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the shortlist, darlington

October 9, 2013

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It’s been years since I wandered down Abercrombie Street.

One of my main men used to live here, in the loft room of a five bed share house. The Hen House, he used to call it, or was it something else?

My memory is fuzzy these days – almost as blurry as my eyes have grown, except that they don’t make reading glasses for memories.

It’s these snippets of recollection that we discuss as we shuffle down Abercrombie. Lex is in search of coffee and I? Well, I’m just in search of a stool to perch on while we wait out the minutes until the event we’re heading to (Pinot Palooza) opens doors – though I wouldn’t turn down some chai.

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“I used to be this cool,” I mutter, standing out like a sore thumb in my silk print pants and watermelon-toned leather jacket.

“Really?” asks Lex, the boy who has known me since I was an awkward teen, eyebrows raised high as a reminder that I’m lying.

I scrunch up my nose and adjust my balance on the stool I’m perched on.

“Eat some cheese and cheer up Charlie.”

I’m tempted, the bread on Lex’s Ham & Cheese Baguette ($7.00) has a shatteringly crisp crust with a holey, substantial heft to it. The ham is dark and cured, the cheese is sliced generously into pear-shaped rounds.

He nibbles at the edges as his coffee brews.

I pull at my fingernails and peer past the counter at the sight of a blue-walled courtyard, before slumping again.

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A slow press of the plunger and the scent of roasted beans and berries is released into the air around us.

It is thick and dark, this two-cup plunger ($5 per plunger), and he is seemingly content,

I squint at the blackboard behind the bar. Apart from the menu of eats and assorted drinks is a list – The Shortlist for which this particular cafe is named – of names they might have named it.

(Did that sentence twist your brain sufficiently?)

My favourite?

You Got To Flat White For Your Right To Latte.

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A pot of honey brewed chai in soy milk ($4.50) soothes my disquiet, as does the black dog that has decided to sit just metres away to study my artful imbalance.

Four cups later, I am thoroughly satiated and wondering whether I was now in possession of some magical never ending supply, all the while growing warmer and clearer and losing my middle-aged grump.

The bustling table next door tells tales of trips to Bunnings in Go-Get Vans, of house parties and denim jackets with metallic cat prints on the back, of classes and interning and sneaking into launch parties. Of baked beans for dinner and single origin coffee beans for drinking now.

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We are perhaps not quite young enough at heart, not carefree enough of spirit or (for that matter) quite local enough to make The Shortlist a regular haunt, but haunt it we will whenever we’re in need of a warming beverage and some decent nibbles on our way to or from Carriageworks, or Sydney Uni, or the parks nearby.

The waiters’ eyes were friendly, the sun hit the pavement just right and the hustle and bustle of traffic on the nearest cross street had me feeling a little bit more city, a little bit less uptight and a little bit more at home in yet another pocket of this great, sprawling metropolis we call home.

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The Shortlist

258 Abercrombie Street, Darlington, 2008

Phone: 02 9318 0080

Open: Mon – Fri 7-4, Sat – 8-4 and Sun – 8-3


  • #1
    October 10th, 2013

    You’re not old enough to suffer from middle-aged grump, Shez. It’s tops that you can find a place to review, oh-so-casually, while whiling away the time waiting for a scheduled event. The Shortlist sounds like a goer – $4.50 for 4 cups of chai is a bargain!

  • #2
    October 10th, 2013

    i use to stop by here for my daily caffeine fix back in my undergrad years. love their baguettes too!

  • #3
    December 23rd, 2013

    I love shortlist! Those pots of chai really are never ending!

Shez