Most Australian country pubs seem to have a claim to fame. The Farmers’ Arms Tavern at Cabarlah, a tiny hamlet around 20 kilometres north of Toowoomba, has three.
It’s famed as the longest continually-licensed pub in Queensland (since 1863 the sign out front proclaims); and as the venue of the first ever international darts match played via satellite – a nail-biting bout which took place in 1979 between the Farmers’ Arm team, The Stump (representing Australia), and the White Swans of Greater Yarmouth, England.
Alas, the Pommies won the day and the home-made trophy was, according to another sign, “flewn” to England by British Airways.
This brings me to claim-to-fame number three – the Farmers’ Arms Mixed Grill. I must qualify that this is not a claim made by the pub itself as the Mixed Grill sits quite innocuously in seventh place on the menu between the surf ’n’ turf and bangers and mash. Rather, it is lore told by locals to any visitor planning a trip to the Farmers’ Arms.
“You need to have a go at the mixed grill,” our Toowoomba friends we are visiting say. “We don’t know anyone who’s made it through to the end….”
While I’m generally up for a challenge, eating my way through a T-bone steak, pork chop, thick English sausage, bacon, chips, fried egg, grilled tomato, gravy AND veggies and salad from the buffet would more than stretch my limits.
My partner however is a lad with a hearty appetite and boasts that he’s willing to have a go before we even arrive and peruse the rest of the menu. (I decide on the surf ’n’ turf as there’s something quintessentially Australian about a steak topped with garlic prawns).
The Farmers’ Arms is on the New England Highway, about 20 minutes’ drive north of Toowoomba. The best plan is to leave from Toowoomba in the morning and make a few stops along the way to potter in the nurseries, old wares and craft stores that flank the highway. If you plan your trip for the last Sunday of the month, the Cabarlah showgrounds next door to the pub also hosts a farmers’ market.
The Farmers’ Arms is best described as cosy and comfy. An open fireplace keeps cold winter days at bay and the slightly scuffed wooden tables testify to many companionable meals and chinwags. A kids’ corner keeps the littlies busy and a couple of pool tables and a darts board (although perhaps not the one from the famous 1979 match) entertain the biggies.
The Sunday crowd is a mixture of local families, day-trippers and bikers out for a weekend ride. We spend a lovely relaxed afternoon over a beer, a chat and a game of pool before heading back to Brisbane.
So did my partner conquer the Mixed Grill Challenge? He boasts success as he pushes his plate away with a groan. I however observe there seems to be a few morsels remaining (a grilled tomato, some garnish and the not-quite-stripped-to-the-bone T-bone).
What do you think? Does the challenge still stand?