Longreach is a long way from anywhere. It’s in Central Queensland, about 700kms from the coast. It has a beautiful railway station that is well preserved, and its main street has several old styled hotels –
It’s sheep country, and cattle country, and kangaroo country.
As I write this, there’s a plague of roos because of drought. The roos cause havoc on the roads, where because of their unpredictable movement and swiftness, they’re often hit by cars and trucks. Driving to Longreach from Charleville, in a one kilometer stretch of highway I counted over 100 dead roos in various stages of roadkill decomposition.
They’re magnificent creatures, especially when they’re on the move, however they make a mess of your car if you hit one.
If you want to eat out in Longreach, and you don’t want to eat in a pub or motel, there are three options – there’s Indian, there’s Chinese (The Happy Valley Chinese Restaurant) and there’s the Eagle’s Nest Bar & Grill.
This is probably an appropriate time to talk about Longreach street names. For a place that is shy on bird species, other than emus (if emus are birds, that is), the majority of the street names are bird names.
There’s Parrot St, Galah St, Pelican St, Swan St, Eagle St, Duck St, Cockatoo St, Crow St, Cassowary St, Kite St, Canary St, Pigeon St, Quail St, Plover St, Brolga St, Robin St, etc…
The Eagle’s Nest Bar & Grill is in Eagle Street, and it’s run by John Hawke.
On the last Sunday night of the year, with the temperature at 7pm still sitting at over 42 degrees Celcius, most of the hungry well-heeled folk of Longreach head to John Hawke’s establishment.
Outside the Bar & Grill are two small chalkboards. One states the day’s cricket score, noting that Australia is “chashing 231 to win.” Yes, that’s the spelling. It’s not a typo. Chashing.
Given that the day’s match has been decided, at the bottom of the board it has 4-0, meaning that we’ve now won four games in the Ashes series, to England’s nil.
The other chalkboard states that beer is more than just a breakfast drink.
This is relevant because the Eagle’s Nest Bar & Grill has a vast selection of beers from all over the world – four from Holland alone.
As you might gather, the Eagle Bar & Grill in Longreach is a flash joint.
I foolishly wandered in not having made a reservation. Who makes a reservation in Longreach on a Sunday night in the middle of summer when every sensible person has hightailed it to the coast, and the beach?
John Hawke ummed and ahhed, looked at his reservation book, and suggested that my wife and I sit at the bar, place our order, and he would see if he could find us a table.
As I sat at the bar I noticed a couple of things: on the shelves holding the liquor, I counted seven different types of Bundaberg Rum. SEVEN. I thought Bundaberg Rum only came in one variety – but no, there was a Reserve, there was a Special Reserve, there was a 10 year old Bundy, there was a red label, there was a black label, etc.
I was shocked. Bundy Rum is a rough-as-guts blue collar drink. Seven different types? It seemed to be a desecration of its working man roots.
I also noticed the air-conditioning units on the ceilings – particular to this part of the world. Hulking lumbering industrial strength jobs that could have cooled an army in the desert.
John Hawke finally found a table for us, but it was out on the footpath. In other words, away from those huge air-con units. That was okay, the temperature had dropped to a comfortable 40C.
I ordered the Surf & Turn – Rib Eye fillet (500gms) and garlic prawns. Cost – $42. Chips came free, but vegetables were $5 extra. I also ordered a German beer. Cost – $10. Sydney prices.
John Hawke takes his meat seriously. He later told me that he sources his meat from the best producer – it’s never frozen, he ages it in his own facility, and his wife hand prepares every cut of steak. And I have to say, it tastes like it. As good a steak as I’ve had anywhere.
The prawns were also yummy. Fresh, and cooked beautifully.
I could understand why the place was packed. I noticed that the locals had dressed up for Sunday night dinner. The women wore jewellery, the men wore boots. Most tables had three generations – grandfather and/or grandmother, mum and dad, and kids.
Everyone looked happy. Probably because they weren’t eating kangaroo. John Hawke refuses to put kangaroo on the menu. The locals don’t like eating a pest.
Given that it was the festive season, each table had a Christmas decoration attached to an empty bottle of, yes, Bundaberg Rum. It was a snowman, made out of beer bottle tops.
The meal, even though it was exxy, was delicious, and as I walked to the car I noticed that the top of the town water tower was festooned with a Christmas star.
Longreach, a long way from anywhere, has style…