Blackjacks, Armidale’s Newest HOTSPOT – known and recognised for passionately celebrating great tasting, high quality food.
Who or what is Blackjacks?
Blackjacks had a vision of creating a place where every day provided the opportunity to enjoy great local product with friends in an environment that was productive, comforting, yet at the same time stimulating – a place to meet and catch up, something that was different. The offerings were to be healthy, appealing to the senses, in some cases a little bit edgy, and fun. We see some of our more mature customers having a quiet giggle at some of the names of the burgers. (We were all young once.)
We are seriously protective of the quality of our coffee. Our green beans are imported from Brazil, roasted in Sydney in a boutique roaster that services only 30 cafés Australia-wide. These beans are special!
Green coffee beans have a shelf life of 4 – 6 months, after roasting a maximum of two weeks if stored correctly, they must be used on the day the bags are open, and the shot shall be extracted within 60 seconds of the grind. For consistency of coffee we use a full 22 gram basket and generally a 26 second extraction to capture the sweetness of the volatile oils and reduce the bitterness associated with the organic acids that are developed with a long extraction.
The takeaway window from 6am has been really popular – Harrison reckons if you don’t get your coffee within five minutes of ordering, the next one is on him.
Tell us about your menu …
What better way to start the day than with a Long Black and a Dawn Horn? Blackjacks provide quality country breakfasts, with sauces made on site fresh every day. Chef Danny excels with the most appealing soft poached eggs and béarnaise sauce (made fresh every morning) along side Scottie’s shop cured rolled bacon, Toulouse sausage, crisp polenta herbed ricotta or the good old fashioned bubble and squeak and is available to 2pm. Based on the traditional Aussie bacon and egg roll, we have raised the bar with the addition of Swiss cheese, avocado, rocket, red onion, homemade tomato relish roast garlic aioli all on a toasted Brioche bun.
Now what about the burgers?
A combination of adapting the best burgers that were experienced during our research tours and several new burgers to reflect our prime local produce. The steaks used are prime New England grass fed beef, along with the ground burger mince, all sourced through local butcher Scottie from the Meating Place. Pig Dog, Lamb Fetish, Thai Beef, Bun Laden and Blackjacks Primal, all with individual accompaniments – add some chips and a beverage, and there is meal to satisfy the heartiest of eaters. All burgers may be deconstructed and presented on plate for those who like the fillings without the bread. The burgers are available from 11am.
Blackjacks appears to be fanatical about their chips – what is the story behind them – are they local?
We are building a reputation as the producers of the best potato chip available. Specially selected graded local Sebago “red dirt” spuds from the Dorrigo Plateau dug and delivered twice weekly, then meticulously prepared on site to ensure freshness, flavour and crispness. Peeled, chipped, washed, blanched in water, cooled and dried, blanched in an eco cotton seed oil at 130 °C, cooled ready for final cooking at 190°C, prior to delivering crisp, golden chips to the table. Sprinkled with a little salt and accompanied by aioli or sweet chilli dipping sauce, they are sensational. We are currently processing more than 180 kg of chip potatoes every week.
The breads are amazing. Do you really bake everything on site, and why is bread so special?
Bread is a delicious natural food. The carbohydrate in bread is a key natural element in a healthy human diet, with four natural ingredients with no artificial additives. Bread has always been a centre of the community. When we talk about good bread, we refer to bread that is enjoyed and appreciated by our friends, community and customers. Our bakers, Dave and Allister, produce all of the burger rolls plus a range of breads and pastries available from 6am weekdays, including magnificent French croissants, danishes, cup cakes along with sourdough, white, rye and fruit loaves. To accompany an afternoon coffee, Sally bakes traditional slices and biscuits as a comforting treat.
What is with the room out the back with the big staircase?
The plan was always to have an open, relaxed atmosphere with comfortable chairs along with a lounge area where people had room to move, be able to enjoy their own conversation whilst still interacting with other guests. We have called it The Vault, as it provides a perfect private function or meeting with the big screen for presentations or reporting along with direct access to NBN, allowing video conferencing to anywhere in the world. We have a number of clubs holding their meetings in The Vault, enjoying the use of the screen for video analysis or entertainment. Strategy sessions where participants are encouraged to think differently are being planned for the near future.
The Vault is perfect for the 3rd Space concept, that refers to the adaption of a place between home and the office where you can be productive without distractions – sort of like a modern library with coffee! We have a number of clients who use the quiet space of the back room for just this purpose whilst enjoying a coffee or lunch. A number of local business have used The Vault for private meetings, using the video conferencing facilities.
Traditionally the restaurant industry generates a large amount of rubbish; how does Blackjacks manage their waste?
Correct; we have a lot of packaging, food scraps and coffee grinds. Our suppliers are encouraged to use cardboard as far as possible in the supply of product. All cardboard, plastic, glass and aluminium containers are sorted on site and recycled. All food scraps other than meat, along with all paper, is combined with the coffee grinds and composted. We have reduced the actual garbage from the business to less than one garbage bag a day. The compost that is being produced is amazing.
When will Jack shout?
We have now taken delivery of our initial range of beverages that will be available to accompany any meal after 10am. Along with local wines, ciders and ales, we have selected a number of fine Australian and New Zealand wines and an extensive selection of boutique and classic beers to enjoy with a meal.
Interview with Bill Wheeler.