In 1895 when Banjo Paterson penned those famous swagman lyrics, traditional outback Aussie tucker consisted merely of billy tea and the odd jolly jumbuck.
But Outback Queenslander’s know that it takes more to design a delicious menu than just stealing a sheep.
The local pub may not have three chef’s hats, a michelin star or a tv personality for promotion, but when it comes to fresh ingredients, flawless flavour combinations and the perfect cooking method, we know that in Outback Queensland, our kitchens rule.
So here’s our guide to eating well in the outback:
Outback chefs are up and baking well before the sun comes up and morning rays flood the landscape. If it’s bacon and eggs plattered up on freshly baked bread, or a frothy cappuccino dusted with chocolate you desire, these bakeries have you covered:
1. Merino Bakery, Longreach
Not your average patisserie, Merino Bakery does things a little differently. Putting an outback spin on old school treats has paid off for this little bakery that could, which is now a favourite with locals and guests alike. Try a jam and cream macaroon, peach blossom or their white chocolate rocky road to sweeten up your day.
2. Yeast2West Bakery, Barcaldine
This is the bakery where one treat just isn’t enough. The cabinets at Yeast2West are jam packed with cupcakes, pies, rolls and pastries and when the food looks this good, no amount of self-discipline will help you resist a bite. We recommend the sourdough, of which there are more flavours than there are James Bond sequels – grain, pumpkin, fruit, olive…just to name a few…
3. Balamara Bakery, Winton
Balamara Bakery is situated in the main street of Winton. The meaning of Balamara comes from the aboriginal language and means “Morning Star”. The bakery is also a coffee shop and offers a range of cakes, sandwiches, assorted scrolls and soft serve icecream. Vistors swear by their bacon and egg brekkie bun accompanied by one of the best coffees around.
The outback’s your oyster when it comes to classic Aussie country-style pub meals. This list could be a road-train or two long, but we’ve cut it back to the brilliant. Try:
4. Wellshot Hotel, Ilfracombe
There aren’t many places in Australia where you can tuck into home grown beef raised on the cattle station down the road, but this is one of them. And with its wool-press bar, the Wellshot Hotel is also one of the most iconic pubs in the outback.
5. Australian Hotel, Boulia
Talk about a lone wolf – the Australian Hotel is the only pub in Boulia, and the only pub for 300 kilometres. And with little alternative for a pub dinner, it’s a good thing the grub here is so damn good. Steak your claim on the Trucker’s T-Bone, a piece of meat that packs a punch.
6. Barcoo Hotel, Blackall
Make the cosy shaded beer garden round the back of this outback watering hole your haunt of choice on a steamy day in Blackall. And in case that’s not enough, it’s pink. Need we say more?
7. Hotel Corones, Charleville
The historic Hotel Corones is hard to miss in the centre of Charleville. Step off the street inside to the bar and you’ll find mosaic floors, pastel walls and stain glass windows – plus cold beer. If you’re curious what lays behind the rest of the grand lady’s walls, take a tour and hear the tales of the hotels history from it’s beginning in 1929.
8. Julia Creek Hotel, Julia Creek
At the Julia Creek Hotel the beers are cold and the food is hot, hot, hot, so it’s no wonder the place has come to be affectionately known as ‘Top Pub.’ A hearty chicken parmi with veges, curly fries and plenty of country hospitality on the side is our pick of the menu.
9. North Gregory Hotel, Winton
This grand old lady does fine dining oh so well. With locally reared meats slow-cooked over 100 year old gidgee wood on a fire pit, seafood flown in from the Gulf of Carpentaria within hours of the catch, and fruit and vegetables grown on site, this is some of the best produce you’ll find in the outback. Take a seat in the same bar where Waltzing Matilda was first sung and soak up the relaxed atmosphere.
10. Western Star Hotel, Windorah
At the Western Star you’re made to feel like family, a process helped along by the ‘no phones’ rule that encourages pub yarns to be spun for hours. The meals make Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson look small and for $22 the Calamari, Prawn Cutlets or Curried Sausages are a steal.
11. Birdsville Hotel, Birdsville
When the tummies are a rumbling, the good folk at the Birdsville Hotel get cooking, and the locals eat in the Green Lizard room, which takes its name from an old Outback tale. The story goes that when Birdsville flooded back in the day, the pub ran out of beer and Green Lizard cocktails were the only beverage that could be concocted using the remaining ingredients. The drinks became so popular that they gained their own fan club – the Green Lizard League!
Contrary to popular opinion, it’s more than just sausage rolls and pub grub that exist in Outback Queensland, and this list of bistros dish up everything in between.
12. McGinness Restaurant at the QANTAS Founder’s Museum, Longreach
This award-winning aviation inspired menu puts usual plane food to shame. For those taking off early, the McGinness bacon and eggs breakfast can’t be missed, with the option to request hash browns and sausages if you’re looking to add a little excess baggage. They also do a $12 roast lunch buffet on a Sunday which draws a crowd, so get in early.
13. Hotel Cunnamulla Restuarant
Locals and tourists quench their thirst and appetite at Hotel Cunnamulla Restaurant & Accommodation on Jane Street, as they watch the setting sun over the Warrego River while sipping an icy cold beer. One of the most iconic Outback Queensland towns, spend the day fossicking for opals before returning to Cunnamulla for a meal and a night’s stay at the ‘biggest little pub in the Outback.’ After recent renovations, the restaurant and rooms provide comfortable, light and airy spaces to relax while perusing a daily menu boasting country-style cooking as seen in dishes like deep-dish chicken, saffron and leek pie with mash. For dinner, try hearty, thick-cut stockyard rib fillet, potato, garden greens and Italian vegetables; or macadamia crusted lamb rack, white bean puree and port wine jus.
14. Harry’s Restaurant, Longreach
This is the place to find fresh wild Barramundi, British-bred beef from the Darling Downs region of Queensland, and croc rissoles if you’re game. If you’re a city slicker looking for a meal to match a masterchef appetite, Harry’s serves up dishes to rival the best of Channel Ten’s cooking show competitors.
Please note Harry’s Restaurant is closed from the 20th of December 2020 to the 27th of January 2021
15. Smithy’s Outback Dinner and Show, Longreach
You can’t fake country hospitality and at Smithy’s Outback Dinner and Show you get the real deal. Dine under the stars beside the Coolibah-lined river as you munch on sunset nibbles and camp oven meals. Enjoy your bush tucker to the soundtrack of live country music and bush poetry performances with this Longreach tour.
Looking for more classic Outback meals? Check out this blog we penned earlier.
Have you been to the outback? What was your favourite meal?