Ipswich

‘Welcome to Ipswich Central.’

There are many reasons to visit Ipswich. Whether you’re sharing a car racing or steam train experience, visiting family and friends or travelling for business, there are lots of reasons to stop, spend a night or two and enjoy the city’s hospitality.

We’ve returned for another visit, eager to discover more of the fascinating culture of this historic town.

As we crest the hill and Ipswich comes into view before us, we’re greeted by the Ipswich welcome sign. It includes references to parkland, rail and air travel, as well as noting the traditional owners of the land.

We’ve chosen the intriguingly-named Cumquat House as our accommodation, apartment living with the welcome of a B & B. Built in 1914 as a spec. house, Peter and Marie Adams bought the house in 1988 and have renovated it several times since. They are gracious hosts, extremely informed and helpful, while respecting the privacy of guests. Our suite is delightfully quiet and secluded with a luxe bed, and there’s a full breakfast with cereal, toast, fruit and a delicious hot dish prepared for us in the morning. Truly delightful! We’ve already rebooked!

Beans & Greens is on our list for its reputation as a really popular clean-eating café – just the thing for an early start to a weekend of touring and eating! Opened in 2014, the café is clean and fresh, a favourite with workers in surrounding buildings for its smooth Toby’s Estate coffee and welcoming service. Our Jerk chicken tacos piled up with guacamole and pickled slaw and the GreenBean Special of corn and zucchini fritters with poached eggs, locally sourced artisan bacon, and a garden of greens and marinated mushrooms are just two of the varied options on the all-day menu. Like many of the dishes, the ‘special’ is gluten and dairy free, with a vegan option available, but there’s meat on offer as well as lots of raw food dishes. Açai bowls, smoothies and fresh juices sit alongside coffee and turmeric lattes. Many ‘clean’ versions of popular dishes such as BLT, MLT, hotdogs, reubens and nachos offer a great alternatives for a winter lunch.

We speak to Chef Dan, who shows off his Buddha Bowl, one of the café’s bestsellers. The perfect meatless meal for one, a Buddha bowl is a nutritionally balanced meal in a bowl, low GI with good fats (such as avocado), featuring raw, roasted or fermented veggies (sauerkraut), protein (beans, pulses and nuts), grains or seeds (in this case quinoa). It’s a perfect healthy lunch.

“I love the idea of being able to eat with your hands,” Chef Dan tells us. “It’s very soul-filling.”

61 Limestone St, Ipswich Ph: 0424 588

The Prince Alfred Hotel

Ready for a drive, we head out to visit one of the oldest hotels in Queensland. 175 years ago, the Prince Alfred Hotel was a two-storey timber building in the middle of 40 acres of cotton fields. The original cold room still stands today, dating back to 1842. However, the present hotel, owned by the Johnson family for the past 30 years, would be a wonder to the original owners. Named ‘Hotel of the Year 2016’ at the QHA awards, this iconic hotel is worth visiting for its décor alone, let alone its 72 taps, each one pouring a different beer.

Its bar, Tap’d, has a beer theme throughout, including keg light fittings and a greenery-fringed tap waterfall wall. The PA’s restaurant, Char’d, is gorgeous as well. Replete with cow hides and wood features, its food offerings range from burgers to steaks and slow cooked shared plates of Sticky Barbecue Ribs or Beef Brisket. Price entry point on the PA’s meals is below $20.

170 Brisbane Road, Booval Ph: 07 3282 1577

Arcadia

Ipswich’s first Greek restaurant, Arcadia, was opened by Chef Matt Tsalikis in 2016. Situated in a beautiful little 1920s corner store on the Warwick Road, the interior is crisp and bright, with whitewashed walls, a pressed metal counter and concrete floor. A huge mural of a farmer carrying goods on a mule sets the scene. The fresh sparseness of the venue has its drawbacks as well, echoing passing truck noise to the point where conversation is difficult, a problem that could be addressed by ceiling baffles or hanging rugs on the walls.

From a menu divided into Meze, Grill, Oven and Sides covering many classic Greek dishes, we choose a Meze plate to share ($25) comprising hot and cold appetisers, calamari and chorizo, dolmades, dips and house-baked pita bread – a delicious generous portion which could easily provide a light meal. It’s a great lead in to our mains, Ouzo Prawns tossed in tomato and feta, unfortunately too salty to eat, and Seafood pie (a delicious mix of seafood in mustard cream sauce, stuffed with fresh lettuce leaves between two puff pastry triangles; an unusual combination).

There’s a good range of Greek beers and wine on offer to accompany the meal. Our order for the Grecian delight pannacotta would be without Persian fairy floss, we’re told, so we choose Passionopita for dessert, a disc of passionfruit sponge topped with fresh strawberries and yoghurt, light and delicious!

