There’s something really great about hanging out with good friends. Catching up for a chat, a laugh and a meal is one of my favourite pastimes. When life is busy and you need to unwind, relaxing with your chums can be just the ticket to make you feel whole again.
Over the past few years, my gal pals and I have been taking time out to have winter getaways and we always have a ball. This year we took a train trip down to the Southern Highlands to spend a few days in beautiful, cold and windy Bowral, a short journey from the hustle and bustle of Sydney.
We stayed in a cute and cosy Airbnb cottage that was conveniently located just a few minutes walk from Bowral’s station and main street. Having travelled by train, this was a huge bonus and meant we could easily get around and pop up the road for snacks.
Our first stop was lunch at Dirty Jane’s teahouse for a huge bowl of tomato and roasted capsicum soup followed by the classic scones with lashings of raspberry jam and cream. I also recommend the rose scones with raspberry jam and rose cream which I had on my Kangaroo Valley road trip – they taste as good as they look.
Because we are such clever and organised ladies, we based our trip around bookings for the places we wanted to eat at. Our first dinner was at Onesta Cucina in the heart of Bowral.
We sipped on a lovely Colmar Estate Pinot Rosé and then I had the spaghetti with Mittagong tunnel mushrooms, garlic and parsley. It was a huge bowl and I had to stop myself from scoffing the whole lot.
Dessert was a huge hit – the sundae with housemade honeycomb, peanuts, fresh raspberries and chocolate sauce was great but the banoffee with vanilla cream was the star of the night.
Of course, a visit to Bowral wouldn’t be complete without a pastry from award-winning Gumnut Patisserie. This naughty Nutella and hazelnut scroll was my breakfast but hey, all bets are off when you’re on holidays, right?
For a long and lazy lunch we caught a taxi to Bendooley Estate, a beautiful vineyard, restaurant and book barn, just down the road in Berrima. It’s a popular venue for weddings and with all the natural wood in the restaurant, open fireplace, hanging flowers and rows of books, I really could imagine just how breathtaking these events must be.
On arrival we popped into the bar for a little wine tasting by the fire and as I’m more into whites these days, I really liked the 2014 Riesling and the Pinot Gris and happily bought a few bottles to take home.
For lunch I enjoyed the lovely handmade gnocchi with pumpkin and the girls shared a margherita pizza and a pumpkin, apple and goats cheese pizza. I’m glad we went for lunch – I think it would have been a tad frosty at night had we gone for dinner.
Our last booking – the one that we were most excited about – was Sunday lunch at Biota Dining. The girls were booked in for the Sunday winter roast and I was to select veg dishes off the menu. I’m a little sad to say that our trip ended on a low note.
Everything went smoothly when we arrived and we were shown to a table in the bar area near the fire. We ordered drinks – I had a lovely bloody rosella cocktail – and for me the waiter suggested the mushroom pasta. The food came out quickly and I also got to try the sides that came with the roast – maize with hazelnuts, creamy celeriac and roasted artichoke – these were great but sadly we didn’t have enough.
After ordering it seemed as if we were forgotten about. Our empty cocktail glasses and plates weren’t removed, we weren’t offered to order more sides or dessert and we didn’t get a water refill. After a while we asked for the bill and left, well short of the experience we had expected and hoped for.
The restaurant has a really good reputation and the food we had was good so perhaps there just weren’t enough wait staff on to pay attention to our needs. It’s unfortunate to walk away from a place that you were expecting to spend more time and money at.
I do hope that this was just a one-off and that any other diners have a much better experience.
Have you been to the Southern Highlands? What places do you recommend in the area?
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