falafel in Sydney at Jasmin. You will eat yourself stupid and pay about $10 for the pleasure.

Auburn (27 min express train trip from Town Hall - Western line) The streets of Auburn are as far from everyday Sydney as you can get. The smell of charcoal in the air comes from the freshly grilled kebabs that will take you straight back to the memories of your best meal in Turkey. Wander the streets and make up your own food tour but do not leave without enjoying the unique stretchy pleasure of dondurma ice cream from Mado Cafe.

Bankstown (45 min train trip from Town Hall - Bankstown line)
Bankstown is one of Sydney's true cultural melting pots. Meander you way through Lebanese baklava, an Eastern European deli, a Chinese herbal store, spices piled into pyramids you might find in a souk, and African, Filipino and Asian groceries. Vietnamese pho noodle houses abound but it's hard to go past the famed Pho An.

Fairfield (47 min train trip from Town Hall - Inner West line)
Who needs a round-the-world plane ticket? Just stop by Fairfield for your own global adventure. Start with crispy fried rice from Lao Village and move onto Chilean hot dogs and dulce de leche sweets from La Paula. And you won't just find one Iraqi restaurant. There's two. Load up on kebabs from Aldhiaffah Al-Iraqi and get the sheep's head stew from Kebab Abo Ali

Cabramatta (50 min express train trip from Town Hall - South line)
You could almost trick yourself into thinking you're in Saigon as you walk the streets of Cabramatta with your own DIY food tour. Get yourself lost in the myriad of arcades selling tropical fruits, bolts of fabric, Asian groceries and pandan waffles. Tuck into a bowl of pho at Pho Tau Bay, feast on sugar cane prawns at Tuong Lai and crunch your way through the crispy skin chicken at Tan Viet.

Did I miss anything? Leave a comment with your tips on Sydney's best eats for tourists or provide your comments on the ones listed above. If you're a visitor to Sydney then I hope you enjoy our diverse array of culinary fare. Leave a comment if you use this list and let us know your thoughts on the food you found.

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/25/2015 01:01:00 am

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Biota Dining, Bowral

Rye bread in a kangaroo skin at Biota Dining, Bowral

A kangaroo skin is the last thing you'd expect to find keeping your bread roll warm, but Biota Dining isn't like most other restaurants. The majority of the produce on the menu is grown in their own kitchen garden or sourced from local suppliers around Bowral. Last year they redesigned their wine list to a completely Australian offering. In the 2015 SMH Good Food Guide Awards,  Biota maintained its two-hat status and took out Regional Restaurant of the Year for the second year running.

Dining room at Biota Dining, Bowral
Dining room at Biota

It's only a seventy minute drive to Bowral but this city of 12,000 feels a world away from Sydney. We trawl the main street - the delightfully named Bong Bong Street - before lunch, pottering around antique stores, the ubiquitous town lolly shop and sneaking in an award-winning Funky Vanilla Slice from Gumnut Patisserie. Their pies are particularly good too - the steak and kidney pie is my favourite.

The sense of a slower pace continues at Biota, a small standalone estate with its own circular car park and lofty hedge by the entrance. To the right are twelve accommodation rooms; to the left is the main dining room with a bar area that is taken up today by a wedding celebration.

There's a distinct Nordic touch to the furnishings here with its wide and low-set wooden chairs, bare branches and naked bulbs that look like they're hanging from the end of a vine. The dining room is only a third full today so the noise level is quiet. It's a mixed crowd - mostly couples and small groups of friends. The absence of music is said to be a deliberate touch, to allow diners to focus solely on their meal.

Biota Dining menu Bowral
Biota Dining menu

There are only two choices for lunch or dinner. The summer menu is available as either a nine-course or six-course affair. We're surprised there is no overlap between the two.

Summer menu
$165 for 9 courses
$255 with wine
$240 with juice

raw peas and fresh cheese
salted cucumber - oysters and beach plants
kangaroo - artichokes and garlic scapes
smoked hen - cream corn and sprouted grains
soft leeks - dark rye and animal glaze
hogget - dried lactose and fresh oats
honey - brioche - frozen milk and macadamias
blackberry jam and roadside apples
salted pine caramels

Summer menu
$105 for 6 courses
$167 with wine
$150 with juice
charcoal - clams - smoked roe and spent lettuce
hen yolk - toasted rye - cooked curds and chickpea
green almonds - purslane and fried fish throats
red fruits - beef cooked over coals and amaranth leaves
fig leaf and wild plants
'mum's roses'

Sage Southside cocktail with gin and cocoa leaf liquer at Biota Dining, Bowral
Sage Southside $17
Gin, cocoa leaf liquer and pineapple sage

After much discussion, we end up choosing the longer offering. The entire table must choose the same option.

