Australia's biggest pub is leaping to international fame as the opening story in a new NatGeo Adventure series called Mega Food. The National Geographic network has done a string of programs on mega buildings, cars, engineering projects etc and now it is the turn of food.
But the Eatons Hill Hotel, north of Brisbane, is more than just a beer barn that breaks records for the amount of food it serves. It was named the best hotel in Australia last year by the Australian Hotels Association and won another national award for best beer garden, as well as taking off seven awards in the Queensland hotels competition.
The hotel is owned by the Comiskey family, who did not start off to build the biggest hotel in Australia; like Topsy it just grew.
"My brother and my mum and dad, we bought the block of land and we didn't know what to do with it but we knew we wanted a hotel," Rob Comiskey said. "We didn't necessarily want to build the biggest hotel in Australia, we just wanted to do something different.
"We took about 18 months to design it, travelling all around Australia. If we heard about a hotel that had won heaps of awards and was quite cool and different then we would fly over and have a look.
"As we all came up with different areas we wanted, the hotel kept getting bigger and bigger."
The end result is a resort-style hotel that can easily entertain 7000 people in venues that include a rooftop beer garden, nine bars, two restaurants and a split-level entertainment complex with a theatre.
The decision to provide live entertainment was one reason for the jump in size of the hotel.
"We saw a hole in the market and we have different areas where we can do different styles of music," Comiskey said. "We have had Prince, Marilyn Manson and Good Charlotte and we go all the way through to having a soloist in the beer garden.
"Then we do some of the biggest DJs in the world. We have had country music, heavy metal - we don't care as long as it is good music."
But the family also recognised that as well as drinks and entertainment, they had to have good food, which is what brought them to the attention of the makers of Mega Food.
"Any good hotel always has a great restaurant. Our head chef Angelo Velante is trained by Gordon Ramsay and he is second to none. We have been booked out on Friday and Saturday nights since we opened 20 months ago and sometimes you have to book three weeks in advance to get in."
There are two kitchens in the hotel with about $1 million in kitchen equipment spread between them. In one week, one tonne of beer battered chips is fried, 90kg of fish is filleted and crumbed, 80kg of squid sliced, 100kg of tomatoes chopped, 100kg of lamb shanks braised and 900 bread rolls baked.
In some ways, the fact they go to the trouble of making their own bread is the most impressive fact: it is so much easier to have it delivered.
"You are never going to become known for your food if you buy things in," Comiskey protested. "We do a lot of training and local sourcing of product. Our meat comes from different places depending on the cut. Some beasts will produce a really good fillet and some will produce a really good T-bone so you have to get them from different regions.
"We are very hands-on and we are very passionate about it."
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