Halloween at Hideout: the horrors of coffee in Barton

by Barrister Barista

In August 2012, we sounded trumpets when Hideout pulled up the blinds in Barton. The lakeside business district had been a no-beans-land since always – a place where public servants and pollies paid regular prices for fairly average cups of joe. At the point of coffee order, expectations were like APS gen Y retention rates: low.

If you draw an isosceles triangle ­– its base between the Departments of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and Attorney-General’s – Hideout will be at the apex. Or so it seems now that their hapless in-house cafes are being outpolled by The Decor – shiny benchtops and wall-to-floor bookshelves. Someone is paid to write down what you want. Someone else is paid to take your money. A third is paid to make milk go foamy. They don’t have higher duties – they’re not making your sandwiches or catering your office functions. They have nothing to do with your workday at all. It makes you excited, right?

Right. But on any day at Hideout, there are a few pitfalls to be aware of. First, The Greeting is not a thing. To get yourself coffee, you have to fulfil a number of public selection criteria –using strategic vision to spot the coffee queue, building working relationships while falling in line. You’ll have to negotiate confidently on coffee size, because The Waitress-type assumes you want to pay that bit extra for a large. You’ll need excellent communication skills to convince them of your name, and to listen for it pronounced differently through the hubbub and the hanging-plants. To achieve results, you’ll have to time your visit perfectly, because the ferocious queues are like tidal swells. Our worst is 40 minutes, desk to desk – arguably a career-limiting move .

On our official visit, we gave Halloweening Hideout the benefit of the have-here. The Vibe was even more upbeat than normal: counter laden with treat candy, and hanging plants hung with cobwebs. The coffee staff are masked, and there are baby pumpkins and stuff. We take a number to a window table, wedging between interdepartmental meetings. The Wait is a bit fierce, and we almost amuse ourselves by counting colleagues and reading filler book titles – between Dan Brown to Stephanie Meyer, everyone who’s anyone is here.

We know you’re dying to hear about the coffee – the product that almost defines first-world inelastic demand. Sources close to the Prime Minister lambast the 50c-a-coffee price hike, lining up to take seven of them back to the office. We’ve done a comprehensive inquiry into Hideout’s operations, so here are the results:

  • The Short: heed our warning. Hideout’s espresso will make you regret buying coffee. First, it’s brassy, and then it grips teeth into your tongue with a tortuous tannin. We get a second opinion – it’s no good, and this isn’t the first time it’s been like this. Cross short black off your Hideout list.

  • The Long: with the benefit of the have-here, Hideout pour the classic wide-grin flat-white. It tastes like milk-coffee, and we can’t tell if this is because it’s weak or because we’re becoming lactose intolerant. Either way, it’s your mother’s idea good coffee, and probably your boss’s too.
  • The Long Black: is a lottery. On its good days, it’s too thin to be called chocolatey. Takeaway comes double-cupped, which makes it less likely to burn, but more likely to leak. The ‘long black with a dash’ we received in Large (curses) was among our worst coffees of the year – a complete washout.
  • The Soy: hipsters always have ‘the good soy’. Hideout’s soy capp is of the ‘flat white with chocolate’ variety. Eat chocolate off quickly to avoid making a mocha. And watch out – a large or a double-shot, with soymilk, leave you with 50c change from $5.


The Latte Word: Hideout is another chapter of a Canberran capitalist fairytale. A smart hipster strolls into suitsville, waving the olive branches of banana bread and white coffee. Public servants come in droves for banana bread and white coffee. If you’re in the area, go there for these things. If you’re not, get them from your local – your Harvest, your Group 7 or your Kingston Grind. Get them better, and with food, from your ONA, your Roasters and your Lava. Agreed?


Ground Floor, 6 National Circuit

Barton ACT 2600

Monday – Friday 7.30 – 4pm