Sweet potato snacks with oyster at Biota Dining, Bowral
Snacks: Sweet potato with oyster and rye bread

Complimentary snacks immediately set the tone of our meal. It's hard not to admire the dramatic entrance of the heavy stone plate set down at our table, alongside a kangaroo pouch of bread.

Sweet potato snacks with oyster at Biota Dining, Bowral
Sweet potato with oyster and caramelised cucumber relish

Sweet potato crisps are sandwiched with a creamed oyster filling, the sweet and delicate snap of the sweet potatoes contrasting with the salty tang of oyster.

Rye bread with yoghurt served in a kangaroo skin at Biota Dining, Bowral
Rye bread with yoghurt served in a kangaroo skin

The rye bread is still warm inside the kangaroo skin pouch, baked with smears of yoghurt on top and sprinkled generously with salt. There's a strange reconnection with food and where it comes from as we stroke the soft fur of the kangaroo. I'm not sure whether they deliver the poach to vegetarians, but as a carnivore, it's a reminder of the reality of the origin of our food.

Pouring oyster milk at Biota Dining, Bowral
Raw peas and fresh cheese with oyster milk poured at the table

Our first course, raw peas and fresh cheese, involves more tableside theatrics as a beaker of oyster milk is poured gently into each person's bowl.

Raw peas and fresh cheese with oyster milk at Biota Dining, Bowral
Raw peas and fresh cheese with oyster milk

Freshly podded peas are a whole different experience to the usual frozen variety. Eaten raw, they have a slightly starchier consistency, with less sweetness but more "pea" flavour. It's a light start to the meal, the fresh cheese adding a light creaminess. The oyster milk gives a briny sweetness.

Charred and caramelised grapefruit juice pairing at Biota Dining, Bowral
Juice matching for the raw peas: 
Charred and caramelised grapefruit with palm sugar

Pig Flyin' has gone for the juice matching but ends up sharing most of it with the rest of us anyway. We're all quite intrigued by what will be included with the juice matching after experiencing Mr and Mrs Pig Flyin's juice matching at our Stomachs Eleven Christmas dinner.

The charred and caramelised grapefruit juice has a marked intensity about it. We don't really get a sense of charred fruit, but the palm sugar balances out the bitterness nicely.

Salted cucumber and oysters at Biota Dining, Bowral
Salted cucumber, oysters and beach plants

Our second course of salted cucumber, oysters and beach plants involves more tableside attention as spoonfuls of oyster foam are gently placed on each pate.

South Coast oyster at Biota Dining, Bowral
South Coast oyster

Hidden behind the curtain of cucumber is a plump South Coast oyster. It's impressively fat and juicy, singing with fresh brine.

Cucumber with rose petals juice matching at Biota Dining, Bowral
Juice matching for the salted cucumber and oysters:
Cucumber with rose petals

The cucumber is mirrored in the matched juice, a bright green cucumber juice with tea and a faint infusion of rose petals.

Dining room at Biota Dining, Bowral

Kangaroo tartare at Biota Dining, Bowral
Kangaroo, artichokes and garlic scapes

We move onto a tartare of kangaroo. The hand chopped meat is firm and luscious, and not overly gamey in flavour. Buried in the middle is a huddle of what tastes like creme fraiche. The silky meat is accented by pops of deep fried buckwheat and micro herbs across the top.

Sundried red grape juice matching at Biota Dining, Bowral
Juice matching for the kangaroo:
Sundried red grape juice

Sundried red grape juice adds a bright acidity to this dish. We're told that bunches of red grapes are sundried, pressed whole and then the skins are added back into the juice for steeping.

Smoked hen and creamed corn at Biota Dining, Bowral
Smoked hen, creamed corn and sprouted grains

The standout dish of our meal belongs to the smoked hen, creamed corn and sprouted grains. There's an sharp intake of breath as we discover the first mouthful, the poultry so soft and succulent it almost defies belief. It's a beautifully composed dish of flavours and textures, the bed of creamed corn working so well with the chicken punctuated by the crunch of sprouted chickpeas and beans. The jus is remarkably flavoursome too.

Bruised pommes juice pairing at Biota Dining, Bowral
Juice matching for the smoked hen:
Bruised pommes

We laugh when our waiter describes the matching bruised pomme juice as "apples bashed with mallets". The juice sits for three days and is then lightly smoked. It's surprisingly complex, with a slight tingle from early fermentation.

Fermenting peaches at Biota Dining, Bowral
Fermented peaches in the bar next door

We admire an array of fermenting bottles in the bar next door, spying peaches, fennel flowers, elderflower and more.

