It’s a small town and, compared to our bustling boroughs, a sleepy one too. But the food, wine and general country feels on offer in Bowral makes the 90-minute trip from Sydney’s CBD an easy, not to mention charming, road trip. Here are some of the region’s highlights.
The Southern Highlands’ cool climate and rich soil has helped build the region’s reputation for yielding quality produce and none showcase it better than Bowral’s Biota Dining. Produce is sourced from within the restaurant’s stunning grounds so, of course, it’s seasonal, not to mention delicious. Well worthy of its two hats, Biota currently offers a five or seven-course option with dishes that will pique your curiosity as well as satisfy your palette.
Flour Water Salt
Carb lovers can get their fix at Flour Water Salt on Bong Bong Street, a bakery and deli that places an emphasis on simplicity. Sourdough is king here and FWS stays true to the recipe, using only certified organic flour, purified water and Australian sea salt (hence the name). Meanwhile, the deli fridge is drool-inducing and the cakes and pastries are worth ignoring New Year’s resolutions for.
Raw & Wild
Organic food market up the front, wholefood café out the back—it’s possible you’ll become a better person simply by stepping foot inside Raw & Wild Market & Café. As is fast becoming the norm on the café scene, their menu is ever-changing, but always features fresh, healthy options. Don’t worry, calories are available in bulk too by way of a well-stocked cake cabinet.
A 10-minute drive south of Bowral and you’re in Moss Vale where Bernie’s Diner is serving 1950s America on a plate. Burgers, hotdogs and Yank-ified sides dominate the menu at Bernie’s but what would an American diner be without pastrami on rye? At Bernie’s the pastrami is house made and beer smoked, and comes with slaw and a house made dill pickle. The checkerboard floor, red leather booths and spinning bar stools complete the theme.
Elegant and authentic, Onesta Cucina has been serving Italian home-style cuisine to satisfied Southern Highlanders for many years. The ever-changing menu is always full of Italian favourites—think gnocchi, think risotto, think beef cheeks, think lamb shoulder. Every dish is beautifully prepared… and quickly devoured. Onesta Cucina is Italian for “honest kitchen”, which sums up the experience nicely.
Burrawang Village Hotel
The Burrawang Village Hotel is a country pub. Yep, just your everyday, run-of-the-mill country pub. Until you step outside. With rolling green hills and picturesque gardens, the Burrawang Village Hotel’s beer garden is an absolute charmer. It’s about 20km southeast of Bowral but it’s a trip you’ll be glad you made. Did someone say Sunday session?
The Imperial Hotel
A quintessential country pub in the heart of Bowral, The Imperial Hotel is all things for all people. Well, most things for most people. I’m not sure you’ll find a rave here, for example, but if it’s a quiet catch-up, a long lunch, an arvo in front of the sports channels, or a night that stretches into the morning, you’ll find it at The Imperial Hotel on Bong Bong Street. PS. Good bistro too.
Dirty Jane’s Emporium And Antique Market
If vintage and antique wares are your thang then Dirty Jane’s is your place. The Emporium is Dirty Jane’s main showroom. Out the back, the Antique Market houses more than 70 storeholders covering art deco, retro, country style, industrial and then some. The marketplace is also home to the Vintage Tea Salon—nothing like a high tea after getting lost among the bric-a-brac.
Because, why not? As mentioned earlier, the Southern Highlands’ climate and soil make for fabulous winemaking conditions and a day spent traipsing through vineyards is a day well spent, I say. Take in the grandeur of Bendooley Estate, the boutique style of Mount Ashby Estate, the uniqueness of Tertini Wines or the history of Joadja, the region’s first vineyard. The list goes on…
Food and wine often steal the limelight when talk turns to the Southern Highlands but art lovers can get their fix in Bowral too. The Milk Factory Gallery on Station Street is a light, open space and home to original artworks, handmade jewellery, sculpture, glass, fine woodwork, ceramics and textiles. Ten minutes up the road in Mittagong, Sturt is dedicated to Australian craft and design with an impressive annual program of exhibitions as well as a permanent collection.
Peppers Craigieburn combines old-school elegance with contemporary décor to deliver a dreamy country escape. Hotel facilities include a private nine-hole golf course, which is most likely where my husband will be while I am horizontal at endota spa.
Biota’s 12 rooms are simple but beautiful, a perfect Scandinavian-inspired extension of the restaurant interior. Room-only rates are available on weekdays while on weekends you’ll have to grab a ‘dine and stay’ package. Might I mention, staying where you’re eating removes the need for a designated driver.
Milton Park Country House Hotel and Spa
Milton Park Country House is a mansion—a mansion with grounds spanning more than 300 hectares, no less. So, you know, no biggie. Designed by the English School of Landscape, the site’s gardens alone are a tourist attraction while the hotel feels like a stately home plucked from the Victorian era. Rooms are large with French provincial-style furnishings, the suites boast open fireplaces and spas and every room has a view. A stay at Milton Park Country House is definitely a treat… but you deserve it.
Image credit: Jason Lucas at Biota Dining