Dining Experiences in the Southern Highlands – Eschalot, Bendooley Bar & Grill, Montfort’s Dining Room and Biota Dining12 October, 2014
We shared about our dining experience at Sydney’s restaurants e.g. CHISWICK, Sagra, Three Blue Ducks and raved about their fresh food produce and how some of these restaurants even have their own kitchen garden. In our quest to check out the best dining experiences available in Sydney and its surrounding areas, we took a 2 Day 1 Night trip out to the Southern Highlands. Many Australians drive to the Southern Highlands especially the two lovely townships – Bowral and Berrima, for the locally-grown and produced food, and vineyards, which thrive in this region’s exceptional cool climate. Here you can experience excellent Southern Highlands food that is really from farm to plate, and wine from vine to glass! If you are the live to eat kind of person and really appreciates good food, then you should check out the Southern Highlands as a day trip during your next holiday in Sydney (after all the Highlands is only a 90-minute drive away).
Eschalot Restaurant at Berrima, Southern Highlands
Our first stop is the quaint village of Berrima where we did some shopping for unique souvenirs and antiques at the village’s row of shops. At lunch, we crossed a street to the Eschalot restaurant – an award-winning restaurant with 8 Chef Hats and numerous industry awards since it was opened in 2003. Eschalot also has its own vegetable garden so you can literally have the herb or vegetable in your dish come from garden to your plate!
Eschalot’s dining rooms are housed in one of Berrima’s most beautiful heritage buildings (an old historic cottage) – the restaurant interior is just as classy and beautiful. The service was also excellent as the staff was attentive to our needs and made excellent recommendations on what to eat.
One thing I noticed at Eschalot is the exquisite plating of every dish (as seen in the picture below) – for entree, I recommend trying the foie gras, roast quail egg, radicchio & watercress dressing (AU$38). I loved my main dish – seared venison loin, venison pie, beetroot & chocolate (AU$40) which combined different textures (from the tender venison loin to the crispy crust of the venison pie) and tastes (savory venison loin and sweet chocolate). Another dish worth trying is the thirlmere duck – confit leg, sous vide breast, puy lentils, witlof & sorrel (AU$38).
24 Old Hume Hwy, Berrima NSW 2577, Australia
Bendooley Bar and Grill at Berrima, Southern Highlands
Just a short 5 minutes away from Eschalot restaurant lies the huge Bendooley estate where guests flock to for meals at the Bendooley Bar and Grill (also known as the Bendooley Book Barn). I really loved the ambiance of the Bendooley Bar & Grill – very cozy and casual and the shelves of books in the restaurant just makes the whole dining experience very unique. With its in-house Bendooley Estate winery, the meals prepared at Bendooley Bar and Grill e.g. gourmet pizza, seafood are designed to match the wines produced on the estate.
My personal favorite dish at Bendooley Bar & Grill is the confit of thirlmere duck maryland with lentil ragu, braised pork belly and vin santo prunes (AU$34) – i like the interesting pairing of duck meat with pork in this dish – crispiness of the pork belly skin with the tenderness of the duck confit.
We also tried the 450 grams cootamundra dry aged rib eye, on the bone with boulangerie potatoes, swiss brown mushrooms and herb pangritata (AU$42) – yes 450 grams! (but inclusive of the bone lah) – as you can see from the picture below – it is a huge serving and at just AU$42 – I think it is quite value for money. Just by looking at the picture, you can tell how juicy this piece of dry aged rib eye is and indeed it is very tender (prepared medium rare) and delicious – definitely one of the best beef dish we have tried on this trip!
This place is also called Bendooley Book Barn because of the restaurant’s in-house bookshop – there are lots of books of different genre for sale and some at huge discounts! The Bendooley Bar & Grill is often quite busy so food preparation will take some time – so take the time to browse the huge collection of books in the restaurant. Book-lovers won’t be disappointed with the huge collection of books on display here.
Bendooley Bar & Grill
3020 Old Hume Hwy, Berrima NSW 2577, Australia
Montfort’s Dining Room (in Peppers Craigieburn) at Bowral, Southern Highlands
After a long day at Berrima, we drove on to our hotel Peppers Craigieburn in Bowral. The Montfort’s Dining Room in Peppers Craigieburn is known for its excellent seasonal selection of dishes and contemporary dining experience. Chef Warrick Brook brings together his 20 years of experience in creating French, Italian and English dishes to create a fused menu of modern Australian creations.
The mains at Peppers Craigieburn Montfort’s Dining Room are beautifully plated – we tried the Crispy Skin Barramundi (served on a bed of quinoa, corn & asparagus salad with horse radish & gribiche sauce – AU$36), Wholegrain Mustard Encrusted Beef Fillet (served on a silver beet mash potato with roasted Brussels, spec & horseradish cream – AU$39) and Pan Roasted Lamb Rump (served with potatoe gratin, mint peas, buttered leeks, rosemary & maple syrup glaze – AU$39) – I enjoyed the lamb dish a lot due to its tenderness (prepared medium). The barramundi – as the dish’s name suggests – has very crispy skin and tender meat – worth trying too.
The desserts at Montfort’s Dining Room is quite a visual treat – my personal favorite is the Lemon Meringue Tarlet – a Craigieburn special with pistachio cream, strawberry and mint salad (AU$16.50). In terms of uniqueness in presentation, I have to give it to the dessert dish titled “Two Spheres” – there are actually 2 spheres – one raspberry mousse and one frangelico fig curd with a chocolate cherry crumb (AU$16.50) – crack the sphere’s thin sugar casing and you will reveal the good stuff within it!
Besides dining at Peppers Craigieburn’s Montfort’s Dining Room, we stayed at the Peppers Craigieburn hotel for the night during our trip out to the Southern Highlands. The stay at Peppers Craigieburn was ok although there was no Wi-Fi signal in our 3rd floor room. We had to use the Wi-Fi at the lobby. There is no lift in the hotel – the reception desk staff will help take your luggage up to your room. Check out this quick 15-second video introduction of our room at Peppers Craigieburn.
15 second introduction to Peppers Resort Craigieburn Bowaral room. #NewSouthWales #hotel @visitnsw
Peppers Craigieburn Montfort’s Dining Room
Centennial Rd, Bowral NSW 2576, Australia
Biota Dining at Bowral, Southern Highlands
The next morning, we visited Biota Dining. One thing that caught my attention with Biota Dining’s restaurant is its Scandinavian-inspired decor – quite minimalistic and spacious. On garden to plate freshness, you will find it here at Biota Dining too – many of the ingredients on Biota Dining’s menu are grown at the garden around the restaurant. Biota Dining is also an award winning restaurant (2 Chef Hats and Regional Restaurant of the Year 2014 Regional Wine List of the Year 2014 Sustainability Award 2013)!
We were here for breakfast – I liked what I ordered – the creamed hen eggs served with serrano ham and sourdough and wild fennel (AU$18). Other dishes worth trying – all AU$18 include the house smoked trout served with avocado, labneh and grilled sourdough and the soft maize served with provolone and forest mushrooms and poached egg.
18 Kangaloon Rd, Bowral NSW 2576, Australia