Your inside guide to the food and drink helping Toowoomba take off.
Nicknamed The Garden City and gateway to the Darling Downs, Southern Queenland’s largest town is home to a flourishing food trail. delicious. on Sunday Queensland reviewer Anooska Tucker-Evans is your insider guide to its best restaurants, cafes and bars.
From hard-working hospitality duo Tony Kelly and Scott Hoskins comes the smart and sophisticated The Office (14 Duggan St; theofficebar.com.au). The pair has transformed an old restaurant space into an elegant yet approachable eatery and bar (complete with a Melbourne-inspired laneway), serving an exciting mod-Oz menu that highlights the best local produce. Start with some share plates, perhaps the seafood chowder with salmon floss and crusty rye sourdough, paired with a top-notch cocktail. A welcoming, highly trained wait team adds to the appeal of a venue that would be at home in any big city.
Opening a vegan cafe in a region of meat lovers may sound like risky business, but chef Asher Andrews and partner Jess Greer are proving good food appeals to even the most diehard carnivore at Little
Seed (100 Russell St; littleseedrestaurant. out front, has a vibe as nurturing as the food. Breakfast ranges from wholesome smoothie bowls to lemongrass beans with a fried tofu turmeric ‘egg’, while the fluffy chickpea flatbread with tanned pumpkin falafel from the compact lunch menu is delicious and satisfying.
The Walton Stores (476 Ruthven St; waltonstores.com.au) may just be Toowoomba’s best-kept secret. Still largely unknown to many locals, the hip foodie precinct is linked by a graffiti-lined laneway and fronted by health-focused cafe Full of Life Organics. The space then opens onto an expansive outdoor area complete with big screen, stage and fast-casual eateries – Asian fusion Junk
Boat, burger bar Hello Harry, fried chicken specialists 2 Birds and liquid nitrogen ice creamery Nitrogenie. It’s also
home to the Toowoomba Farmers’
Market every Saturday from 8am. Toowoomba is filled with quirky dual-purpose venues, such as bountiful health-food-store-meets-eatery
Homegrown Health (11 Railway St;  4613 0870) and hairdresser-cum-cafe The
Mixx ( 2/263 Margaret St; themixx.com.au). But there’s nothing quite like the achingly cool Bunker Records (229 Margaret St; facebook.com/bunkerrecords.au). The work of music-loving friends Kirsty Lee, Alison Gillmore and Carl Larson, the eclectic space makes the most of its minimal real estate, selling new and used vinyl, turntables, playful T-shirts and terrific coffee, as well as hosting the occasional live gig.
Perhaps responsible for kick-starting Toowoomba’s laneway culture is Ground
Up Espresso Bar (501 Ruthven St; facebook.com/grounduptoowoomba). The compact spot opened in 2013 when three mates, Ryan Evans, Nathan Eshraghi and Jeyan Chamanmah, converted an old storeroom in a sleepy alleyway into a hipster hangout. The rustic venture opens onto the brightly graffitied Searle’s Walk, where umbrella-covered wooden tables encourage communal dining. Coffee is from Toby’s Estate, while the all-day menu extends from smashed avo to a Persian breakfast with fried eggs, flatbread and a shirazi salad.
Hidden down a laneway and guarded by a besuited doorman, speakeasy-style bar The Chelsea (14 Duggan St; thechelseabar.com.au) is like a pocketsized slice of the ’20s. Crystal chandeliers hang from the ceiling and scarlet-tinted velvet curtains hug the exposed brick walls, while a backlit bar glows with cognac hues. The cosy room’s mood may be from another era, but the drinks list is very much of the here and now, with top-shelf spirits, boutique beers and a clever wine menu. The true highlight, however, is the cocktails, which offer modern takes on classic infusions. The Fulham Frappe, a froth-capped spin on the espresso martini, and delicately smoky Maple Bacon Manhattan are equal favourites among punters and the charming, skilled staff alike.
Push through the metal door of an industrial shed and you’ll find yourself in Toowoomba’s first craft brewery,
4 Brothers Brewing (57-73 Brook St; facebook.com/4brosbrewing). Run by talented home-brewer-turned-professional Adrian Cubit and his partner, Katelyn Garner, the manufacturing facility and bar opened in April. Of the four beers currently being brewed, the ‘Lazy Brother’ is an easy-drinking pale ale, but it’s the gently smoked yet smartly balanced ‘Arrogant Brother’ and the complex yet clean ‘Evil Brother’ coffee porter that show this place has serious promise. Drinkers can grab their favourite in a growler to go or sip from a tasting paddle at the handmade communal table onsite.
For the sake of waistlines, it’s perhaps a blessing that The Baker’s Duck (55 Bellevue St; facebook.com/ thebakersduck) opens its doors to the public only once a week, when long-time chef Rose Newberry’s commercial bakery runs Retail Saturdays from 7am. A cult following wake up with the sparrows to avoid missing out on artisan goodies served from the no-frills bakery fronting the manufacturing shed. The crusty sourdough is a huge hit with local cafes, but it’s the rotating range of creative pastries, such as persimmon, pistachio and rose water streusel, passionfruit cheesecake Danish and the shatteringly flaky croissant-muffinfusion, the cruffin, that have punters literally lining up to break their diets.
CLOCKWISE: Ground Up Espresso Bar; mixing a killer cocktail at The Chelsea; Andrew Bourke’s Angel street art; sweet treats and organic sourdough await at The Baker’s Duck; enjoy Asian fusion at Junk Boat; vegan eats are a hit at Little seed; (inset) Little Seed owners Jess Greer and Asher Andrews.