A quick glance at the homepage of Bowral restaurant Biota Dining will tell you almost everything you need to know about its founder James Viles. A love of foraging, a commitment to farm-to-table dining and a passion for locally sourced produce have elevated this NSW Southern Highlands restaurant to the same lofty heights as any booked-out inner-city Sydney or Melbourne eatery. Given his reputation for foraging, fishing and diving, Viles was recently in Tasmania on behalf of brewer James Boag where he managed to pick, dive and shuck his way through some of the region's best food suppliers.

Yeong Sassall chatted to James to find out more about his trip and discover some of Tassie's best kept food secrets.  

Was this your first time to Tasmania?
No, I've been there probably four or five times.

What is it that keeps bringing you back?
I really enjoy it. It still feels like a small seaside town. I love the fact there's still a lot of history around and a lot of the places to eat have a nice focus on Tassie ingredients. Tasmania really only uses ingredients from Tasmania, not because it's cool, but because that's just the way they've always done things locally. It's just part of their culture, part of what they do.

Biota Dining’s James Viles reveals his secret Hobart

Which Tasmanian produce are you into?
I really enjoy the sea kelp or the sea lettuce. And also the seaweed from [seafood business owner] James Ashmore (ashmorefoods.com.au). I actually went diving with James off Bruny Island last time I was there. And I like that ingredient because it's so versatile. There are a lot of different applications that it can be used for. When you're under the water and you're diving for that seaweed, it's like me being in an underwater forest. It's an incredible experience.

How lucky that you get to do things like that. What other areas did you hit up when you were there?
I went from all the way up from The Nut in Stanley. We were looking at Cape Greenbay and their pastures. And then we came all the way down the Eastern side into Hobart. I think the Coles Bay, Freycinet area (pictured, opening image) is for me, that was a really stunning sight. Probably the best sight I've seen in the last 10-15 years. We were out in the middle of the estuary, waist deep, standing in the water, shucking oysters and eating them. It was freezing cold, but the best.

Biota Dining’s James Viles reveals his secret Hobart

If we were planning a foodie road trip, where would you recommend we go?
I would start in Launceston. There's some really good beers that are on tap that we don't have on the mainland - just hidden gems. You can also visit the James Boag Brewery (jamesboag.com.au). Then I'd head north up to Stanley and hit every single pub on the way - they've got some pretty cool pubs. In Stanley there's a really good little restaurant that serves Cape Grim beef or Tasmanian beef called Xanders (xanders.com.au). And then from there I'd go down through Burnie, and then down to Freycinet National Park. You can spend the night down that way because there's a lot of really nice ecolodges. You can explore Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay, too. Plus, there's really good seafood in Abalone - oysters and that kind of thing.

Biota Dining’s James Viles reveals his secret Hobart

And then follow the coast to down Hobart, which has some great eating, starting with Franklin (franklinhobart.com.au). And then there's the art gallery MONA (mona.net.au). Once you're in Hobart meet up with Antonia from Wellington Apiary (wellingtonapiary.com) and she can show you some of her beehives and you can learn about her award-winning creamed honey.

Biota Dining’s James Viles reveals his secret Hobart

There's another place out in the middle of nowhere that does goat's milk cheese - it's called Leap Farm (leapfarm.com.au) and it's really special. They farm goats and do some amazing, natural goat's cheese. It's stunning and you can't buy their products on the mainland. And don't forget to buy seaweed from James Ashmore. He has a wholesale shop in Hobart (ashmorefoods.com.au).

James Viles partners with James Boag who is collaborating with renowned butcher Victor Churchill at the Victor Churchill Marquee, Royal Randwick Racecourse for The Championships this Saturday, April 8.

At 'Little Sydney' you can taste a selection of canapes showcasing Tasmanian ingredients as you sip on James Boag Premium. For tickets, visit australianturfclub.com.au

Biota Dining’s James Viles reveals his secret Hobart