There was no doubt, NO DOUBT in my mind what my first (and second and third) stops would be after touching down in Sydney. They were, in no particular order, coffee, coffee and COFFEE. Senhor R couldn’t agree with me more as, although it was relatively easy to hunt out decent coffee in Brasil, coffee in Argentina, which was where we spent the bulk of our trip, left something to be desired.
Actually, if I’m honest, coffee was my first stop before we even got to Sydney. We were salivating for Allpress Espresso at Auckland airport, having solemnly downed out ‘last real coffee’ there on our way to South America. When we got to Auckland, I downed my mach and could not stop grinning, in spite of the 14 hour, Aerolineas Argentinas hell I had just endured. Real. Coffee.
The second stop after dropping off our bags in Sydney was Don Campos nearby. The next morning, we were already on the hunt for somewhere new to try. After catching up on my blogroll I saw John over at He Needs Food had some good things to say about Belljar Espresso in Newtown, so we set off for Alice street.
On our way we couldn’t resist making our third coffee stop at The Kick Inside, Erskineville which was in the process of renovating so they were only doing takeaways. Senhor R was super happy with his piccolo and, suitably refuelled we continued on our coffee safari. Having wandered through Newtown a while, we arrived at Belljar coffee. It has a similar aesthetic to places like Miss Petty Cash and the aforementioned Kick Inside – knick knacks, bric-a-brac and retro furniture, classic espresso-coloured crockery offset by vintage teaspoons. It’s an all too familiar template, yet one I never tire of.
Hipster aesthetic aside, how was the coffee? Pretty good. They use Little Marrionette, which I think is overhyped, but so be it, coffee is coffee. It’s a cool place to kick back, they play vinyl from your parents’ collection, and the breakky menu looks good. I’ve been back once since and will most likely return.
(02) 8096 4090
2/104 Alice Street
When I moved into my first sharehouse, it was advertised in the paper as ‘Surry Hills’. I knew this wasn’t true, because when I looked at a map, it was right by Redfern Station. However Redfern had a bad rep and Surry Hills was highly coveted, so over the years Surry Hills has been spreading like mould, at least in the real estate pages.
Then there are the suburbs that are completely made up – I’m looking at you, ‘Redfern East’. No, I’m sorry, you just plain don’t exist. And then there’s Darlington, its 2008 postcode made up almost entirely of Sydney Uni (and
invented specifically so Sydney Uni would enjoy, shall we say, less rigid planning laws than the surrounding suburbs). To me this is kind of a suburb. It’s the one you say you live in when you’re trying to sell your house but you really live in Chippendale.
‘The Shortlist’ is in the semi-made-up suburb of Darlington on the lemming-walk to Sydney Uni stretch of Abercrombie St. There have been two pretty respectable café options on this drag for ages – the laid back Tripod, serving coffee roaster coffee and the incredibly popular but slightly grumpily staffed Café Ella which is never open Sundays.
But for some reason, no one had a thing to say about this stretch of road until The Shortlist came to town. It’s true that it’s a lot busier on weekends now and the breakfast crowd seem to be getting younger. Many new businesses have opened up and, like all of Redfern, gentrification is full steam ahead.
So while I would love to make a pun about The Shortlist having been on my shortlist for a while now, it sort of hasn’t. True, it’s always crowded and it serves Little Marrionette coffee, something that coffee guides seem to universally agree can only be a good thing. But I’ve always gone by and it’s been packed out the front by people crouching uncomfortably on tiny stools, trying to be seen. It’s a tad too Redfern East for Darlington, if you get my drift.
One thing I didn’t know until I had a look at a place a day is that they have a courtyard out the back. Yes, I’m a dunderheaded fool, I thought that doorway was a mirror. That and its proximity to my house clinched it for me so one weekend we trecked on over. We ordered some coffees and an Earl Grey Tea muffin, which sounds like a load of wank but was absolutely scrummy. The coffee was rich and syrupy, short the way I like it. They serve standard cafe fare and the prices seem reasonable. I can’t say for sure if I’ll be back, but that’s only because I’m so spoiled for choice. Overall I’d say give it a go, especially if you can grab a seat out the back, which is pretty easy to do as the seat out the front seem to be the favoured ones.
258 Abercrombie Street
Darlington NSW 2008
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