A weekend in Ipswich
There are lots of attractions that draw us to Ipswich. While many visit the city to enjoy rail or car racing events, our natural inclination is to visit the Top of the Town area to shop at specialty stores, stopping for coffee and a meal along the way.
Fringed with green, it’s as though the heritage buildings draw us in to enjoy their treasures. On this visit, however, we look a little further afield, seeking out owner-operated stores and attractions on the edges of town.
The Handmade Expo Markets
Our first stop is the Handmade Expo Market, held monthly at the Ipswich Turf Club, Bundamba. Filled with handmade goods, woodcraft and artisan foods, the market attracts young families and crafts people. Bernard and Lorraine Mahon, owners of Watercress Creek Olives and Limes, live on their Pine Mountain farm which their family have owned since 1862. They were dairy farmers who “just happened to buy a couple of olive trees”, they tell us.
Through diversification and specialization, they now produce olive oil, infused oils, balsamic vinegar, and fresh and frozen lime juice which they supply to restaurants and clubs in town. Bernard and Lorraine sell their products at several markets around Ipswich. Though visitors are welcome on their beautiful property, Bernard suggests that the annual olive festival, held annually in April, is a great time to visit.
We’d passed The Boulevard on our way into town on previous visits. This time we stop to have breakfast at Seed Coffee, a café that fills a nook at the front of the arcade with an eclectic mix of seating flowing down along the arcade’s shopfronts. Tamara Haworth, who has owned Seed for a year, says that it is a ‘destination café’, drawing people for its smooth rich Supreme Coffee Roasters coffee sourced from Yatala, blondies and other cakes from ‘The Cake Lady’, and their rustic all day breakfasts.
Despite working in a tiny kitchen, Tamara and her crew produce a huge range of food to order, or you can choose food to go from the front cabinet.As we eat our delicious Smashed Avo and Salmon stack, my eyes wander into Country House Gifts and Homewares, a long, meandering shop that takes up one side of the arcade. Country House is packed with an eclectic range of giftware of every possible description, a small range of clothing and accessories clustered at the front of the store, some vintage furniture and décor placed throughout.
Ruth Booij (ex-Natura Design), who owns both the store and arcade, tells us that she doesn’t limit the stock in her store ‘as long as it’s beautiful’. Country Gifts is a ‘must do’ stop for collectors and shoppers seeking unique wares.
The Cottage Restaurant
The Cottage Restaurant, on the high side of Limestone Street, looks out over the city, its front veranda taking in an expansive view. This National Trust listed building, originally called Darver Cottage, was built in 1861. A school in its early years, it now houses a finer dining restaurant, owned and operated by Mark and Angela Naoum. The couple have retained the building’s ‘olde worlde’ charm and intimacy, the dining area divided into several rooms in the house, while seating on the front veranda offers city views.
A fireplace warms our dining area on a chilly evening, landscapes lit by silver candlesticks grace the walls and tables clad in linen carry reminders of dining in grander times. While Angela manages front-of-house, Mark, formerly Executive Chef of Kooroomba Vineyard, has prepared a classically-inspired menu based around seasonal local produce.
To begin, we are served freshly house-baked Turkish bread, a dish of turmeric and paprika-crusted butter providing a colourful flair as accompaniment.Our entrées of Kataifi Wrapped Tiger Prawns with crab and creamed leeks, compressed honeydew and cucumber salad and a tangy cube of Pimms jelly, and Seared Scallops with mushroom and Swiss chard tarte tatin, and a basil and parsley fluid gel are an interesting modern touch to classic dishes.
For mains, the Peking-inspired duck with pan-fried mandarin pancakes and wok tossed Asian greens is exceptionally tasty. Two crisp pieces of swirly crackling top this classically inspired intriguing dish. It joins Pepperberry crusted kangaroo with its intense bushfood flavours of lemon myrtle polenta, cauliflower brûlée and rosella compote as one of the most accomplished dishes on this fine dining table.
Though it’s difficult to choose dessert, Pineapple chiffon with pineapple also served braised, as gelle and fluid gel, is light and tasty to top off such a delicious meal!
In April 2017, the Pumpyard expanded their dining options with the opening of their new conference centre (the Lord Lamington Room that can cater for up to 200 for cocktails and 120 for sit down dinner) and à la carte finer dining restaurant Dovetails, (named in honour of the many carpenters who trained at this former TAFE complex).
The expansion is the jewel in the Pumpyard’s crown. “Ipswich has been screaming out for a place like this,” says Nathalia Sousa, the Day Manager.
Maintaining a sense of heritage with its panelled timber walls and simple elegant furnishings and lighting, the large banquet table shows off dovetail joints on its timber top; the skill after which the restaurant was named. Look further and you’ll see more attributions in the large dining room adjoining the marble bar. Many diners will choose to dine on the expansive deck instead. Shaded by 100-year-old Poinciana trees, the deck extends out from the building to overlook the park alongside. The overall masculinity of the venue and styling is softened in Dovetails with a fine touch.
The beautifully balanced cutlery and floral-fringed wine and food menus provide femininity. The carefully curated à la carte menus are well suited to the dining public, with the fusion of well-chosen dishes for lunch and dinner influenced by classic French and modern Australian cuisine. In a short wine list of just a dozen wines, almost all are available by the glass, but of course there’s also 4 Hearts beer, one of the venue’s star attractions.
With breakfasts ranging from gluten-free crumpets with local honey ($8), to French toast with caramelised banana, or Eggs Bene with chard, smoked salmon and lemon hollandaise ($21.50), breakfast on the deck has real appeal – the perfect place to hold a business meeting or to begin an indulgent weekend. We dine on a weekend at lunch, enjoying the peaceful ambience and polished service. Shared entrées of Herb-crusted kangaroo carpaccio and Queensland scallops with cauli purée, black pudding crumb, and lemon hollandaise are delicious, light meals.
We share the more substantial main: Wagyu beef cheeks braised in Coal miners’ stout with potato gnocchi and mushroom ragu ($26), leaving room for a stunning Beeramisu – sponge fingers soaked in Coal miners’ stout with coffee and creamy mascarpone.
Somehow, as we sit on the veranda, we’re imbued with a sense of place and the accumulated history of this venue. With a glass of pale ale and Gippsland’s Bass River Pinot Noir on hand, we blissfully spend a few hours in conversation and laughter, shaded by ancient trees like so many who’ve gone before.
We marvel at the foresight and hard work necessary to restore this venue rather than demolishing it, as so many others may have done. What a bonus this revitalised complex is to Ipswich! It’s a ‘must visit’ attraction.