My family first moved to Toowoomba in 1971 from the UK. In those days, the height of fine dining was the Wimpy Bar that served hamburgers and chips at the servo as you came up the range. It wasn’t until the late 1970s (maybe the early 1980s) that McDonalds came to town. I can remember my whole family dressing up for the night out which turned to disaster when I spilled my strawberry thick shake down my father’s brown vinyl coat that was at the cutting edge of Darling Downs fashion at the time. He sat outside in a mood in our HD Holden (affectionately known as ‘Bertha’) as the rest of the family savoured their cheeseburgers and chips. We would not be hurried; this was haute cuisine. We knew Toowoomba had become a truly cosmopolitan world city when the Golden Dragon opened next to Myer. Never before had our palates savoured anything like the delights of beef in black bean sauce. We had arrived. These were the heady days of 1982.

Thankfully, things have moved on since then. These days, the population has swelled to around 115,000. There are lots of bars, cafes and restaurants to suit even the most jaded palate. ASCILITE Conference goers will have a chance to sample what’s on offer during the Monday night dine around.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, as you’d expect, you can track down a decent steak at a number of pubs and restaurants. If you want to experience a pub with a country feel, you might head to the Downs Hotel. Just across the road is Grumpy’s Tavern Steak House where they serve the biggest ribs I’ve ever seen! We grow ‘em big on the Darling Downs!

Largely because of the university, there is a quite a culturally diverse population in Toowoomba and with that diversity comes a number of excellent and interesting restaurants. Sofra is a very atmospheric Turkish restaurant with a rich décor and delicious food. Some nights you can strike it lucky and catch some belly dancing as well. Just around the corner, El Attar Middle Eastern Grill serves exquisite Egyptian cuisine. Personally, I find it hard to go past a shawarma! There is a good range of Asian cuisine as well. I enjoy eating at Kajoku which serves Japanese and Korean food. It’s hard to believe you’re in Toowoomba as you pick your way through an assortment of kimchi and other delights. Junk is an Asian street food restaurant that has won the hearts and minds of locals. I always seem to succumb to eyes-bigger-than-my-belly-syndrome here. It’s something I’m working on, but progress is slow and the treatment protracted. Chinese deliciousness is the order of the day at the Garden Restaurant. This is still a favourite of my family and to us, Chinese food remains a firm favourite even though the Golden Dragon is long gone. Toowoomba has some excellent Thai restaurants such as the award-winning Thai Royal, the Thai on High Street and the Thai Cottage. A relative newcomer to the scene is Muller Bros which has a range of dining options including a rooftop bar and a Brazilian BBQ. I like to fast for 36 hours before I go.

If your tastes are situated closer to home, there are a number of restaurants serving contemporary Australian cuisine. Check out The Office which is right in the heart of town or Seasons which serves a delicious assortment of seafood yumminess or Potters which is quite new on the scene.

If you are still dubious about Toowoomba’s claims to culinary greatness, then the following should put it to rest for all time. Toowoomba is actually the birthplace of the lamington. This iconic Australian cake was invented at Toowoomba’s Harlaxton House when the Governor of Queensland, Lord Lamington, brought his entourage to Toowoomba to escape the heat, sometime between mid-December 1900 and mid-February, 1901. Better try a lamington while you’re here!

The other iconic dessert that Toowoomba is famous for is the Weis Bar! Summer is not complete without the consumption of a couple of dozen of these tasty treats. I’ve noticed that they serve them now on Qantas flights. A highlight in a generally disappointing culinary experience en route!

As you can tell, I have diligently and selflessly applied myself to the continued testing of Toowoomba’s vast assortment of restaurants to help you find the best we’ve got to ofer. There are many more than I’ve been able to talk about here.

Don’t forget to check out the details for the dine around and start planning where you’d like to eat on Monday night!