37 Warwick Road, Ipswich, 0420 343 918

Queens Park Café

It’s perfect weather for spending time outdoors. The summer heat has lost its bite, and bright sunny days entice us to take a walk. Queens Park, with its rolling hills, lush vegetation and animal attractions, is a favourite of Ipswich locals.

The airy café, housed in a modern building with an open-faced veranda overlooking the park, is ‘family central’ with something for everyone. It’s a favourite for casual family gatherings, breakfasts and lunch or just a snack with coffee. From Signature brekkie to the House specialty Chicken parmi, Ipswich’s thickest milkshake to an ice cream soda, this is fairly typical café food serving all-day brekkie. It’s easy to find something to suit all tastes. Our Spring roll salad and Seafood chowder are well-priced accessible light meals. However, we’re most impressed with the service. There’s a brigade of mostly young wait staff, cheery and fresh, eagerly clearing tables and delivering meals – some of the best-trained and most conscientious service we’ve seen in some time. Inspiring!

Tip: Make sure you pop your head into the Environment Centre next door before you leave.

10A Merle Finimore Avenue, Ipswich

The Springfield Markets are held at the end of Education Drive in the Robelle Domain from 3pm-8pm on the first Friday of every month. It’s a beautiful location for this family market which offers a mix of art and craft stalls, multicultural food trucks and some local produce. Families take a picnic blanket and make the most of the evening outdoors. Entry is free and there is some free parking around the venue.

Woodlands of Marburg

The historic Woodlands of Marburg holds Sunday brunch in the café at the back of their delightful grounds. There’s a mix of small and main meals on offer on their menu, from a range of breakfast dishes (cereals, fruit and hot dishes), to snacks such as Bruschetta and Chicken wings, as well as mains such as Pork belly and Fillet steak.

We choose a Seafood platter for two for lunch, a selection of crumbed and fresh seafood including oysters and prawns, served with chips, lemon and tartare. There’s Lavazza coffee to accompany our meal or choose from the wine list.

The 1890s mansion surrounded by landscaped gardens is situated on 250 acres of rolling hills, worth a visit for its scenery alone. The property is popular for conferences, weddings and corporate events.

174 Seminary Rd., Marburg Ph: 5464 4777

Top of the Town remains our favourite haunt, with us returning to shop and eat in this precinct.

The Ipswich Art Gallery is once more in holiday mode, brimming with children eager to take part in their Lego holiday program. From the skyscrapers of Asia constructed in Lego to soldiers’ stories told through wartime quilts, there are intriguing displays around every corner.

Cactus Espresso

An early weekend breakfast at Cactus Espresso shows us a different city vibe. Owned by Rachel Nolan MP, there’s a fostering of community spirit through the venue, with groups, art openings, live music and charity events regular occurrences. Located in the old Adam’s Cake Shop, we join groups of cyclists who frequent the café due to its excellent Abrisca coffee, parking room for bikes, large dining tables fronting the sidewalk, and cut price coffees before 9am for cyclists.

Breakfast holds a good range of dishes using of free-range, locally sourced produce, from fruit and muesli to burgers, salads and freshly-squeezed juices. Our meals are delicious: a Corn fritter ‘sandwich’ filled with smoked bacon, house relish, fresh tomato and cress, and Thyme-roasted mushrooms with caramelised onions and feta on sourdough – simple food, tasty and really well done, both well priced at $14 and brought to our table by the chef, Nate, a nice touch. Nate’s classic biscuits and cakes fill the cabinet, products of a catering business he also runs. We purchase jars of tomato relish and lemon curd to take home. Yum!

173 – 175 Brisbane St., Ipswich Ph: 3282 8299

Tighty Whities

Though we dare not ask what the name means, we’re rather surprised to see that Heisenberg Haus (Ipswich) has a little popup coffee venue operating from the function room through a huge window onto the street. They serve the much-loved Toby’s Estate Coffee, CocoWhip and food to go on weekdays from 6.30am until 1pm.With tea and coffee costing $3 – $4, a sandwich $4 and a roll $4.50, it’s a cheap lunch served with a smile!

Pumpyard Brewery

We revisit one of our favourite venues in Ipswich, the Pumpyard Brewery, sitting mid construction to enjoy a quick one before launching out to dinner. News is that the revamped Pumpyard, complete with a more formal restaurant and function room plus a large deck overlooking the adjoining park will be opening on May 13, 2017. In 1901 the original buildings were to be opened by Queen Victoria, the event marred by her death two weeks prior! Rumour has it that we may have a Vice regal to do the honours opening the renovation in 2017. What a bonus this revitalised venue will be to Ipswich!

