The girls and I went down to Bowral the weekend of my birthday. Biota was the pivotal element of the trip.
The package we booked was $285pp for a six-course dinner, an overnight weekend stay and brunch the next morning all at the one location. It can sometimes be hit and miss with degustations, even if you’ve heard many good things about a particular place, just because the menus tend to change often. Nevertheless I was excited, it being my first regional (two) hatted restaurant experience.
Our dress code for dinner is ‘noir’, a stab at our Diner en Blanc experience which was lovely but not without the copious amount of time and effort put into the preparations.
We have drinks at the bar to start with and I opted for a non-alcoholic version of Elaine’s Elderflower Sour. I didn’t catch the part that it was sour and perhaps would have ordered otherwise as egg white floating without the alcohol was a little bit odd. They take us through to our table which is a lot more intimate, not that I didn’t like the wide open space earlier.
Pear – Wattle and Sheeps Milk Blue
Dinner kicks off with a selection of snacks with these cigars being the first. I expected them to be crunchy, they actually remind me the most of love letters, a type of Malaysian Chinese New Year biscuit. But upon biting into them, they turned out to be little soft, presumably from encasing the cheese and also because I think it’s actually made from pear? I think it would have been nicer if it was crispy from a texture perspective but I enjoyed the flavours of this all the same.
Whipped roe profiterole
Anything with the briny taste of roe is a tick in my books. I liked the savoury interpretation of this profiterole right down to the really light choux pastry.
Rye and mollases bread with house smoked butter
Whipped butter needs to be sold in jars the way they used to sell whipped peanut butter. But it was the bread that made all the difference. Rye bread done well is my favourite type of bread. Biota’s dark rye was such a heavy bread that it provided just the right juxtaposition and was almost able to anchor the butter which was a whole lot of lightness.
A selection of fermented ingredients on toast
This is one of those d’oh moments as a food blogger because you grow complacent (or you just want to enjoy your meal and the company) so you don’t take notes, hoping to rely on taste memory and a copy of the menu. Only for the menu to list one of courses as ‘a bunch of things’. I don’t remember what was in this aside from the obvious bean sprouts and edamame (I think). But it was good! Moving on.
Chilled watermelon – tomato & scarlett grove olive oil
This was a light little palate cleanser before the heavier dishes came through. I liked it a lot as it was super refreshing with the olive oil serving as very delicate seasoning. I could see this being a huge hit back in Sydney if it was substantiated and turned into a brunch salad offering at a cafe in Surry Hills. I can’t even remember what my life was like back when I used to dislike tomatoes.
Southern calamari with an egg from our girls
I’m a big fan of any seafood really but calamari in particular has a pretty special place in my heart. I love it lightly poached, raw (like squid) or battered and deep fried with copious amounts of salt and pepper. Cooking it as it is, is always a challenge because it goes from plump to rubbery it seconds. It is by no exaggeration that I say this dish at Biota is probably the best calamari I have ever had, for as far back as my memory stretches. It was incredibly soft, almost as soft as flower petals which is what it kind of resembles. The egg beneath it served as a rich sauce that once again balances out a dish from becoming too airy. I wish we had a giant share plate of this ala the way food is served at a Chinese restaurant because that was actually the kind of vibe I was getting, a modern interpretation of an Asian dish.
Aged flathead cooked over coals – witlof and yeast butter
This was the standout dish of the night and won the popular vote with everyone. Who knew you could even eat fish scales? That is exactly what sits on top, covering this dish. They were so crunchy and moreish, like the best TV snack you wish you could buy by the back. Underneath it was a perfectly cooked fish, it really does seem like seafood is Biota’s forte.
This week’s cut of dairy veal from parkes & vegetables cooked in clay last week
Immediately following the best dish of the night was what I would call the worst dish of the night too. It is by no stretch of the imagination “bad”, but considering how Biota was hitting all the right spots, this felt like a slight miss. The beef wasn’t particularly marbled which meant there was a tad more of a bite to it, not thoroughly unpleasant but lacked the melt-in-your-mouth feels. The cabbage and enoki mushrooms were nice enough and it was this component of the dish that I demolished, leaving behind the actual meat main.
Onion was the vegetable that was cooked in clay. One of the chefs came to our table with it still encased and proceeded to break it apart in front of us. I thought the onion was interesting and had a really sweet flavour profile.
Yogurt and cherry jam whip
Cherries and cream came in a close second as a favourite dish. We have some very diverse desserts palates at the table with some lingering more in the heavy sweetness zones while others prefer a lighter and tangier affair. This dessert seemed to hit the sweet (haha) spot for us all as it had us licking our bowls clean.
A dessert of sweetened pumpkin – bayleaf and cocoa
Apparently I forgot to take a photo of the final dessert because have a candle in it completely disoriented me. Pumpkin as a dessert continues to weird me out. I wish it wasn’t the case but that is probably the main reason why the berry dessert won out by a mile for me against this one. Nevertheless it was very interesting and certainly not something you would get everyday back in Sydney.
Native rose melting moments
The melting moments to ruin all melting moments. These petit fours probably ties a 2nd with the berries and cream. It was so decadent and pretty much the perfect size for how rich it was, yet still left you wanting more. Think of the richest dark chocolate you’ve ever had with just a tinge of salt, coupled with a melt-in-your-mouth butter cookie.
The tasting menu alone will set you back $155. Considering the dollars you’d have to spend at most Sydney degustations nowadays, I do think this is quite a good price and definitely well worth the experience. From my time dining in the Hunter Valley and now in Bowral, I am ever more convinced that regional dining is completely unique to the food you would get in Sydney. January 2017, you were really quite alright.