It's a sunny Tuesday afternoon and hunkered down at The Shortlist espresso bar are several rather cool-looking studenty types on the big communal table. They tap away at their MacBooks determinedly, writing, one supposes, dissertations on obscure but important topics or at least CD reviews of bands the rest of us haven't heard of.
There is a delightful student share-house feel to the space; the decor is mis-matched and paint-splodged, there are cheerful pot plants and the shelves display coffee paraphernalia and oddities with just the right amount of quirk. The crockery is bright and the front counter looks as though it was cobbled together out of old doors and left-over wood.
On the footpath is an assortment of foot-stools on which it is impossible to look dignified but that suit the joint perfectly. The raw sugar on the tables is in jam jars, gig posters peel slightly at the corners, and out the back in the heated blue-hued courtyard, a bicycle hangs from the wall.
Yet a certain sophistication lurks behind the faux-shabby chic, for customers can buy bags of organic cane sugar, Sugardaddys jellies in flavours such as rose petal, and fancy chocolate-coated coffee beans. But like a proper share house, you just sort of want to hang about and never quite leave.
This is aided by the excellent Little Marionette coffee ($3-$4). Strong and rich, it has a slightly nutty aftertaste. A-plus for the intricate latte art, too. Loose-leaf tea - hurrah - is served in sleek, futuristic-looking teapots, which seem rather at odds with the look and feel of the place. The drinks menu also has a ''honey-soaked'' chai, cold coffee with ice-cream and berry yoghurt frappes.
The blackboard menu has a limited but well-priced and satisfying range of food including avocado with lemon on toast, posh jaffles with gorgonzola cheese, homemade muesli, baked beans with toast soldiers and chunky ham-and-cheese sandwiches ($3.50-$9). The BLT is served in a little wire basket; with its fresh ingredients, crunchy toasted baguette and tangy aioli, it's another reason to hang around.
The Shortlist Address 258 Abercrombie Street, Darlington Open Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm; Sat, 8am-4pm; Sun, 9am-3pm
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri, 7am-4pm; Sat, 8am-4pm; Sun, 9am-3pm
- Author - Annie Stevens