Biota chef James Viles to open Barn, a casual eatery in the Southern Highlands

Chef James Viles has long dreamed of opening a casual hyper-local restaurant and accommodation concept in the Southern Highlands, and in January 2019 that vision is realised with the opening of Barn.

Barn will open for two dinner services per month, starting with January 11 and 25, and the menu for each service will be completely different, with ingredients sourced from within kilometres of the picturesque Wildes Meadow property. 

A joint venture with Louise and John Keats, longtime friends of Viles and great supporters of Biota, who own the beautiful property, many of the ingredients will come from the site itself, including honey, meat, yabbies, fruit, garlic and potatoes, or from neighbouring farms who will deliver tiny quantities of their own backyard produce.


Guests will all arrive for dinner at the same time. They will have a tour of the property first, followed by yabby fishing in the dam, before pre-dinner drinks around the stone outdoor fire pit, and will then be seated together for a feast-style multi-course dinner. Head chef Ryan Kovac, who has worked with Viles at Biota, will be in charge of the kitchen, and the growing calendar to determine what goes on the menu each night.


Seating is communal at two long timber tables, with space for about 60 guests. The barn itself features an impressive open kitchen with state of the art Electrolux appliances, rustic colourbond clad walls, paved floors and timber finishes. Tables are decorated with local plants and flowers, and blankets for when the night turns chilly.


The sophisticated new loft accommodation, within the barn itself, has the capacity for four adults. The accommodation features a well-equipped kitchen, two bedrooms with queen beds, and two bathrooms.


The property, owned by the Keats, has views that extend all the way to the Sydney city skyline, visible by night, as well as a dam, a young fruit and nut orchard with 65 trees, Angus cattle and beehives.


Viles and the Keats have also developed a meat program with the property’s Angus cattle, where they will exclusively use their own beef across Biota and Barn menus from January. 

A lot of Biota’s favourite farmers will, of course, be represented on the menu including pork and eggs from Redleaf Farm, cheese and lamb from Pecora Dairy, and produce from Quarter Acre. There will be no fish on the menu as the coast is too far from the property to be considered hyperlocal.


Viles says, "I think of Barn as Biota’s wild little sibling. It’s definitely very much connected to what we do at Biota, but by having only two services a month we have a huge amount of freedom to get a bit ‘wild’ and a bit more loose. We get to experiment with being hyper-local. We have the freedom to serve only what is grown within a handful of kilometres of the property and to showcase tiny quantities of the amazing stuff we are constantly given by our friends from their backyards."

He continues: "My recent travels around Australia have reminded me of what is so beautiful and special about the Highlands, and the experience we have created at Barn really shows that off. It’s very connected to the outdoors and to the land."