Papa’s Sushi & Bar

It may seem unusual to eat sushi for dinner, but the very quirky Papa’s Sushi & Bar is no ordinary sushi bar. Tucked around the corner of Ellenborough Street beside Rafter & Rose (visited last time) this graffiti art-filled café should not be missed. If Etsu was morphed into a casual BYO sushi diner, this could be it! Opened late in 2015, Papa’s is a very popular addition to the Ipswich dining scene, and their sushi is excellent.

The menu is wide-ranging Japanese casual food, from Karaage, Tempura, Udon noodles and Teriyaki chicken, lunch bento boxes to all kinds of sushi – Aburi, Sashimi, Nagiri or Ship, or the house signature Special rolls. Our choices are lusciously fresh: the White Warrior (a stunning roll of raw scallops, lobster salad and cucumber topped with spicy mayo and roe, $17.80), Chirashi Don (a great value meal of assorted fish and condiments served on a bed of rice, $14.80) and Yakitori (three succulent teriyaki chicken skewers with house-made sauce, $9.80). Food is made to order and the wait staff are literally running to deliver our meals. For us, Papa’s is Japanese heaven! We’ll be back on our next visit for a large sashimi!

2/17 Ellenborough St Ipswich Ph: 07 3143 2633

Jamie’s Ministry of Food

On our way back to the car, we notice that Jamie’s Ministry of Food kitchen is in full swing. The class has finished, and the participants are eating the food they have made. They’re taking part in “a hands-on 7-week cooking course covering the basics to enable participants to make better food choices and ultimately live a healthier life. The course provides basic food education and a little bit of mentoring on how to shop, how to save money and how to make beautiful, tasty, quick meals for yourself and the family.” With prices ranging from $70 – $140 for the seven 90 minute sessions, it’s a fabulous service. d’Arcy Doyle Place, 116 Brisbane St Ipswich Ph: 07 3281 0340

Fourthchild

If there’s one restaurant which brings Ipswich’s heritage to life, it’s Fourthchild. The imposing 1879 building, which once housed the Commonwealth Bank, has been beautifully restored, including its historic rustic brick walls and pressed metal skylight (which gave the venue light in pre-electricity days). Now, huge bifolds open to the street and the magnificent wall-long painting by local artist Brett Sparke places the venue firmly in the modern era.

Owned by the Williams family, Chef Christine manages a team of seven in the kitchen including their daughter Jessie, while husband Ross takes care of front of house. Having been in hospitality all their lives, the couple run a tight operation. Service is very professional and the restaurant is spotlessly clean, with fresh flowers on every table. Details count in the food as well, the kitchen sourcing all local produce from Lockyer Valley farmers, making everything in house including the two well-stocked cabinets full of delicious cakes and slices, pulled pork and mushroom pies, quiches and lasagne.

Our Slow-cooked Rangeland sticky beef ribs with hand-cut chips and slaw are impressively moreish, as is their version of the Hinterland Duck à l’orange, a classic rendition served with a honey and pumpkin pudding. Sure, there are sides, but the mains are generous enough to feed the hungriest diner – a delicious meal ‘of generous proportions’, as Alexander McCall Smith might say. Still, we manage a Rosewater brulée, which hits the sweet spot for dessert.

Open 7 days for breakfast and lunch (there’s plenty of choice under $20, excellent for a business lunch), with dinner from Tuesday to Saturday, Fourthchild is also open late when other places close early. Live music, cut price cocktails and an impressive house wine entices us to stay. There’s even a function room upstairs! Funky, with the consistent quality of a family-owned business, Fourthchild really is impressive.

6/126 Brisbane Rd, Ipswich Ph: 07 3281 9934

A Steam Train Journey

The weekend provides a rare opportunity to relive Queensland’s first rail journey to the historic Grandchester Station travelling on one of Queensland’s steam trains, a nostalgic journey which brings steam buffs from afar. The engine dates from 1943, but many of the rail carriages are far older, one dating to 1912.

There’s something special about the journey that brings out sightseers. Boom gates down, we cross through the town, people crowding along the track to watch, cameras in hand. We travel through country towns, parents and children waving from weatherboard verandas as we pass, arriving at last in Grandchester Station, the oldest surviving rail station in Queensland, built in 1865 to carry timber by rail from the sawmill at Bigge’s Camp.

The Workshops Rail Museum in Ipswich is located at Australia’s oldest railway workshops still in operation. The 150-year-old workshop offers an interactive experience for visitors with hands on exhibits and huge steam locomotives, a ‘must do’ family experience…so why not stay a while and explore Ipswich while you are here.

The Workshops Rail Museum, North St., North Ipswich

Enjoyed reading about Ipswich? Find out more about our last trip to Ipswich here.

We also visited Springfield. Read about it here.

NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast visited Ipswich as guests of the City of Ipswich.

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