The Southern Highlands is a cornucopia of culinary excellence and the gorgeous town of Bowral is its beating epicurean heart. With a high altitude and rich volcanic soils supporting some of Australia’s best produce, this has to be one of NSW’s best destinations for foodies.
But with so many sublime eateries serving up the freshest local produce, a weekend is never enough to taste all the temptations on offer. So, this food-fixated fam has learned to factor in eating, right alongside exploring, on our adventures and managed to cover a lot of ground and twice as many calories.
From clean eating cafes to high teas and fine diners, here, in no particular order, are a few of what we consider to be the best Bowral restaurants, cafes and snack stores for those dining with or without kids.
Gumnut Patisserie Bowral
There are good reasons for the queue outside this bakery! And they all involve flaky, buttery pastry. Seriously, if their award-winning pies and savoury pastries hadn’t already won our hearts long ago, their sweet tarts and tortes would have. The kids have a particular affection for Gumnut Patisserie’s bulging lemon tarts and raspberry and meringue studded custard tartlets and we’re all keen to return to taste test their takeaway high tea.
Location: Shop 7, Grand Arcade, Bong Bong St, Bowral
Bowral Sweets & Treats
OK, so this is not strictly a café, but it’s certainly all about eating. From classic Aussie lollies to the best of British sweets and crazy candy creations from America, Bowral Sweets & Treats is a one stop shop for all things sugary sweet. Unfortunately, my kids wanted to stop for a very long time to stock up on all their favourites including lemon sherberts, sour lollies and giant chocolate freckles, before they turned their attention to a cabinet of delicate handmade chocolates items. They even managed to add a couple of bug-spiked lolly pops (yes, with real edible insects) into their shopping bags before I could wrestle them back out the door.
Location: High Street Arcade, 310-312 Bong Bong St, Bowral
My cheesy children sniffed out this wonderful cheese shop as we scampered through the arcades off Bong Bong Street and there was no way they were going to keep walking. Knowledgeable and friendly cheesemonger Hugh was on hand to help us navigate his carefully curated selection of fine Australian and imported cheeses and we stocked up on a bloomy-rind funky French Brie (for later). But with tasting plates, eat-in and takeaway dining plus wines and beers on offer, the kids wanted cheese now. So they demolished a couple of the decadent Cheese Etc three cheese toasties, declaring them a work of molten magnificence and rating them an 11/10 on the scoffability scale.
Location: High Street Arcade, 310-312 Bong Bong St, Bowral NSW 2576
Elephant Boy Café
With its bookshelf lined walls and elephant themed bric-a-brac, this quirky Bowral favourite is a warm and welcoming spot for great coffee and classic-café offerings. If the warm ambience isn’t enough to warm you up on a chilly highland day, their excellent coffee will. Breakfast at Elephant Boy Café is especially good with fruit-stacked French Toast and a thoroughly delicious smashed avo garnering the approval of my very hungry travellers.
Location: 329 Bong Bong St, Bowral
Raw & Wild Market & Cafe
Raw & Wild is an organic market and whole food café specialising in nutritious and absolutely delicious food. This is one of the best Bowral restaurants for health conscious and dietary restricted food lovers as they cater for every diet – from vegan and lacto vegetarian to sugar and gluten free. While I got lost in the aisles of the market, my ever hungry offspring shared a hearty kale and broccoli frittata, served with a side of lush green salad, in the café. Oh, and Raw & Wild is pooch-friendly too, so four-legged family members are also welcome.
Location: 250 Bong Bong St, Bowral
Dirty Janes Tea Salon
Dirty Jane’s vintage and antiques emporium is packed to overflowing with cool and quirky collectibles, handmade jewellery, vintage furniture and artworks that will make your repurposed, restored and upcycled soul sing! But be sure to find time for a visit to Dirty Jane’s delightfully vintage inspired Tea Salon, where you can point your pinkie in the air as you sip tea from bone china and delicately nosh on gourmet sandwiches, tarts and cakes, or hunker down to indulge in Bowral’s best High Tea.
Location: 13 Banyette St, Bowral
Bendooley Estate Restaurant
While not technically in Bowral, Bendooley Estate Restaurant is about an eight-minute drive form town in the Berkelouw Book Barn, the rustic rural home of thousands upon thousands of new, second-hand and antiquarian books. I’ve long loved exploring the hidden literary treasures under the exposed timber beams but having undergone a substantial transformation since my last visit, the book barn now shares its space with a Cellar Door and the Bendooley Estate Restaurant, which serves up excellent pies and pastas and suitably rustic gourmet fare, for those who can tear themselves away from the bookstore’s splendidly stuffed shelves.
Location: 3020 Old Hume Highway, Berrima
This buzzy restaurant is one of the best Bowral restaurants for feeding families because what kid doesn’t love Mexican? Hidden away in an arcade just off Bong Bong Street, the staff are friendly and fun, the décor suitably colourful, the margaritas excellent and the food irresistibly spicy. Just two years old, Dos Hombres showcases spicy Mexican recipes using authentic ingredients. The kids and I filled up on some seriously good ceviche, tacos, and a bowl of top-notch nachos. But it is a moreish dish of crisp marinated cauliflower that takes me by surprise. And no matter how full we were by the end of our epic Mexican feast there was still room for a plateful of churros and ice cream.
Location: 283 Bong Bong St, Bowral
Long considered one of the best Bowral restaurants, this is the spot for refined Italian. Onesta Cucina is a family owned and operated Bowral favourite serving up exceptional food using seasonal produce in a space known for its warm and welcoming atmosphere. It is one of those places you’ll want to come back to time and again. On my visit a house made Potato Gnocchi with braised lamb ragu packed a flavourful punch. Whether it will be on the menu frequently I can’t say as the menu changes daily. But the one guarantee is that whatever is on the menu d’jour will be superb.
Location: 5 Boolwey St, Bowral
This fabulous Thai Restaurant is just a ten-minute drive from Bowral’s main street in neighbouring Mittagong and is a must visit if you’re staying in Bowral. Recently opened by Chef Bee Satongun, the proud owner of a Michelin star and the title of Asia’s Best Female Chef for her sister restaurant Paste Bangkok, Paste Mittagong is all about elevated ancient Thai cuisine served in a modern minimalist dining space that wouldn’t be out of place in the most sophisticated city but feels perfectly at home amongst the antiques and heritage architecture of Mittagong. On our visit we indulged in a multi course fantasy feast of fragrant, herbal dishes that didn’t miss a trick.
You can read Raff’s rave review of Paste Mittagong here.
Location: 105 Main St, Mittagong