david lee

Bistro Officina, Southern Highlands. NSW

david lee
Bistro Officina, Southern Highlands. NSW

There are dishes, and then there are dishes.  These are the culinary moments that stick with you, in the very front of the food memory bank.  The meals that everything else is measured against.  They can be quite diverse, from the smell of my grandmother boiling spuds on a beautiful sunny afternoon, to my first taste of a steamed scallop dumpling in a long closed Chinese restaurant in Sydney’s China town.  The intoxicating association of place, time, friends, smells and sounds are a preamble to the meals of the present and future.  Friends wax lyrical of menus and restaurants yet I often prefer a good solid braise and a bottle of cotes-du-rhone any day of the week.  This is what food is about, the connection of tastes, the stirring of emotions and memories.   Food that is evocative yet grounded.  Grounded in technique and flavour, time and place.  Dishes such as Simon Rogan’s Confit rabbit with onion petals, immediately familiar yet paradoxically not.  Neil Perry’s crab dumplings in Oxtail broth and a wonderful civet of rabbit with prunes at Bistro Moline’s at Mount View in the Hunter Valley.  All flirtatiously touching on a memory yet weaving their own uniqueness and pleasure.


The lamb neck with faro at Bistro Officina on a cold winters day in Bowral in NSW was such a dish.   A dish that was packed to gunnels with personality.   The neck, not for the pusillanimous, was the whole piece, boned out and slowly cooked. Presented as such with creamy faro it was never going to win a beauty pageant, but it was indeed functional, earthy and without a doubt absolutely glorious.  The meat was unctuous, sticky, full of meaty flavours underpinned with a gently smokiness.  This was a case of the perfect food moment, the wine, a workman like Chianti, a delicious pumpkin side, the thickly sliced bread with house smoked butter, the attentive service, the open fire and of course the company.  Perfect.

What I liked most was this was true technique, grounded in solid experience and almost brutal confidence.  Here was an often rejected and maligned cut of meat elevated into something special.  This is what being a chef is about. Honestly, seasonality and generosity all bound together with solid kitchen technique.   This was food that so good we went back the very next day.  This time whole King George whiting perfectly cooked on the bone, again not for the timid albeit, sans head.  Some excellent Brussel sprouts and some surprising gnocchi.  Fried, soft and yielding potato pillows topped with a whole fully balanced blue cheese foam.  Confident cooking using a classic combination but cleverly presented using modern techniques to elevate the dish not the chef.  Impressive.

Whole King George Whiting

Whole King George Whiting



T: +02 4861 7787



Breakfast Sat-Sun: 7:30am - 10am
Lunch Fri-Sat-Sun: 12pm onwards
Dinner Wed to Mon: 6pm*
Bar Wed to Mon: 4:30pm with small plates, wines and cocktails

*Closed Tuesday


Located in Berida Hotel

6 David St,


NSW 2576