This bistro is always buzzing and it’s hardly surprising, given its exceptional dishes like Za’atar Eggs on the all-day breakfast menu, Damo’s Famous 7-Hour Lamb Soft Roll at lunch and an ever-changing specials offering that’s as innovative as it is satiating.
Inside, the cafe is modern, spacious and eclectic, with the décor changing frequently, depending on what ‘pop-up’ ideas owners Damien and Justine Monley are crafting at any given time (save for the pre-historic-like oversized Fiddle Leaf Fig plants that sit beautifully in each corner).
After the success of its late 2017 Asian pop-up theme, Umami, the hard-working team launched Mama Margarita in early 2018, with traditional Mexican dishes given a ‘Highlands’ twist using local, seasonal ingredients personally chosen by head chef Daryl a Laver and his culinary crew. The cocktail list was crafted around various top shelf tequilas, including Casamigos Anñejo, which is owned by none other than George Clooney. Their next pop-up project is a Middle Eastern theme, which is appearing over four nights only (July 27 & 28, August 24 & 25, 2018) and I’m assured that it’s going to be every bit as amazing as their last two pop-ups.
The outdoor eating area is perfect in either winter or summer, with its comfy chairs and tables, lanterns and lights extending the welcoming ambience from inside.
The licensed bistro also serves the owners’ wines from their Howard’s Lane vineyard – don’t miss the Rose and Chardonnay in summer and the Shiraz or Merlot for cooler weather.
In between running the restaurant and the vineyard, the Monely’s also run a stylish boutique B&B in Mittagong and a busy catering company, as well as having four beautiful young children. And, if that’s not enough, they’ve just teamed up with the team at Wombat Hollow to cater functions and special events, like the Yalumba Wine Dinner, which was held in July 2018 (check out theGrand Bistro Facebook page for upcoming events: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=grand%20bistro).
As busy as she is, the very gracious Justine still found time to sit down with me recently as I grilled her on her life in the Southern Highlands.
Love Di xx
Why did you move to the Southern Highlands?
“Affordability! We wanted to have space around us for the kids to enjoy and being on 35 acres, we certainly have it!
What was the hardest thing you found about the move and how did you overcome it?
Being away from the ocean is hard for us, as we are ex-Sydney-siders and we were always at the beach in our spare time when we lived there. We plan regular trips away now to get our oceanic fix!
Did you feel accepted by the community straight away?
Absolutely! We were at first worried that gaining the trust and loyalty of the locals would be tricky, but we have had the same smiling faces coming in regularly since we opened. We make sure this happens by consistently delivering great food and service each and every time our customers visit us.
You’ve been here for three years now. What do you love most about the area and your new life?
We really love the people and the strong sense of community that is here. There are also some really great schools here. None of my children were of school age when we arrived in the Highlands, so initially it was all about finding them a great day care centre. I now have two of them in a local primary school and they absolutely love it. Some of our most treasured moments since moving here have been making awesome friends, opening Grand Bistro and having it being so well received.
What is your go-to restaurant when you want to dine out?
Always and without fail, Onesta Cucina – this unique Italian restaurant serves innovative, sensational food without fail, every time, and the service is spot on.
Who are your favourite local producers?
We always source our salami from Red Leaf Farm, because we know the animals are raised ethically and with respect and live a free range, organic life as nature intended. Artemis Wines is a definite go-to for wines. Its Pinot Noir is a stand out for us.
What can locals and visitors alike look forward to from Grand Bistro this year and in the future?
We have just finished Umami, our pop up Asian restaurant and Mama Margarita, both of which garnered a hugely positive response. We also have many fabulous events coming up at Wombat Hollow. We can’t disclose them right now, but we are super excited to sink our teeth into!
You’ll find Grand Bistro here:
The Grand Arcade
295-297 Bong Bong Street
02 4862 2126
If you wish to learn more about life and property in the Southern Highlands, please contact me via www.belleproperty.com/bowral