Step into a food and wine lover’s fantasy in one of Australia’s finest gourmet regions. From acclaimed restaurants, cool-climate wines and historic pubs to an abundance of local produce and hands-on experiences, the Southern Highlands serves sublime culinary adventure against the backdrop of rolling green hills.
An exceptional meal is never far away in the Southern Highlands. Start with Birch, the restaurant that put the small village of Moss Vale on the map. Head chef Ben Bamford creates a seasonal menu with a focus on local producers, turning out innovative dishes like Archie Rose coast gin cured salmon, dill, yuzu labneh, nori and radish salsa. In nearby Berrima, Eschalot has been a Highlands highlight for two decades. Choose the Feed Me menu and chef Matty Roberts will plate up a fine dining feast.
In Bowral, savour traditional Italian cuisine at family-run Onesta Cucina. There’s a new menu every day, featuring classics like potato gnocchi with lamb ragu and egg tagliatelle with seafood. For French flair, head for Bistro Sociale, inside the Berida Hotel. This European-inspired bistro specialises in rustic dishes like duck liver parfait, pan fried spatchcock and big steaks on the grill. Be transported to Thailand at the one-hat Paste in Mittagong, a local outpost of the Michelin-starred Paste Bangkok run by husband and wife chefs Bee Satongun and Jason Bailey.
Many of the region’s best restaurants are to be found within a winery, so you can expect delicious food accompanied by the perfect pinot. Much of the fresh produce on the menu at Centennial Vineyards Restaurant is grown on the estate’s own farm. The restaurant at Bendooley Estate is housed inside the historic Berkelouw Book Barn, with tables set around a roaring wood fire. Southern Highland Winery is run by three local Italian families and, as you would expect, the traditional Italian food in the restaurant is exquisite. Chef Marco Salvestrin even catches his own yabbies from the dam.
There’s a thriving café culture in the Southern Highlands. In Bowral, The Press Shop is a firm favourite, known as much for its pretty heritage building as the delicious menu bursting with locally-sourced produce. Salters at Dirty Jane’s is a little slice of Parisian chic (complete with red awning) and has a compact menu of breakfast classics. Families will love The Mill Cafe for its dedicated kids’ menu and a play area stocked with toys, games and colouring books.
The Boston Ivy in Mittagong is inside a stunning 1880 building covered in leafy ivy vines with a child and dog-friendly courtyard. In Moss Vale, The Post Office cafe was the town’s original post office for more than 100 years and retains its many charms. Nearby, Highlands Merchant is always popular – if you can’t get a seat, grab takeaway and relax in the park next door. In Robertson, tempt your tastebuds at the famous Robertson Pie Shop and visit the Robertson Cheese Factory.
There are plenty of cosy pubs in the Southern Highlands too, many of which have been welcoming thirsty travellers for more than a century. The convict-built Surveyor General Inn in Berrima dates back to 1834 and is the oldest continuously licensed hotel in Australia. Briars Inn, between Bowral and Moss Vale, was built in 1845 and has been given a chic modern makeover, plus has a large lawn with games and a kids’ playground. The Moss Vale Hotel and The Robertson Hotel also both date back to the 19th century, while the Burrawang Village Hotel and The Bundanoon Hotel have been trading since the 1920s.
With fertile soils and a cool-climate altitude, the Southern Highlands is home to award-winning vineyards specialising in pinot noir, pinot gris and traditional method sparkling wines. There are more than 60 vineyards in the region and a dozen have cellar doors to visit, either located in the winery or at a dedicated tasting room in town. If you’re not sure where to start, a wine tour with local operators like The Grape Escape or Highlands Food and Wine Tours is a great option.
The Southern Highlands yields a huge range of delicious produce. Local specialties include Angus beef, Toulouse geese, Wessex saddleback pigs, yabbies, cheese, olives, olive oil, truffles, potatoes, berries, cherries and pome fruits like apples, pears and quince. As well as appearing on the plate at restaurants and cafes all over the region, you can sample it straight from the source at markets, food festivals and farm tours.
Highland Gourmet Potatoes, Southern Highlands
Sample the best of the region at local markets. The Exeter Village Market is held on the first Saturday of the month, the Bowral Markets on the second Saturday of the month, and Mittagong Markets on the third and fifth Saturdays of the month. In Moss Vale, the Railway Street Farmers Market is on every Thursday afternoon and the Showground Market on every third Sunday. Find all the top local producers together at the annual Southern Highlands Food and Wine Festival, held in October at the Moss Vale Showground.
If you’d prefer to get some dirt on your boots, take a guided tour of a local. Maugers Meats is a family-owned business with a picturesque property in Robertson, where owners John and Vicki will take you to meet (and taste) their grass-fed cows and lambs. At The Pines Pastoral, an historic 700-acre farm near Moss Vale, you can take a tour to see the Black Angus cows or stay the night in one of the six charming cottages for the full farm experience. Learn about organic and regenerative farming at Moonacres in Robertson, then use some of the vegetables in a cooking class at Moonacres School.
Tastes like home: Paste
Tastes like home: Paste
Michelin-starred chef Bee Satongun, shares how her family cooking and food philosophy has influenced her fine dining restaurant, Paste in Mittagong. Balancing the complexity of traditional Thai flavours in her modern dishes.
The Highlands have been a magnet for travellers for more than a century, drawn to the lush landscapes, bucolic charm and a slew of pretty villages. A new generation of food-makers, wineries, retailers and hoteliers continue to make the region the ideal destination to rewind, refresh and rejuvenate.
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