Following the metamorphosis of Blackboard Specialty Coffee into a full blown restaurant, taking over the adjoining shop, there has been a lot of fine tuning and two remodels of the space. Co-owners Nick Pearce and Marc Kinvig have not been afraid to experiment to find the best fit for the changing demands of clientele. The former preppy specialty coffee joint of six years ago has emerged from its chrysalis into an understated sophisticated cafe restaurant, Blackboard #3, still one of the most exciting enterprises in town!
Hugely popular with Bond Uni students and locals since it opened, the refurbished restaurant has plenty of space to accommodate its clientele. You get the feeling of being in a huge overblown kitchen where all the grown up kids have gathered for brunch. The effect is achieved through timber fascias, concrete pillars, with timber tables on a rustic polished concrete floor, achieving an understated relaxed elegance…and did I say huge?
The same attention to detail is evident in the all day menu.
There has always been an emphasis on top quality ingredients and fresh (think Garden Bowl and Nourishing bowls full of the day’s veg.). Much of the produce is purchased directly from local producers, including Bangalow bacon, Byron Bay mozzarella, Nimbin Valley goats’ cheese, as well as the best from history and elsewhere, including heritage tomatoes and carrots. Gluten-free options are clearly marked.
Marc Kinvig’s touch is still evident in some dishes, but now, with Dennis Duncanson (ex-Jamie Oliver protege and owner of Fingers and Bones) on board as chef, the menu adds to the ‘fresh and local’, delving into heavier territory in preparation for winter: Wild mushrooms on sourdough topped with crispy sage and a fried duck egg, a Hash Bene with optional extras, and the full ‘Spanglish’ starring sobrasada, black sausage, chorizo and Jamon Serrano with patatas bravas, fried egg and chilli mayo.
This is a short menu with depth; deliciously balanced between light and dark, indulgently umami vs sweet (think toffee drizzled apple crepes), accessible to the knowledgeable diner yet known (Avo smash), with food for the super healthy plus with a dash of naughty thrown in. We also love that they’ve kept the menu (almost without exception) under the $20 mark.
Of course there’s still their amazing coffee, that side of the business growing exponentially since Nick first began the business six years ago (see below). And from 10am daily, the venue is licensed, with mixed drinks, local beer and sustainable wine available.
Blackboard has grown up, and it’s absolutely, truly exciting!
FROM THE ARCHIVES – January 2012:
Walking into Blackboard Specialty Coffee at Varsity Lakes, you can’t help feeling that you’re back in school. There’s a preppy feel about the place, a cool vibe drifting across from the university beside the lake. It’s a pretty funky scene with clean scrubbed fresh open faces, young passionate baristas (all ex-patrons who asked to join the payroll, they tell me), bench seats extending back into the cool darker depths of the shop, life lessons on the boards (sorry, walls), the feeling that you’re just catching on…and then the lightbulb moment…
“Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” – Albert Szent-Gyorgyi
So, what is the big discovery?
Well, Blackboard’s impossibly young proprietor, Nick Pearce, dares to think of coffee as the best winemakers think of grapes, their juices being crushed from premium grapes picked from old vines planted in stony soil on the northern slope in the vineyard of a renowned estate…
Nick speaks of fruit picked in season, ethically harvested, brought straight from the farm, delicately prepared (blended and brewed) giving care and attention to method (pressure, temperature and time of extraction)…
Yes, we are talking coffee. It’s what we’ve always known about winemaking and food, but few have thought to apply these same principles to coffee, let alone stating them so clearly.
It does sound very scientific, but it’s really about paying attention to detail – doing it right to achieve a top result!
It’s about trying to achieve the barista’s ultimate goal: a coffee that tastes as close as possible to the hypnotic aroma of roasting coffee beans.
Blackboard has a House Blend (45% El Salvador, 40% Guatemalan, 15% Ethiopian beans), a Single Origin coffee, swapped every week, and if you’re a serious coffee connoisseur, try the Aeropress – a lighter roast using total immersion brewing and extraction. Drunk black, it’s smooth and delicate, the tea-like tannins curling the sides of my tongue.
Nick talks blends as a chef talks ingredients or a sommelier talks wine. He’s way too smart for school, with coffee wisdom way beyond his years, so it’s ironic really that he’s still a student!