February 09, 2023
12 mins Read
Bowral is best known for three things: its antiques; its proximity to Sydney; and for being home to the Bradman Museum and International Cricket Hall of Fame. And, these days, the little village in the Highlands is also earning a reputation for its incredible cuisine – thanks in large part to an influx of sophisticated food-focused visitors, and those well-heeled tree changers who came here for a winter escape and stayed.
In fact, Bowral restaurants have become a beacon in the Southern Highlands for everyone from couples looking for a romantic escape to families celebrating special occasions.
The best way to experience the brilliance of a weekend dining out in Bowral is to plan multiple weekends away so you can spread the love and bounce back and forth to Bowral to try all of its best cafes, pubs and restaurants and extend your reach to a few of the ones dotted around its immediate surrounds.
We’d also advise visiting some of the local producers where you can pick up provisions and a bottle of vino before retreating to your accommodation. There’s something so lovely about looking out over the very landscape where your food and wine have been sourced that makes a weekend away here truly memorable.
BEST FOR: Date night
Your first stop in Bowral, considered the heart of the Highlands, must be Onesta Cucina, where you will find this family-owned and operated restaurant with a focus on exceptional food. Like other areas just outside of Sydney, Bowral has been bookmarked as a destination rather than a place to pass through. Onesta Cucina is another reason to linger in this Highlands hamlet.
Check the restaurant’s Instagram ahead of your booking to see what takes your fancy: will it be Italian meatballs with potato puree? Or potato gnocchi with lamb, red wine and rosemary ragu? The wagyu bresaola with a 63-degree egg and truffled potato puree is also one to enjoy all to yourself, if you’d prefer. And we can’t say we’d blame you.
WHAT TO ORDER: Depending on what time of year you visit, we’d recommend you start with the imported buffalo mozzarella with pickled beetroot insalata followed by the egg tagliatelle with white reef fish, prawns, squid and scallops flecked with herbs.
Address: 5 Boolwey St, Bowral.
BEST FOR: Sophisticated city slickers
Harry’s is named in honour of the renowned British horticulturalist and founder of the famed Chelsea Flower Show Sir Harry Vietch, who dispatched nurserymen to foreign lands to find exotic treasures for his well-to-do London clientele. Like Sir Harry’s plants, the restaurant has grown quite organically and, in doing so, has won the hearts of Bowral locals.
Regarded as one of the best restaurants in Bowral, Harry’s is just the place for a weekend in the country. It’s a hub for green thumbs as well as a space for lovers of provincial cuisine. First-time visitors to the restaurant will be struck by the book-lined walls, the dramatic high ceilings, and cane lampshades as well as the large vintage photographs of the botanists charged with collecting seeds from some of the world’s prettiest plants.
It’s like Raffles has come to the Southern Highlands and gone rogue. This is not a criticism. It’s fantastic. Visit during one of the two lunch sittings (noon or 2pm, seven days a week) or for dinner Friday and Saturday nights to enjoy a simple menu of dishes such as duck terrine, or the signature roast chicken drizzled in lemon myrtle oil delivered with poise by the stylish staff. Don’t forget to peruse the nursery next door and Plantation Café.
WHAT TO ORDER: All of the above, as well as the ever-popular crab linguine. Hands down.
Address: 15-17 Banyette St, Bowral
BEST FOR: French fine dining
You will get a big bonjour et bienvenue at French restaurant The Bowral Brasserie, which is best known in Bowral for its patisserie and Bowral café, Les Gourmandises and casual café Le Bistro Gourmand. Located at the aptly named ‘Paris end’ of Bowral, The Bowral Brasserie has both indoor and outdoor dining
Check the specials blackboard for oh-so-French dishes such as smoked trout pate, pork veal terrine, and deboned quail stuffed with duck and mushroom and served with mash potatoes and caramelised orange. Owners and managers husband-and-wife team Gerald and Mia Meliers hail from France and they have the chops when it comes to curating a menu of classic French cuisine.
WHAT TO ORDER: Start with carpaccio de boeuf followed by a principal plat of Carre d’Agneau, the signature dish of a rack of lamb with mash potato, caramelised pears and rosemary jus. Follow with Le Trolley of desserts hand-selected from Les Gourmandises.
Address: 1 Wingecarribee St, Bowral
BEST FOR: Lovers of Southeast Asian cuisine
It’s eight minutes as the crow flies from Bowral to Mittagong where you’ll find Michelin-starred chefs Bongkoch ‘Bee’ Satongun and husband Jason Bailey offering an array of inviting dishes that deliver a series of roundhouse Muay Thai kicks of flavour to the chops. The pair met in Thailand, where their first restaurant in Bangkok earned a coveted Michelin star, and their sister restaurant in Bowral recently earned one hat in the Good Food Guide 2023.
You’d be missing out if you didn’t book a table at Paste Australia where you’ll find Bee, dubbed the Queen Bee of Thai cuisine and Asia’s best female chef by the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, mixing and grinding spices that enhance the subtle fragrances and flavours of the dishes.
The décor in the vaguely modernist space is pared-back, allowing the focus to be placed firmly on the food, which is a mix of dishes that are Bee’s contemporary take on traditional Thai. As soon as you enter this unassuming space, you’ll find the aromas from the kitchen filling the air as if the flavours of Bangkok street stalls have been taken inside.
Eating here is an invigorating experience. Try the tapioca dumplings, little plump pillows filled with Snowy River trout and topped with coriander and crushed peanuts and the comforting roast duck curry.
