The Chameleon. Lurking in the urban jungle, undetected, unknown, blending into the ever changing landscape, sampling everything from fine dining to reviewing take away joints, this lizard loves food possibly a little bit too much.


Overall score: 71/100


As often is the case from time to time, the Chameleon is invited to work functions and shindigs to help celebrate milestones, events, farewells, etc. etc. On two such occasions in recent times, the venue has been the Federal Hotel/Motel, an upmarket pub with a busy Dan Murphy's liquor outlet attached adjacent on busy James Street in Toowoomba. What this often means at the Federal is that a). parking is a nightmare and b). the actual hotel bistro is overlooked by many, as the main reason to visit is to buy cheap grog.The Chameleon did not have high expectations.

The Federal Hotel must have received an update not long ago as the outside of the building is fresh and new, not like a traditional pub at all, but a high class establishment, almost like a modern chic building that wouldn't be out of place housing architects or perhaps a lawyer or two. As you walk up the front steps, the place looks very inviting, almost cosy in fact, you can tell the designer spent some time getting the light ambiance just right. As the Chameleon's group sat down, it was obvious this was no country pub that was going to serve up the usual bland steak or overly deep fried chicken schnitzel. The tables were neat, presentation was passable and at no time did we feel that our space was invaded, even though there were two other groups also present in the same dining area. There were a few casual bar customers, but getting pre-dinner drinks was a breeze at the Federal, both time we attended. 

The Chameleon took a quick stroll just to see what this place had to offer and was pleasantly surprised to see a very well laid out hotel with small intimate areas, a separate pokies area, a live entertainment area and another small bar section, all very neatly presented, all with a few groups making good use of the beers and other fine beverages that were on offer. 

The Chameleon initially had reservations with visiting this place; it was the fact that James Street is the road that cattle trucks carrying cattle (duh) use to get the poor buggers from the west down to Brissie. As such, the distinct odor that often accompanies these trucks could penetrate into the bistro, but, thankfully, the Chameleon is happy to report that this was an absolute non issue. Secondly, the presence of Dan Murphy's right outside the door may have been a source of annoyance, but again, the design of the Federal meant that we could have been 100 miles away from the busy traffic, it was not noticeable at all.

On both occasions, the Chameleon had steak, although the menu had numerous yummy sounding options, above the level of typical pub grub. The fact that you have to line up to order was a little off putting, and there was a line up both times, but then he had to remind himself that after all, this was a pub bistro, a very good one at that. The food that was presented both times was excellent. 

There was one slight hesitation when the Chameleon tried to pour the delicious mushroom sauce onto his steak. The texture was horrendous. "Gluggy" is the only way to describe it; this was a real shame as the sauce itself was quite tasty, but surely getting a nice consistency into a sauce is not rocket science. The Chameleon has had beautiful mushroom sauce in the past and, apart from actual mushrooms, the sauce should be of even consistency, smooth and generally 'not gluggy'. 

The steak, ordered medium-rare of course, was divine. The sides were as they should be, but what stood out the most in both of the Chameleon's meals on both occasions was that nothing of real interest actually stood out. Yes, the steak was masterfully manufactured, it came to the table medium-rare and the Chameleon really did appreciate this, as often this is hard to achieve for many a restaurant. Apart from this though, there was no special edge to the sauces, no layers of interesting or intense flavours in the sides, no little garnish that made you contemplate your meal just for that little bit longer. So it was a great steak, served in typical pub style fashion. As the Chameleon stated before, he did not have high expectations and this was confirmed. None-the-less, many many brownie points for the steak. The Chameleon's fellow dinners also commented on the deliciousness of their meals, but there was no 'this is the best XXXXX I have ever eaten' comments.

The Federal Hotel/Motel may conjure up images of an old pub and the Dan Murphy's may turn away a few potential customers, but the Chameleon left on both evenings very content, appreciating a restaurant that can actually cook a steak as it was ordered. Well done Federal. Now let's see if you can add some interesting edge to your meals that will make you stand out from the dozen or so other quality pubs on offer in Toowoomba. 71/100

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