The Barn gastronomic experience takes place at East Kangaloon, on a 100-acre property two hours south of Sydney, in a corrugated-iron building on the very soil where much of the menu is grown, picked, gathered and reared.
The barn’s horses have been evicted and in their place two long communal tables have been set up, with linen and stoneware settings for up to 60 guests. Rather than a degustation in the traditional sense, guests are served a feast of 10 to 15 dishes laid along the table to be shared.
Beyond the barn door, the surrounding pastures make for more than just a charming backdrop. There’s a roaring campfire for pre-dinner drinks and toasting honey marshmallows, and those who are so inclined can head off on a foraging adventure to explore the property’s beehives, fruit and nut orchard or paddocks, which are home to grazing Angus cattle. You can even go yabbying on the property’s dam.
Like big sister restaurant Biota, also in Bowral in NSW’s Southern Highlands, Barn offers a high-end dining experience with a focus on the region’s produce. But being smaller and operating less frequently – approximately twice a month – Barn can capitalise on ingredients found only in short supply. It’s a hyper-local restaurant concept.
“At Biota we have had passionate people bring in small quantities of amazing produce that is grown on their property and they want us to use it on our menu,” says James Viles, who is chef of both Biota and Barn. “The nature of the menu at Biota meant that we couldn’t do this all the time, because we needed more produce than could be supplied. But with Barn we can – and that's what’s so exciting to me.”
Viles says he’s getting black figs from a friend in Wildes Meadow and tomatoes from Robertson, both nearby. The condition of the produce will also influence how it’s handled. “If the tomatoes are beautiful and warm, ripe from the sun, we'll serve them as is with some fresh curd. If they are a bit tarnished then we’ll use them in a sauce.”
On a late-January evening that meant fresh plums picked from the roadside turned into lightly charred cheeks with stracciatella cheese. Lightly blanched brassicas and rabbit are turned into a rustic terrine, and a pavlova is topped with a dribbling of the best summer cherries.
Drinks are also included in the experience. Barn brews its own ales and selects wines from local producers. Sparklings and pet nats are from Ari’s Natural Wines, and there are offerings from Cherry Tree Hill, Centennial Vineyards, Artemis and Tertini. A bartender is also on hand to shake up cocktails, including a green-ant Martini and sours made with wild peach, plum and apple.
If you find yourself taken by the serenity and wish to prolong your visit, you can also book the barn’s loft accommodation. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment comes with panoramic views over the property.
Barn dinners happen twice a month and are $190 per person, including food and drinks. Bookings are now available for March 8 and 22, and new dates are released each month. Accommodation starts at $280 per night.