A vego haven in the Southern Highland?
Noodlies, Sydney food blog takes a nibble
A huge vegetarian buffet restaurant located on a hundred acres on the outskirts of Berrima, an hour and a half’s drive from Sydney. Seriously?
Welcome to Zen Oasis vegetarian restaurant.
Enter via a tree-lined driveway and it’s a tranquil landscape of a wide, open space including an ‘ornamental lake’. This is the sort of place you would be comfortable in adopting a tree under which to sit in lotus position, bring you that little bit closer to enlightenment. As we enter the restaurant, our experience is much more ‘grounded’. This Saturday lunch, Zen Oasis is pumping, filled with loud chatter and clanging of cutlery, enthusiastically generated by a large Chinese elderly group from Sydney. The wooden floor, walls and low ceiling collaborate to amplify the happy rukus and, before long, our group of four chirp cheerily along with the throng, naturally following the flow of energy.
It’s Chinese vegetarian, and a decent range too, over 30 savoury oriental delights: yum cha, spring rolls, sushi and main dishes accompanied by a choice of hot and cold beverages, including tasty hot and cold Chinese herbal teas. And in an ironic ying to the healthy vego yang, there’s an extensive and alluring assortment of homemade eastern and western desserts. Oh, and cut seasonal fruit too, if you must.
The food, in individual bain-marie holders, are arranged around a centre-stage showcasing two kindly but industrious ladies who could be strumming an exotic Asian string instrument, except here, they’re continuously producing vegetarian sushi for the hungry hordes.
The staff are ultra friendly despite the extra bustle of the visiting group. The vegetarian dishes are fresh and lightly cooked – completely guilty free, well, that’s how we felt anyway. Vegetarian versions of meat dishes, like dumplings and mock devon wrapped around asparagus look and taste convincing enough to temporarily assuage any carnivores.
Dessert is a treat, well the elderly folks thought so, many coming back for seconds, and for one particular dear, thirds and then fourths (your secret is safe with me, lady). Western cakes, chocolate tarts and profiteroles; this may be vegetarian heaven, but these little tempters light up the dessert bar like hundreds of forbidden apples neatly arranged in the garden of Eden.
Eastern treats are so dainty and elegantly presented you feel guilty for breaking the pattern, well I did, the jovial seniors had no such qualms. The warmly coloured shards of jelly, while simple, must be such a treat for vegetarians dying for jelly that’s made without animal products. While the gluggy balls, softly sweetened with ginger syrup and topped with sesame, is my favourite.
Zen Oasis is housed in a rustic building built in 1948 where, for nearly three decades, it was the Parmenter family’s Woolshed Restaurant.
Zen Oasis Vegetarian Restaurant
230 Medway Road, Berrima
(31 Hume Highway, Berrima exit)
Ph: (02) 4877 1285
$31 adult, $16 children
Saturday & Sunday lunch only
1st seating: 11.30am – 1:30pm
2nd seating: 2.00pm – 3.30pm (group bookings only)