A friend’s wedding was held near Bowral NSW which provided an opportunity to check out Biota Dining. Some friends and I went there for lunch. Biota offers either a 5 course ($125) or 8 course ($175) tasting menu which is changed seasonally. We decided it was perfectly reasonable to indulge and chose the 8 course menu. It was a gorgeous day so we were seated outside on the deck overlooking Biota’s small pond and garden.
Matching wines and matching juice options are available for an additional cost. The matching juices were an extra $75 on top of the food which I skipped as it was just too pricey for juice. Instead, I asked for a single fruity mocktail and received an apple, fermented peach and lavender juice ($9).
An amuse bouche of roe and spring flowers came out first served in what my friend said looked like a mushroom cup. The roe was in the form of a very light cream. It was full of delicious flavour – great for those that like seafood and fish. However, a dining companion that doesn’t like fish didn’t appreciate it as much. This readied my tastebuds and left me wondering what the next courses would be like. We didn’t receive a copy of the menu (until the very end) so we had no idea what was coming.
Another starter snack to come out was blue cheese wrapped in dried pear with goose ham prosciutto on the side. The blue cheese ‘cigar’ was complemented well by the pear which almost tasted like a fruit roll-up. The goose ham was similar to bacon – salty and quite oily from the fat. I would not have guessed that it was goose ham! In fact, I think that was the first time I’d ever had goose.
Another snack that was provided was the Acacia seed eclair and warm confit hen yolk. The eclair was light as a feather. This was similar to breakfast soldiers where you dip pieces of toast into runny egg. I didn’t particularly like this snack as the yolk was too raw for me and left most of the yolk alone.
Course 1 – celery with soured creme from local milks and the freshest green peas. ‘The freshest’ was mentioned by our waitress and it was seconded by all at the table. The peas were round, green and crunchy – significantly fresher than what you can get at the shops. The soured creme sat hidden underneath. The cold broth was also sour but it seemed to only highlight the freshness of the greens.
Course 2 – single origin wheat milled in the Biota kitchen with rooster stock. This consisted of wheat noodles with a thin gelatinous layer made of egg yolk topped with popcorn. The rooster stock came out separately and was poured over the noodles.
The stock tasted bland on its own while the egg yolk layer had lots of flavour and an appropriate amount of saltiness. Together the two worked well to provide a light chicken noodle soup. The noodles were a little rubbery and had a squeaky feel. This was a nice light dish before introducing the meatier dishes.
Course 3 – brined pork loin with endive cooked in elder vinegar. Though the pork was tender, I found that it was also quite fatty. The skin was hard to cut through (or the knives weren’t sharp enough) and very chewy. I did love the combination of pork and vinegar which was pleasant on the palate and helped cut through the fattiness.
Course 4 – aged beetroots bloomed in their own juices. I liked that the naturally sweet beetroots had stained the layers of onion pink to add to the aesthetic look of the dish. On the bottom, were what resembled tiny balls of sago soaking up the beetroot juices. This was a light earthy dish and very easy to get through. Even my dining companions who don’t particularly like beetroot, appreciated the beauty and taste of this dish.
Course 5 – beef cooked over coals with aged cows milk cheddar and mushrooms. On the first bite, I knew that this was my favourite dish of the day. The finely sliced beef served warm, was magnificently soft and of great quality. It had been marinated in some soy sauce-like mix to provide a slightly salty taste and it was bursting with flavour. The creamy cows milk helped balance out the saltiness of the beef while the mix of herbs added another layer of flavour and helped solidify the entire dish as one. I’d happily have more of this!
Course 6 – dessert of set milks, strawberry juices and eucalyptus. This was described as being a half savoury half sweet dessert consisting of one ball of cheese sitting in a sea of strawberry juices. The cheese was soft but firm with a gooey centre. I wasn’t sure if this would work at first, but when I took my first bite of the cheese, I realised it was a very neutral and lightly flavoured cheese which was accompanied amazingly well by the dominant sweet strawberry juices. I wanted to grab the bowl in my hands and drink all the strawberry juices. It tasted just like regular strawberry juice only better and fresher, but I restrained myself. A great start to the rest of the desserts to come…
Course 8 – ‘Mum’s roses’ was served in a covered grey stone bowl so we had no idea what was inside. As the lid was lifted, wisps of liquid nitrogen smoke came swirling out to reveal a gorgeous looking dessert.
The dessert consisted of peach sorbet, dehydrated rose petals, cheese, cream, slices of stewed peaches, and a sweet peach marmalade. At least that’s all I identified at the time as there was no mention of the different elements on the menu. This was simply stunning in both aesthetics and taste. The textures of food would transform after being picked up from the bowl to when it reached your mouth, where the liquid nitrogen melted to reveal a completely different texture and taste. There was just enough creaminess, just enough fruitiness and just enough sweetness when every element in the bowl was combined. 110% perfection! It was a beautifully weighted dish and a great way to finish off the degustation as the dessert wasn’t heavy either.
After 8 courses, we were surprisingly not sickly full and ordered some coffees (around the $4 mark) to finish with. We were a bit surprised and disappointed to receive Nespresso coffees. Considering everything else is grown onsite or uses very fresh local produce, it was strange to see that local coffee beans weren’t being used especially with Sydney so close by.
I didn’t realise this until I got there, but Biota also has guest rooms that people can stay in. The restaurant is set in serene garden settings and we were very lucky to dine there on such a sunny day. Unfortunately, there is no a la carte menu, so you must choose between the 5 course or 8 course tasting menus. Service is professional and friendly with our wait staff clearly explaining each dish, and each person’s dish coming out at the same time (no waiting). Questions were answered well and it seemed that the staff knew the menu thoroughly. Presentation was beautiful. The food itself was obviously fresh and balanced well. But besides the last dessert of ‘Mum’s Roses’ there was no real wow factor that most of us were expecting from this two hatted restaurant.
Biota Dining is located in Bowral, NSW.
Value for money 6/10
FPJ score 21/30
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