There’s No Place Like Lonsdale St Roasters (in Canberra)

by Barrister Barista

The first time we saw ‘Roasters’ was on a sun-beating afternoon in 2010, December.  Barrister Barista had just been admitted to the Supreme Court, and the liquid lunch lurch down Lonsdale St was interrupted by the smells of fresh paint and coffee.  We followed our noses indoors to cement, two tables and a coffee machine.

A nice man stopped positioning wood panels to make us possibly the best coffee we would ever have in Canberra.  Despite assurances that we were sheltering in the beginnings of a cafe, we felt like our next visit might find but an empty wardrobe – coats, but no Cheshire Cat, and no coffee.

Luckily for us, Lonsdale St Roasters quickly became a thing. The DIY decor got done, feat. the hanging of a bicycle on the wall, the bat-signal for coffee-drinking cyclists.  Within a week, the phrase ‘coffee and paninis’ had entered the Canberra vernacular, and even the more alliterative ‘coffee and a kransky‘, on occasion.  The place had a wood oven to make them exotic italian breads crispy (The Sides).  The place had a big roasting thing and a chalkboard that told us what was roasting (The Specialty).  On the weekends, Lonsdale St Roasters had everything except floorspace – milk crates for sitting on (The Hipster Factor), afternoon sunshine, bikes galore, and a DJ playing swells of music that made you cooler just for hearing it (The Vibe).

‘First come the cyclists, then the students, then the public servants’, or so the saying surely goes for coffee culture.  Despite their different levels of lycra, these groups all got instant joneses for the coffee at LSR (‘Roasters’, to their friends).  The flavour alone seemed without precedent in Canberra.  Sure, those ONA boys’d been smooth-roasting them organic, ‘micro-lot and Cup of Excellence green beans‘, and leaf-pouring their way around the south side.  These new Roasters seemed to be blazing the hell out of their beans, and serving up cups of bold, near-over-extracted goodness that made your tastebuds into a jumping castle for caffeine.  It was as if all Canberra had been Cadbury dairy milk, and someone had built a building from 80% Lindt.  Everyone wanted a piece.  And while many subscribed to the view that ‘One does not simply walk into Roasters and find a table’, we were of the view that one could, generally, do just that.

We just walked in recently, on a weekday, with the faux confidence of a new blogger.  The Order was placed, The Long and The Short simultaneously – a cappucino and a short black, have here, no judgementThe Price was still excellent – a $3.50 + $2.50 that remains reasonable, even after the honeymoon prices were hiked.   The Long was delicious – juuust enough froth above the butterscotch brillance of the LS Roast. It was one of those rare milk coffees bright enough to stay with you well into the workday (some call it bad breath, we call it good coffee).  The Short was, by comparison, undelicious – but (as Mr Cohen sang), that don’t make it junk.  It was nectar-thick espresso, with a healthy hat of crema.  Somehow sour and sweet at the same time – a confusing pucker – mineral water washdown most welcome.  Completely derailing The Plan, the other quintesstentially Roasters thing happened to us – we saw someone we knew, got chatting, and forgot to take photos.

Day 2, with the real confidence of a recidivist blogger,  The (same) Order was placed, and we settled in solo at the big front table, playpen of newspapers and power catch-ups.  During The Wait, we wish for colouring books and derwents, and consider colouring in the black white wall art by – thanks for the photo loan, George! (above).  We’re mid-musings on the unclassifiable crowd when The Long arrives, and The Plan is derailed by a first world problem known as The Spilled Cappucino.  The theory goes that a spilled cappucino is not the calling card of a clumsy waiter, but that of a lazy barista.  That foamed milk doesn’t just hold up chocolate – it holds fast to the sides of the cup like nature’s velcro.  This (bald) cuppa is watery, weak, and littered with chocolate debris – what Corridor Kitchen diagnoses as ‘basically a flat white with chocolate’ (LSR, circa 2011).  To add insult, The Short is burned; crema cheetah-spotted, we get through it by (to hell with manners) diluting with milk, a teaspoon at a time.  We take our photos, we half-finish our cappucino, and we bust on out of there, hearts in mouths.

The Latte Word: It will be clear to anyone who read this far that The Canberran has a long-term thing for Lonsdale St Roasters, which is why we cried so much over spilled milk.  It’s just so damn warm in there, with the cushions and your colleagues and the chaotic numberless ordering of The Sides.  Nothing stays the same for long – the milk crates have been replaced by Actual Chairs, there are twice as many coffee machines (two).  The decor swings between snow day and flower festival and Bruce-Willis tea-wars (no kidding).   What never changes, importantly, is that their coffee tastes like what coffee should taste like.  We look forward to seeing how the crowds divide once a duplicate opens up down the road.  Old Roasters vs New Roasters – let the debate begin.  Either way, we’ll see you there.

Are you a Lonsdale lover or a hater?  Let us know in comments – will you be trying New Lonsdale for more table certainty?

Lonsdale St Roasters

3/7 Lonsdale St

Braddon ACT 2612

(02) 6156 0975