WHAT TO ORDER: Save your money on a trip to Thailand; the slow-cooked braised beef cheeks make a stop at this Mittagong restaurant a must.
Address: 105 Main St, Mittagong NSW 2575
BEST FOR: Romantics looking to impress a first date
What more do you need when on holiday in the Highlands than a cheese plate and a glass of wine? Ideally located for those whose country boltholes are just minutes away, Cheese Etc is the brainchild of cheesemonger Hugh Nicholas, who started with a pop-up shop in North Sydney before relocating to the Southern Highlands and, more recently, the main drag of Bowral.
This is one of the most sophisticated places to eat and drink in Bowral. The cheese and wine are sourced from all around the world – some direct from farmers, some from major importers – and so you will be spoilt for choice when you prop yourself up at the bar here where it’s easy to get ‘whey’-laid (pardon the cheesy pun) enjoying artisan cheeses ranging from brie to blue-vein.
Settle in at the fully licensed space to enjoy local cheeses sourced from Pecora Dairy in Robertson or The Pines in Kiama, book in for a wine and cheese tasting, a private workshop or the perfect platter for a picnic.
WHAT TO ORDER: The popular signature three-cheese toastie with a Highlander Pale Ale brewed in nearby Robertson.
Address: Shop 4, High Street, Bowral
BEST FOR: Families and group gathos
Google ‘Lebanese restaurant Bowral’ and Leila’s at the Grand will pop up at the top of the page. The Lebanese restaurant has found a niche in the Southern Highlands where the smell of fresh flatbread and slow-cooked meats, and spiced garlicky kofta is stopping locals in their tracks.
The restaurant, is run by Michael and Raye Abouchabake, who moved to the Southern Highlands nearly three decades ago to open Cafe Rocco, considered one of the best cafes in Bowral. Leila’s at the Grand pays homage to Michael’s mum, Leila, who did all the cooking at the sister café, located three doors down in Bong Bong Street, Bowral, before she sadly passed away.
Everything on the menu at Leila’s would make Michael’s mum proud. The restaurant is housed in a section of the old Grand Hotel, which was gutted during the 80s and developed into an arcade. Make your way through the menu of traditional Lebanese mezze starting with lubbye (a green bean stew) and shawarma with hummus.
WHAT TO ORDER: Trust us: order the mixed grill platter, which reads like a list of Leila’s greatest hits including grilled lamb and kofta, tabouli, hummus, baba ghanoush, mixed pickles and garlic bread.
Address: The Grand Arcade, 295-297 Bong Bong St, Bowral
BEST FOR: Special occasions
It’s 10 minutes to bounce between Bowral and Moss Vale and it’s totally worth it to pick up some Birch merch from the Birch Store, an offshoot of the Birch restaurant in the bucolic surrounds of nearby Moss Vale. The store is popular with those who have booked accommodation in Bowral as you can pick up ready-to-cook bags of food that you simply have to reheat.
Head chef Bam Bamford changes the menu according to the seasons and it’s worth gunning it up the highway from Sydney for his daily-baked charcoal bread with butter, black Angus beef with black sesame crust and warm pea salad on the side.
If you want to earn Birch bragging rights, know that you can request chef Bam to be your private chef for a night, or request an at-home dinner party feast, both of which are bound to earn brownie points with your posh Bowral mates. Wham, Bam, thank-you Bam.
WHAT TO ORDER: The lavosh-fried duck rillette with blue cheese mousse, poached pear, caramelised balsamic candied walnuts with pear gel.
Address: 249 Argyle St, Moss Vale
BEST FOR: Bookish types and road-trippers
It was likely Bendooley Estate that helped herald a new chapter for the Highlands, with its atmospheric cafe and restaurant giving road-trippers from Sydney and Canberra a reason to pull off the highway for the past four decades.
While it’s best known for its collection of second-hand, rare and antiquarian books, the book barn in Berrima also has a fabulous restaurant and bar housed within the grand Georgian homestead, which was built on a tract of land granted to Governor Lachlan Macquarie more than two centuries ago.
Start with a glass of wine and charcuterie plate in the cellar door then bunker down in the cosy book barn for Tuscan panzanella, or margherita pizza with a mixed leaf salad on the side.
WHAT TO ORDER: The house-made Wagyu beef burger with Bendooley Estate onion marmalade, maple bacon, thick-cut chips and truffled aioli.
Address: 3020 Old Hume Highway, Berrima
BEST FOR: Social gatherings or a romantic evening
Looking for a French restaurant in Bowral? Well, prend cette voie (walk this way). Bistro Sociale is a classic French diner that feels more Boulogne-sur-Mer than Bowral. Housed in the Berida Hotel, it is the perfect expression of French provincial charm, with rustic décor, flower-filled vases and assured bistro cooking.
It’s such a pleasure to sit with a glass of wine and people-watch here and hard not to envy those who made a timely tree change. Head chef Kain Hiley and his team have the chops to make the most of locally sourced fresh produce with an on-message menu of farm-to-table favourites such as heirloom tomatoes with burrata, wild mushroom and porcini risotto and crispy pork belly with celeriac puree.
WHAT TO ORDER: Duck a l’orange with Lyonnaise potatoes, broccolini, carrot and roasted walnuts.
Address: 6 David St, Bowral NSW 2576
If you’re after more casual dining, check out our list of best cafes in Bowral. And if you’re making a weekend of it, check out the best accommodation in Bowral and our list of best things to do in Bowral.
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