The Darling Downs has always been known as the Land of Milk and Honey - kissed by sun and soil it’s a food bowl with diverse agricultural industries. Paddock-to-plate; farm-to-fork, whatever you want to call it, that’s how people normally eat in this regional Australian community.
No one thought too much about ‘authenticity’ or ‘provenance’ until suddenly Toowoomba’s new international airport created freight opportunities and all eyes turned to the area’s world-class food producers.
Overseas markets opened, Chefs moved in and people started seeing things differently.
Forget milk and honey, the Darling Downs is also the land of berries, rhubarb, avocados, leafy greens, limes, beef, lamb, sunflowers, chocolate, jerky, nuts, oats, kefir, breweries, wineries, a distillery, a meadery and much more.
Locals probably took them for granted, the heroic food producers, brimming with talent and natural advantages. Well not anymore! Throughout Toowoomba, menus not only reflect but also support the surrounding countryside and its producers.
Toowoomba CBD’s heart and soul is in its café culture - these laneway nosheries and funky social enterprises are a little bit Melbourne. Try Ground Up Espresso Bar, Second Shot, Walton Stores and Copper Bench, close your eyes and imagine the trams!
Cocktail bars and country towns haven’t always seen eye-to-eye, but Toowoomba’s got lots! From sleek spaces to cosy corners, these bars are open past bedtime serving signature cocktails with matching nibbles - try Cork & Lever, Sante, Tapestry, George Banks Rooftop Bar and Muller Bros.
Keep your RMs on, these are Toowoomba’s fine dining experiences:
Zev’s Bistro – Toowoomba’s only restaurant with an Australian Good Food Guide Chef Hat award. It’s small and stylish offering a set menu of nostalgic flavours, complex dishes and produce that excites the very creative Kyle Zevenbergen. You won’t find a more carefully curated wine list anywhere in town.
Gip’s Restaurant– set in an 1860s mansion surrounded by gardens, Chef Craig Edser and his talented team present a creative fusion of fresh, uncomplicated dishes with a strong, Modern Australian influence.
Encores– located at the beautiful Empire Theatre precinct, Encores is famous for pre-show suppers and superb business lunches.
Meat Lovers – with some of Australia’s biggest and best beef producers on the doorstep you’ll soon learn the difference between grain and grass-fed. Local game birds and cod farms add to the variety - Paddock celebrates provenance and is a good place to start. Gastro pubs with great local steaks include Fitzy’s, The Royal, The Met, The Spotted Cow and The Southern.
Multicultural - Toowoomba is a welcoming multicultural and refugee-safe community. This also means it has authentic, traditional foods and the best place to sample them is at the Farmers Markets every Saturday morning.
What’s a 20-minute drive from the CBD? From Toowoomba it will take you down meandering country roads to a fabulous vineyard and restaurant called Rosalie House, where you’ll sit on a wide verandah overlooking vines and distant paddocks while sampling local produce prepared by the Thompson family.
A pleasant 40-minute drive through High Country hamlets will take you to the cute township of Crows Nest - having undergone a major transformation, it’s on the brink of fabulous!
Led by inspirational foodies such as Amanda Hinds of Myrtille Bistro and Bruno Loubet of Willowvale Cooking School (ex-Buckingham Palace), what will Crows Nest do next!
Myrtille Bistro – Amanda Hinds’ menu is a fanfare of local produce, amplifying European classics and humming with creative fusion. Her reputation brings a special fan club and you will need to book ahead.
Willowvale Cooking School – Bruno and Catherine Loubet have recently moved to Ravensbourne, where their enviable kitchen gardens provide ingredients for upmarket, slightly boozy, cooking classes.
This only scratches the surface of dining choices in Toowoomba. You need to visit, stay a while and explore; wander Toowoomba’s historic streets, drive through golden fields of freshness and soak up the optimism that a good harvest brings to rural Australia.
Toowoomba - Take Me There!