I FIND myself writing this piece in a trendy cafe eating my favourite smashed avo and feta on sourdough with a few poached eggs and piccolo coffee.
That sounds a bit "hipster” for a Rocky boy but I do like my coffee strong, my eggs runny and my avo smashed.
The atmosphere is great, the food is amazing and the coffee is perfect. It's not in Sydney, San Francisco, Hong Kong or London.
It's at a place I came to with my parents 40 years ago to get fish and chips, the site of the former Melbourne Fish Bar.
But it's not the Melbourne Fish Bar anymore, it's trendy Dingles Cafe and like so much of what is happening in Rockhampton, it's the emergence of a new confidence.
Rocky is being re-imagined and I love it.
This is the fourth year I've come to Rockhampton with my son for the Head State Tennis Championships and the second year with my daughter rowing at the State Regatta.
We are part of a group of 24 from Brisbane Boys College staying in hotels, eating out and enjoying our time soaking up the new sights and delights.
On Friday night, I enjoyed a seven-course degustation dinner at the Capricorn Food and Wine Festival.
It was a spectacular dinner prepared by chef Matt Golinski using local regional produce found from the Sunshine Coast to Rockhampton and Rosslyn Bay.
The food and event was world class. Even more remarkable for me, it was held in a room in the old Factory Niteclub I used to haunt back in late '80s and early nineties.
Again, Rocky re-imagined.
On Saturday night I took the parents and kids to Headricks Lane's Brewery Room for dinner and everyone was blown away.
People were so surprised to see such a beautiful example of sophisticated architecture and design capturing the beauty and warmth of the historic building.
The menu and dining options were the likes of anything you would find in any great restaurant or cafe along one of the sophisticated laneways in Melbourne or Sydney, and the food was terrific.
This was not the usual pub fare I associated with Rocky, but a new, reinvigorated dining sophistication that wowed my guests - Rocky dining re-imagined.
On Sunday night I booked the same group to a place that I remember going to as a child, but which now looks very, very different.
Walking along the new Quay St, we came upon a place where once the dated Rotunda stood, but standing there now is the new Boathouse.
It's hard to imagine how the city went for so long without a prominent riverfront restaurant being there.
Again, the food and service was fantastic and the sunset spectacular. One tennis mum said, "I feel like I'm dining at Noosa River.”
Since leaving Rocky 20 years ago, I have seen Rocky and the surrounding areas struggle and not really recover from the downturn in the '90s.
Five years ago I was becoming deeply concerned Rocky and Yeppoon were both getting into a death spiral with the lack of investment in social infrastructure.
Since then there's been the Quay St upgrade, Kershaw Gardens redevelopment, Mt Archer walking platforms and the new Boathouse - standout investments in social infrastructure - and investments that will be generational in their influence and influence others.
But before these investments, I saw the first green shoots of Rocky re-imagined being made by local business people.
The best example was Empire apartments.
A contrary and courageously entrepreneurial investment at the time, much like the Quay St upgrade and Boathouse later, Empire is to me the gold standard of a regional hotel for the future.
Spacious, modern apartments, run by a professional and friendly team with 24-hour concierge/front desk and some of the best views in Rocky.
So as I leave Rocky after this trip, I leave with a great sense of optimism and pride.
I am so happy to see Rockhampton re-imagined and look forward to seeing what's new in my home town next year.
Opinion Piece - The Morning Bulletin | 25 September 2018