A city escape with country charm was what we were after when we ventured out for a romantic short break to Toowoomba. Situated on the crest of the Great Dividing Range, ‘The Garden City’ lived up to its name with endless views across the valleys and foliage from burnt orange to crimson adorning the parks, giving way to the ever changing displays of autumn colour.
Toowoomba’s history has been preserved in its beautiful buildings which adorn the tree-lined streets. Stainedglass windows, solid timber doors and fresh flowers greet you as you step inside Vacy Hall. A historic home just a stone’s throw from Toowoomba’s CBD, this grand jewel is set off by manicured gardens and was our retreat for the weekend. Behind door number one, we found a huge, canopied fourposter bed and all I wanted to do was climb up and sink into the luxurious softness it promised. From there I could survey our lavish room, complete with fireplace, large leather sofa and head-height French windows which open out onto the verandah surrounding the house.
Awakening on a cool autumn morning the only thought compelling enough to tear me away from the warmth and comfort of our king-size bed was the temptation of a soak in the free-standing claw foot bathtub. Breakfast followed, set up on a private corner of the verandah outside our room. We selected home made porridge and the full bacon and eggs – what a way to start the day.
COUPLES WILL LOVE
Letting their inner chef out at The Source Kitchen cooking school… We donned our aprons, sat down at the wide kitchen bench and sipped our fresh coffees as Vicky went through our menu. Handmade chocolates, flourless chocolate almond hazelnut cake and raw cacao smoothies – just a few of the healthy treats we could make and eat! We were like kids let loose in a chocolate shop with access to all the toppings – we tried out our own combinations to make healthy chocolates (two words you don’t often hear in the same sentence). We selected dark chocolate, coconut oil, honey and goji berries all melted into heart-shaped moulds. I’ll be honest, not all of them made it home. The Source Kitchen offer a range of culinary temptations to try your hand at.
The city’s reputation as The Garden City is highlighted by its many stunning parks and gardens, all worthy of a relaxed picnic. Or if DIY is not your style, try one of the many quaint tea rooms or old pubs for a well-deserved wine o’clock. Gallery hopping and antique shopping are popular local pastimes so if you love to browse you’re sure to turn up some little treasures to take home.
Antique hunting, in my case, involves gathering anything beautiful, reasonably priced and character packed. I favour delicate fine-bone china tea cups and old glass milk bottles. When I was standing before one such china cabinet I overheard a local recalling her disappointment at not being able to secure a restaurant booking for that night, to which the friend replied, “Ah, but you see, people think Toowoomba is the new Melbourne.” Maybe, maybe not quite yet!
A weekend break is never complete without a romantic dinner. Behind its unassuming facade on Margaret Street, lies Veraison restaurant. Andrew, the sommelier and one of the co-owners, welcomed us into this warm and intimate venue. Seated across from the abundant wine cellar, Andrew talked us through the five-course degustation menu and the exquisitely-chosen wines on offer. We started with a crisp glass of Italian prosecco, teamed beautifully with smoked duck breast, beetroot and fig conserve, and orange salad. Each dish was eclipsed by the next. For the third year in a row, Veraison has received the honour of a Chefs Hat awarded by the Australian Good Food Guide. Chef Alex Weston’s seasonal degustation menu is only available on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
We bade Toowoomba farewell and drifted along the country roads through the small town of Crows Nest to arrive at our afternoon destination. Bunnyconnellen is an idyllic little spot – a red barn door leads to a rustic-style cellar and restaurant. Janie invited us in and the wine tasting began, while Peter, the chef and other half of this husband and wife team, split his time between chatting to guests and whipping up delightful, locally-sourced, three-course Sunday lunches. As we enjoyed our tasty curry (and more wine) overlooking the expansive lawn and olive grove beyond, I couldn’t help falling in love with this place. If you discover that the wine and the lazy sunshine-filled afternoon make it impossible to leave, you can stay the night in the one bedroom, self-contained cottage opposite the cellar door. Peter and Janie are great to chat to and happy to enjoy a glass of wine or two and share their stories. Bunnyconnellen winery and olive grove is only open Sundays so don’t forget to book, as this popular spot fills up fast.
Although we visited Toowoomba in Autumn, any season is the right season to discover the delights of this gorgeous south Queensland country city.
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