Biota and Eshalot awarded hats in the 2013 Good Good Guide

05/09/2012

My taste buds always get excited when The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide comes out. The 2013 list has just been released this week with Biota Dining (Bowral) receiving two hats and Eschalot (Berrima) receiving one hat. Biota also received an award for sustainability.

The Good Food Guide reviewers also dished on their favourite finds, with two mentions for the Southern Highlands.

Longest drive for great French food

To Berrima for Eschalot’s parisienne gnocchi made on choux pastry dough sauced with beurre noisette.

Most surprising (and best regional, for me)

”Lon” John Dory and steamed pandanus leaf with lime-flavoured tapioca jelly at Classical Thai Cravings, Mittagong.

Sadly, Classical Thai Cravings closed its doors suddenly a few months ago, with the owners returning to Thailand for family reasons. It was a regular favourite of mine.

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Prince Albert Inn – a pleasant evening out in Braemar

29/08/2011

A gorgeous old sandstone building and friendly staff made for a pleasant trip to the Prince Albert Inn in Braemar on Saturday night.

Built during the early Victorian period, its architecture is an excellent example of a highly intact two storey early Colonial Georgian Inn. You can’t miss it as you exit the freeway into the Southern Highlands.

After a major restoration, it recently opened back up with a restaurant and accommodation. We have been wanting to eat there since …… and now we have!

I started with the vodka and lime cured salmon with enoki mushrooms, blue swimmer crab and cucumber – a really fresh entree with lots of yummy flavours. I didn’t really notice the flavour of the crab, but it didn’t matter as it was a great way to start a meal.

My husband tried the twice baked goat cheese soufflé with fennel and hazelnut, which had lots of nice flavours too.

For my main meal, I was tempted by the Mittagong tunnel mushroom risotto with truffle oil. It was a simple, but hearty dish to fill me up for a winter’s evening. My husband chose the 12 hour braised shoulder of lamb with creamed celeriac and mustard fruits. The meat was cooked to perfection, but the dish itself was lacking a few flavours.

While I wouldn’t put the food into the outstanding category, it was certainly lovely and we enjoyed all of our dishes. It is fully licensed so no BYO, but the wine list seems reasonable and a good selection.

It is also opened for breakfast and lunch as well, so check out the website for further details.

You can even pop in for a drink on the balcony without dining as well, so plenty of options available.


Biota Dining in Bowral – I’ll be visiting you very soon

11/05/2011

I am dying to try Biota Dining in Bowral ……… there I said it!

I read the menu yesterday and have been hungry ever since. My parents tried it a week ago and loved it – and now I am deeply jealous.

Biota Dining is the creation of well respected restaurateur from Sydney, James Viles. Recently opened in Bowral next to the Manning Hotel, Biota Dining offers two dining options – tapas in a lounge environment or a gastronomy menu in the dining area. Both I am sure are amazing!

What impresses me is that Biota Dining uses mainly local produce, as well as growing their own fresh produce in an onsite glasshouse.

Biota Dining is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner most days and is closed on Tuesdays. Check the website for trading hours on each day as it does vary.

Can’t wait to try it! Will let you know when I eventually get there.


Berrima’s Eschalot – sadly didn’t live up to high expectations

12/04/2011

After hearing so many wonderful things about Eschalot in Berrima and waiting over two years to eat there, my husband and I finally dined there last Friday night for our 6th wedding anniversary.

Sadly though we were rather disappointed, as we had such high expectations. The food was “nice” but not “wow”. With the built up expectation and the price tag, we were expecting “wow”.

Perhaps it was an off night or the head chef not there, who knows? My parents eat there often and were also disappointed that our experience hadn’t matched theirs as they love it there.

On paper the food lived up to expectations, with lobster, seared scollops, foie gras and the like on the menu to tempt the taste buds. Presentation wise the food looked amazing, but each dish lacked flavour and punch. As I said, it was nice but nothing special. We have eaten at many fine dining restaurants in Sydney and were expecting a similar quality.

The creme brulee was amazing though – yummo! It was certainly the highlight for me and won my heart.

The waiters were lovely and very attentive. Of course you can’t beat the venue in an old sandstone cottage in the heart of historic Berrima.

It is also BYO Wednesday-Friday – always a plus for the cost conscious!

I am glad I can now tick it off my dining list, but unfortunately it won’t be one restaurant we will be rushing back to. Please don’t let it deter you though as it may have just been an off night. It does have all the makings to be a top restaurant, just not the night we visited.


Considering a move from Sydney to the Southern Highlands?

30/11/2010

Well you are not alone – there seems to be no shortage of people wanting to make the tree change due to the high cost of housing in Sydney and many people not wanting to move away from the city to the burbs. I can certainly relate to that!

I am often asked about what it is like to live here after moving from Sydney almost two years ago now – what the pros and cons are. So I thought it was time I wrote a post to help people out.

Please keep in mind this is simply my experience and opinion and everyone is different, but this advice might just help you make a clearer decision.

Fabulous lifestyle
It is such a great lifestyle down here – fabulous restaurants and cafes, lots of space and fresh air, lots to do and explore, plenty of golf courses, gorgeous drives, lots of vineyards, not to mention a great place to raise children. Generally speaking it is much more affordable to live (but don’t be fooled, there are also very expensive areas too) and it is still so close to Sydney – only an hour from the airport (in non-peak times).

Commuting
So straight to business ………. if you are planning on commuting every day like my husband does, I won’t lie to you it is tough. That is the only downside about living down here.