Soft leeks with dark rye at Biota Dining, Bowral
Soft leeks, dark rye and animal glaze

There are a couple of gaps in the pacing of our dishes, a lapse we attribute to catering for the wedding party next door, but service resumes promptly with the latter half of our menu. The soft leeks, dark rye and animal glaze causes most of us to double-take at the mention of animal glaze. It's another confronting thought that we presume is deliberate, a jumble of bones making a intense stock that adds depth to the log of soft-cooked leek coated in dark rye crumbs.

Beetroot, grape and native pepper juice pairing at Biota Dining, Bowral
Juice matching for the soft leeks:
Beetroot, grape and native pepper juice

The matched juice of beetroot, grape and native pepper is my favourite one of the flight. There's no lingering earthiness of beetroot, pulled back by just enough grape juice to diffuse without overwhelming the beetroot flavour.

Hogget, dried lactose and fresh oats at Biota Dining, Bowral
Hogget, dried lactose and fresh oats

Our final savoury dish is the hogget, dried lactose and fresh oats. Hogget is a sheep between one and two years old, a brief stage between lamb and mutton. The narrow slab of hogget is tender with a thick layer of intense fat. It's a rich dish without any acidic relief. A bed of fresh oats has an elegant porridge-like consistency. The curls of dried lactose are made by lowering the heat lamps in the kitchen over trays of milk until dehydrated.

Plum skins, grapfruit and orange sustainability juice pairing at Biota Dining, Bowral
Juice matching for the hogget:
Sustainability - plum skins, grapefruit and orange

The matching juice is simply described as Sustainability, a catch-all of leftovers - plum skins, grapefruit and oranges are mentioned - that are combined in a well-balanced cocktail of fruits.

Honey, brioche and frozen milk at Biota Dining, Bowral
Honey, brioche, frozen milk and macadamia

Desserts are a three-stage affair. The honey, brioche, frozen milk and macadamia has an angelic beauty to it. There's a noticeable hit from the wild honey, tempered by shavings of frozen milk, wobbles of jelly and crunchy twigs of toasted brioche. It's a welcome palate cleanser.

Pressed apples with lavender juice pairing at Biota Dining, Bowral
Juice matching for the honey and brioche:
Pressed apples with lavender and agave

The pressed apple juice is a fine match for dessert, lifted with notes of lavender and balanced with agave for a gentle sweetness.

Blackberry jam and roadside apples at Biota Dining, Bowral
Blackberry jam and roadside apples

Blackberry jam and roadside apples evokes a romantic vision. Head chef James Viles
is a keen fan of foraging, incorporating apples grown by the road into a dish that features fresh blackberries and a dense blackberry jam that is almost chewy in consistency.

Pressed grapes with juniper berry and cinnamon juice matching at Biota Dining, Bowral
Juice matching for the blackberry jam:
Pressed grapes with juniper berry and cinnamon

We'd been impressed by the consideration and thought behind the juice pairings and the final offering is equally good. The pressed grapes with juniper berry and cinnamon is said to be Biota's take on a non-alcoholic vermouth. It's a complex flavour combination that sits well with the blackberry dessert.

Salted pine caramels petit fours at Biota Dining, Bowral
Petit fours of salted pine caramels

Little envelopes of petit fours salted pine caramels can be enjoyed on the spot with tea or coffee, or taken home as a gift.

Salted pine caramels petit fours at Biota Dining, Bowral
Salted pine caramels (two per person)

It's hard not to confuse the pine needle coating with grass clipping as you eat them, but the use of local flora is a commendable one. We don't get much of a sense of pine aroma or flavour but the caramel filling is thick and oozing.

Chefs on the pass at Biota Dining, Bowral

The open kitchen means there's a clear view of all the action on the pass too. There's a serene sense of focus as each dish is plated along the line. It's mesmerising to watch; an oasis of calm before we head back to the hustle bustle of the big smoke.

Chef on the pass at Biota Dining, Bowral

Chefs on the pass at Biota Dining, Bowral

Chefs on the pass at Biota Dining, Bowral

Biota Dining, Bowral

Biota Dining on Urbanspoon

Biota Dining
18 Kangaloon Road, Bowral
Tel: +61 (02) 4862 2005

Opening hours:
Lunch Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
Brunch Saturday and Sunday
Dinners 7 nights a week

Gumnut Patisserie
Shop 7, The Grand Arcade, Bong Bong Street, Bowl
Tel: +61 (02) 4862 2819
Open 7 days 7.30am-5pm
Gumnut Patisserie on Urbanspoon

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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/21/2015 01:06:00 am

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