With its amazing food and wine, cool little boutiques, and stunning landscape, it doesn’t get much better than the Southern Highlands for a weekend winter mini-break. Armed with my bestie and a sensible winter coat, the number one priority on our first pleasingly chilly Bowral morning was coffee and breakfast at The Press Shop, a gorgeous light-filled space adjoining a lovely stationery shop and print studio. The latter is chock-full of gorgeous wrapping paper, cards, ribbon, as well as beautiful ceramics, homewares, and old-school letterpress gear like wax seals and hand-embossers. Back in the café, the concise breakfast menu focuses on all things fresh, wholesome, and filling, the winner being the Breakfast Plate of sourdough, hummus, nuts, figs, quinoa, eggs, and prosciutto.
Just next door is Green Lane, a leafy open space housing some great little shops and restaurants that are all about greenery, good produce, and recycled treasures – there’s a wine bar, a casual take-away eatery, an indoor plant and homewares store, an outdoor nursery, and an incredibly vast and endlessly interesting antique and gift shop. The latter, Dirty Janes, is the kind of place you can while away hours, pouring over room after room of retro kitchenware, vintage clothing and jewellery, as well as beautiful modern furniture, ceramics, and homewares.
After a solid morning of coffee-sampling and boutique-perusing, it’s all about getting back to nature and with Mt Gibraltar right on Bowral’s doorstep, it’s easy-as. A lovely walk through town, over the river, and up Ellen Street plops you at the start of one of the mountain’s short but steep walking tracks, this one climbing a series of stone steps all the way to the summit. A ring-road links three separate lookouts, looking south across Bowral, west all the way to the Blue Mountains, and north to Mittagong and beyond.
Back in town, Biota Dining is where it’s at for dinner. This two-hatted restaurant focuses keeps things well within Bowral’s general theme by offering local wines and produce (a lot of the menu is grown on-site), in an earnest but surprisingly unpretentious way. The service is top-notch too, with genuinely lovely staff who make the whole meal pleasingly chilled out, despite the dark and moody fine-dining vibe. We picked a culinarily unfortunate day to visit, the kitchen being sold out of the much-hyped slow-roasted lamb with figs, and the squid, and the kangaroo, so settled instead for a bunch of dishes from their lounge menu – duck patê with spent fruit jam and native pepper lavosh bread, smoked globe artichokes with cultured cream and seaweed, roast pumpkin with cured pork and wild plants, a garden-fresh pea and mint salad, finishing up with whipped butter chocolate with plum sorbet and cacao praline. The patê and whipped chocolate were definite standouts, but the whole meal, paired with a local Tempranillo, was both genius and memorable in equal measure – a perfect cherry on top of a most excellent weekend out of town.