Catching the train from here takes two and a half hours and the trains only come once an hour, so if you miss a train you have to wait a long time for the next – this is definitely the worst option. Most people either drive into the city or drive to Campbelltown and catch the train from there – trains run every 10-15 minutes and it only takes my husband two hours door to door each way. If he drives, he leaves round 5.30am and leaves work at 7pm to beat the traffic. If you travel in the main peak times, it will make a 1.25 hour journey take 2.5 hours!

Other options are to stay in Sydney one or two nights or if your company allows, work remotely!

Everybody is different and has different circumstances, but I wanted to throw the options out there.

City to country living
Other than that we love it completely and can’t see ourselves moving back anytime soon. From been such a city gal, I haven’t missed it at all. But I think the main factors contributing to the easy transition is that I met a lot of good friends down here early on, everywhere does good coffee and we have brilliant cafes and restaurants down here (some restaurants have SMH Good Food hats and would give Sydney fine dining a run for its money) – so I don’t feel I am missing out at all. Coffee/restaurant culture is important to me!

Say no the burbs!
I didn’t want to do the burbs thing in Sydney! We have 1,500 square metres, lots of trees, a four bedroom house that is completely renovated – all for the price of a 1 bedroom shoebox flat in Neutral Bay – not to mention a great, less stressful lifestyle! Of course – there are some hideously expensive parts to the Southern Highlands as well – an area not far from us ranges $4-8 million for a house – they also get 100 acres with it though!

All my friends in the Highlands have moved down from Sydney too – mainly northern beaches, lower north shore and eastern suburbs, who all moved for the same reason. We can’t afford to buy where we want to live and don’t want to move to where we can afford for the sake of having a house. So there are a lot of like minded people down here.

I met most of my friends through the kids – at the park, joined a few mothers groups, etc. I made good friends within a week of moving here and are still good friends almost two years on. It makes settling in so much easier – get involved! Everyone is so friendly.

Great place for kids
It’s a fab place for kids – great schools (private and public), an indoor soft play centre, lots of parks including the lovely Lake Alexandra, kid friendly country pubs, all the usual Kindermusik, Kindergym, etc. There are lots of kids clothes and shoe shops – ranging from the expensive Seed down to Target/Big W.

Shopping
There are lots and lots of gorgeous boutique stores in the Southern Highlands catering to most people. If you do want big shopping malls and department stores though, the closest is 30-40 mins away at Campbelltown at Macarthur Square. Not the nicest place in the world, but good for a big shop. But apart from that we have everything here. I also have started buying heaps online.

Childcare
Daycare is much cheaper as well! In Sydney we were paying $80-90 a day, whereas down here you will pay around $60 a day! Pre-school is about $34 a day. There are a lot of centres in the area, but they do vary considerably in quality. So the best thing to do is check a few of the centres out and make sure the one you choose suits your needs.

Surviving the winters
I was worried about the winters and how I would survive as I am a summer girl. But it hasn’t been bad at all – I actually found living in Sydney much colder as no where is centrally heated. Our place in Sydney was freezing! So I think having central heating has made a huge difference.

It is also about layering – get yourself a warm coat and you will be fine.

Business without borders
Living here has also made me realise how easy it is to run a business from home and not be based in Sydney. I run my own marketing communications business from home with six global clients (based in Sydney, Singapore or Melbourne) and it is great to know that life does revolve outside of Sydney!

All services (phone, internet, etc) are fine here – not as much choice, but the usual suspects are here Optus, Telstra, TPG, etc. I haven’t noticed a difference in quality with speed and connections.

Just do it!
We had tossed around the idea for a long time and eventually we just said let’s do it! We didn’t want live life always wanting to do something and then spend all the time talking about and never doing anything about it. Eventually we just said let’s try it. We are not making a huge investment in our house so if we decided we didn’t like living here then we can just sell up and move back. We now can’t see ourselves moving back to Sydney!


Yummy fresh food at Three Creeks in Robertson

29/11/2010

After a number of visits to Robertson in recent weeks, I am finally starting to become familiar with some of the cafes and galleries in town.

If I was after a bite to eat I use to head to cafe in the same complex at the Cheese Factory, but the food is unimpressive and I never find the staff particularly friendly or helpful.

But thankfully I have been introduced to a fab little cafe further down the road called Three Creeks. It is tucked in a corner of a complex, so it was easy to miss it, but they now have new signage making it more obvious.

The staff are just lovely and the atmosphere is very cosy, with a fireplace to warm the senses on a cool day. It also has a car park – not that parking in Robertson is particularly hard, but it is always nice to park outside a place in case of rain or freezing weather!

The food is very fresh and tasty, with the lunch menu ranging from soups to fritattas to ploughmans plates to risottos and more. The menu is limited, but all very tasty. We have only been there for lunch, but it is open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights: read some reviews on the dinner service: http://www.eatability.com.au/au/sydney/three-creeks-cafe/.

The coffee is great – the all important factor of a good cafe!

The are also very accommodating of kids, providing books to keep the kids entertained.

The owners launched a tapas bar next door about mid-November and I do believe the cafe will be closing for dinner service to enable the tapas bar to take over. My parents went to the launch and said the tapas was fantastic. The wine menu includes all local wines – great to see places supporting the local wine region.


Journeyman is no more ……..

12/10/2010

Sadly, it appears the Journeyman restaurant didn’t survive the move from Berrima to Bowral. After a year and a half in Bowral, the doors have now shut, never to be opened again.

I do feel lucky that I did have the opportunity to dine there while it was open and experience the culinary delights it offered.

Such a shame – a loss of a truly fantastic restaurant!