I’ve been putting off writing this for sometime. I’m not entirely sure why – probably a combination of some trepidation at getting it right and doing this wonderful Hobart group of eateries justice whilst remaining honest about what to expect. Along with Pigeon Hole, there are few places I have spent more time. The flagship Battery Point Jackman & McRoss is always mentioned when high profile bloggers and reviewers come to Tasmania to do their stock-standard whirlwind trip. I get it: Battery Point is easily Hobart’s most picturesque suburb with its sweeping river views from the banks of the mighty Derwent to the frosted clichéd Instagram shot of a snow dusted Mt. Wellington. It is undoubtedly a wonderful haven in the biting winter of Hobart.
The Battery Point Jackman can get very, very busy. Arrive after 10am on the weekend and you can almost guarantee that there won’t be any of their croissants left (which, to be honest, should always be your first breakfast choice). J&M croissants are hard to overrate – they’re big and buttery served with a seasonal jam, usually raspberry. A friend and I went to the Hobart launch of the Movida Guide to Barcelona last year with Melbourne chef Frank Camorra and his writer, Richard Cornish. Afterwards, we approached Cornish to talk about the book, and during our conversation, we asked him about the best spots he had been to in the Island State. His response, of course, included Peppermint Bay, Garagistes, ethos, etc etc. However, he became particularly animated when discussing the delectable treats on offer at Jackman. The croissants, he said, were world beaters. Unrivalled even in their Parisian patisserie home – surely the spiritual Mecca for all lovers of pastry.
It’s hard for me to sum up the best things on offer at Jackman & McRoss, because as always, a bakery café of this type is always going to disappoint if you go in expecting the wrong thing. It is not fine dining, but something much more casual and relaxed. I must have been there hundreds of times, and whether it is nipping down for a seedy Sunday debrief over a flat white or a half time pie run on a Saturday afternoon, J&M has never provided the same experience. And I don’t say that as a bad thing, necessarily. The staff are a different breed. They’re tight knit and Nerida McRoss, if you have the pleasure of having her serve you, will quiz you on your choice or perhaps provide some insight into the current position of her beloved Hawthorn ‘Tassie’ Hawks.
There is an obvious downside to its popularity . A forty minute wait for lunch service on a busy day is not uncommon, and on a Sunday morning that can stretch well into the hour. I’ve never been fussed by that. My opinion is that the staff are clearly working hard, they’re probably doing 50 covers an hour which a normal Hobart eatery would hope to do in a sitting and they, generally, do it with good humour and enthusiasm. Some struggle to handle the lack of pandering that they might be used to at the lacklustre Metz, but I’m a fan of service with a bit of attitude. Some personality is certainly better than none.
Finally, Jackman & McRoss manages to stay honest to its roots as a local bakehouse providing great food at a very reasonable price. It is adventurous – ranging from braised rabbit to confit duck to lamb shanks wrapped in buttery pastry goodness – while remaining cheap – rarely does a dish cost over $15. It’s easy to have a great lunch with a number of friends and get a bit raucous after a night suffering the sometimes stagnant nightlife.
The city outlet of J&M – just up from Fullers Bookshop – is a little more serious with a price hike of a couple of dollars to pay for the service, whilst the New Town café can be quieter and may allow for a lazier time. Jackman & McRoss is always enjoyable – just don’t go in expecting restaurant service, but embrace its sometimes chaotic atmosphere and the best baked goods in Hobart.