Emeraude is the rural restaurant you have to visit
If you google the tiny town of Hampton, about a two-hour drive west of Brisbane, it's not the region's rolling green hills or lush farming area that pops up, but a picture of casual cafe-cum-restaurant Emeraude.
And it's because owner, restaurateur and chef Amanda Hinds has been putting this sleepy picturesque destination on the map with her standout cuisine, old-fashioned hospitality and pure passion for this little patch of the Darling Downs.
Since opening 18 months ago, Emeraude has become "the spot" for the weary traveller, the road tripper and the holiday maker, adored for its simple, unpretentious menu that under promises and over delivers.
You see, there's a purity to Hinds's food.
Having spent 13 years running Bundaberg's popular bistro Indulge, before making the tree change to Hampton, the chef understands the power of using the best regional produce and letting it do the talking.
That's why no two menus from day to day will ever be the same at Emeraude, as she looks to hero the best of local seasonal ingredients, but also push them in exciting new ways.
On our Saturday lunchtime visit, charismatic staff greet us with alacrity, offering us the choice of a table inside against the dramatic floral wallpaper, out in the relaxed, sun-drenched courtyard or along the cosy front veranda.
The day's culinary offering is a long and varied affair running from muscat and chicken liver pate to burgers, fish and chips and a Malaccan beef cheek curry.
Have you visited Emeraude yet?
This poll ended on 14 June 2019.
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
It may sound simple, but it's the flavours which set this humble fare apart.
Take one of their two pizzas, for instance. Topped with potato, rosemary and manuka honey pork sausages from local Toowoomba butcher Toni's Super Meats, on a focaccia-like base ($22 small/$29 large), it draws gasps from our table as the perfect blend of homely comfort and restaurant finesse.
Also eliciting groans of pleasure is the Vietnamese chicken fritters and bountiful Asian herb salad ($33) that perfectly harmonises sweet, salty, sour and bitter in the coconut and lime dressing to ensure the nest of mint, Thai basil, sprouts, cherry tomatoes, peanuts and crispy shallots is clean yet punchy.
And after our foodie sojourn through Italy and Vietnam, we head to the Middle East with the cauliflower fritters ($22). The bulbous heads of cauliflower have been battered and deep-fried until golden, their crisp light shell and soft interior crowned with zesty dukkah atop splashes of smoked garlic yoghurt, hummus and roasted beetroot puree. Tangles of pickles and a squeeze of lime cut through the richness of the dish, including deeply tanned pumpkin falafels rolled in sesame seeds. Delicious.
Be warned though, portion sizes are immense and you may need to be wheel barrowed out of there.
The drinks list offers a simple but rounded selection of well-priced wines by the glass, popular beers, and an interesting mix of cocktails, many employeeing local ingredients such as our fizzy and not too sweet rosella spritzer with lime, mint, gin and a rosella cordial made using Hampton-grown fruit.
Emeraude is also open for breakfast from Friday-Sunday, and the brioche doughnuts with rhubarb and custard are an absolute must. As are the cheddar, spinach and pea waffles topped with more of that manuka sausage.
But whether you try brekky, lunch or dinner there, just go. You won't regret it.
- Address: 8616 New England Hwy, Hampton
- Phone: 4697 9008
- Web emeraude.com.au
- Open: Thurs 11am-3pm, Fri-Sat 8am-late, Sun 8am-4pm
- Food 9
- Service 9
- Ambience 7.5
- Value 8
- OVERALL SCORE 8.5