Blackmarket Bar and Grill is a restaurant with a focus on locally-sourced produce. Given that it is located at the base of 1 William Street, the seat of power of the Queensland Government, it sees apt that it heroes Queensland produce. We received an invitation to visit them, and were pleased to take it up.
It is housed in a separate standalone building, almost cylindrical in shape, dwarfed by the 46 storey tower beside it. Its three stories still look modern and sleek, with reflective dark glass almost all the way around it.
On the ground floor is MarketCart, a section more set up for quick takeaway food like sandwiches, wraps, and pastas, but still with the same focus on local produce. There are tables and seating for those who want to have their meal there.
Blackmarket Bar and Grill is upstairs of that, clearly signposted at their shared entrance. As you follow the directions up the stairs, pictures stating the vision they have for their food accompany you on your way.
Stepping onto the restaurant level, we found ourselves in a space filled with natural light from floor to ceiling windows extending 270 degrees around the space. It gave quite a panoramic view of the surrounds, and even though a significant proportion of it was of the construction that was in progress on the site next door, it still provided interesting scenery.
The styling inside was best described as steampunk. There were tan brown leather Chesterfield lounges with riveted metal sides, props like wooden trunks, crates, a gramophone on the service counter, and a rotary telephone between two winged armchairs right near the entrance landing.
The rest of the seating had wooden crossback and bentwood chairs against large wooden communal tables, and cosier tables for smaller parties. Artificial greenery hanging in pots from the ceiling, sprouting in stands between the tables, and placed in little pots and each table freshened the look of the space. Also hard to miss was the large windmill suspended from the ceiling, an icon of country Queensland.
The space was air conditioned to a comfortable temperature, and 90s pop music played over the speakers at not too loud a volume.
Following the instructions at the entrance to wait to be seated, we were soon greeted by staff. We were invited to sit at any available table, and a pitcher of water and glasses brought out to us.
The menus were already waiting at tables, food and drink options printed on one side of a large sheet of paper. A blurb at the top of the sheet explained that they aim to celebrate Queensland sustainable produce, and spoke a little of their heritage, leading to this. In the central section of the menu were the main food options, divided into seafood (From Local Waters), vegetables (From Our Red Earth), and meats (From The Land). On either side of that were starters and sides, and desserts, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic drink options.
It was quite a compact food menu, rather than one that waffled on too much, and held quite classic items, with some explanations of where the produce was from, like the Darling Chicken Pie (with Darling Downs free range chicken), Sirloin Steak Sandwich (Angus beef from Stockyard, Kerwee), and Moreton Bay Bug Linguini (also sourced locally). We decided on the Oktoberfest Pork Chop, as it felt thematic (the visit was in October), and the 200g Rib Fillet.
We were also intrigued by their deconstructed iced drinks, and ordered a Deconstructed Iced Coffee, and a Deconstructed Iced Mocha.
They came out together, presented in black trays lined with ornate black and tan fleur de lys prints. Each had a jewel-faceted tall glass, and a small bottle of milk. Smaller shot glasses with similar geometric surfaces held the other components.
The Deconstructed Iced Coffee had coffee ice cubes in the large glass, and espresso coffee in the small glass. The colours were promisingly rich when mixed together, creating nicely contrasting coffee swirls. The fact that you had a shot of coffee to add to the mix meant that it was immediately strong enough to drink, and it just got stronger as the coffee ice cubes melted. Having had a different experience elsewhere (The Glass Den) where we really had to wait a substantial amount of time for the coffee ice sphere to melt before it was more than just drinking milk, this certainly worked much better. As the milk was cool rather than hot, the coffee ice cubes melted gradually rather than quickly, so having coffee that readily mixed was a good idea. It was also noted that the ice cubes themselves were made on a good strong coffee, so in the end, when they had all melted, you certainly had a strong iced coffee. There were perhaps four shots in that all together. That would certainly set you up for the day.
The Deconstructed Iced Mocha had chocolate milk ice cubes in the large glass, chocolate milk in the milk jar, and a shot of coffee in one of the shotglasses, and melted chocolate in another shotglass. Of note, the chocolate milk ice cubes are made on a dairy base, so they can’t really do this one dairy-free. They did provide the option of regular ice cubes in place of the chocolate milk ice cubes, but that would have lessened the experience.. This too was a good mix. Trying to get every last bit of chocolate out of the small glass was a little messy, and did result in chocolatey fingers, but it was worth it. Chocoholics would certainly approve of this one.
The Rib Fillet was described in the menu as 100 day grain fed, house aged with rosemary salted chips and house slaw, red wine jus, and a selection of mustards. It came served on a board, with channels in the sides to capture any escaping juices or sauce before they ran onto the table. We had asked for the fillet to be cooked medium rare, and it was a thick, meaty cut. When sliced, we found that it had been cooked just right, and despite the thickness of the piece, it was still tender and juicy. The jus was in its own dish, rather than poured over the meat, so it wasn’t wasted coating the board. It was meaty, with umami notes, rather than the tartness that some red wine jus have, and it accentuated the flavours of the meat. We were given the choice between a variety of mustards, and picked horseradish cream to accompany it. This was light, and had a mild, rather than punchy heat. It complemented the other flavours, rather than overpowering them. The rosemary chips were done as a steak cut. They had a crunchy batter on the outside, and were fluffy on the inside. They were lightly salted, and the rosemary was easily perceptible. The house slaw was served in a small bowl on the board. The batons of vegetables had a good, fresh crunch, and the dressing over it was creamy, but not heavy. It had a light flavour, rather than being too acidic. The slaw provided a good contrast to the more filling beef.
The Oktoberfest Pork Chop had local pork chop that had been slow cooked then finished on the grill, house made pickle, sauerkraut, and mashed potato. It was a colourful dish, with the house made pickled cabbage adding a strikingly vibrant hue. It was quite different from the generally brown-hued pork dishes we had had in Germany. The pork chop was tender from having been slow cooked, and had a faintly crisp outer skin from the grill finish, with a honey glaze that was caramelised in parts. The sauerkraut had a more earthy than tart flavour, and was soft, but not soggy. The purple cabbage pickle had a more umami flavour, and again wasn’t too acidic. It had a little crunch, for some textural contrast. The potato mash was buttery and savoury, and rather than being entirely pureed smooth, it had some small chunks of cooked potato mixed in, so it was a mix of textures as well, adding interest to the mouthful. The mashed potato could have stood by itself as a comfortable winter treat.
The waitstaff looking after us were friendly and happy to explain things to us. They seemed to show the same warmth to other patrons as well.
All in all, we found the components of each dish that we had at Blackmarket Bar and Grill well done. They were classic combinations and flavours that worked well. They were not heavy handed with the sauce flavours, so that they complemented the main ingredients, rather than trying to hard to compete. While the food is restaurant priced rather than cafe priced, it is also good restaurant quality food, and the space itself is a lovely setting. The deconstructed drinks too, are well worth trying. If you want to support local, this is a good place to do it.
P.S. It is also worth mentioning that they have a rooftop bar, with a view of some of the city, for those inclined towards after-work drinks.
Price point: $18 to $29 for the mains (our dishes $29 and $26). Deconstructed drinks $7.
Value: Good. Worth the price.
Address: 1 William Street, Brisbane CBD
Phone: 07 3062 7213
Website: Blackmarket Bar and Grill