Got a favourite childhood memory of the best donut you ever ate? Well, forget it! I know…who am I to tell you to abandon that memory of a sickly sweet, synthetically styled, technicolour ring of fried dough, you gleefully devoured at the age of 5? Well…I am the man who’s tasted the donut of donuts, the donut taken to the “next level”, the Donut Nirvana… that’s who! It’s time to shed your misconception of what a donut can be, and be born again at Shortstop Coffee & Donuts in Barangaroo.
It’s a crisp and sunny Sunday morning as we stroll through the cavernous Streets of Barangaroo. Turning a corner, the distinct aroma of freshly extracted espresso mixes with sweetened scents of doughy delights and draws us to the source. Shortstop Coffee & Donuts greets us with a spotlessly clean, fresh, and welcoming décor that has been crafted as a stage for the star of the show, the innovative and outstanding donuts.
Entering Shortstop, it’s immediately clear that the focus on making the very best possible donut is at the core of the design and process. From the almost jewellery-like display case that lays out the day’s donut selections, to the showcase of donut making magic for all to see, you’re pulled into the experience entirely.
The welcoming staff walk us through their creations and this is always the hardest part. What do you choose when they all look so amazingly good and each donut sounds so unique? Each carefully crafted designer treat must have been painstakingly researched to bring together unique and perfectly matched flavour combinations, it seems almost an insult to not choose all of them. With that feeling like you’ve chosen a puppy, but left the rest of the litter behind, we make our selections and head for our table.
A trio of donuts quickly flock to our cosy corner, which is positioned to give us a front row seat to the donut decorating station. It’s hard for our eyes to know where to focus; on the donuts that have landed in front of us, or the ones being hatched by the hands of a skilled donut craftsperson? With the adage of a donut in the hand is worth two in the bush (well, in this case it’s three in the hand and a few dozen in the bush, but who’s counting?) we tuck into our delectable treats.
The first bite is of a warm and soft Burnt Caramel, Fennel, and Sea Salt gem. For the uninitiated, the concept of burnt caramel and fennel might take a second to digest in your mind, but once on the tongue there will be less than a second before you’re in for the next bite. The savoury notes of the fennel and sea salt provide an interesting contrast in both taste and texture to the refined sweetness of the burnt caramel glaze. The texture of the donut itself reflects the commitment of Shortstop to only use high quality, natural ingredients, which yield a light and non-greasy taste. This donut is my personal favourite, so far. Taking the risk to combine seemingly incompatible elements that actually result in a delightful and unique experience should be commended.
Next up is the Australian Honey & Sea Salt donut. Resembling a looped churros, this donut creation has a lovely crispness to its crust that gives way to a warm, fluffy centre. Dipped in a honey and milk glaze, the honey is distinct on the palate and enhanced by the bite of the sea salt. If you like churros, then this is a step up.
I love my tea as much as the next “true blue”, but I can’t say that Earl Grey is the first bag I’d pull out of the old tea tin. That said, the Earl Grey & Rose donut was just too intriguing to pass by and rounded out the unique Shortstop trio perfectly. The delicacy of the rose petal and rose water icing kisses the lips and is quickly followed up by the distinct flavours of lemon myrtle and, of course, the Earl himself. The floral, citrus, and bergamot orange black tea all come together in a balanced and refined result that is befitting of the very British heritage it recalls.
We usually kick off a café review with the coffee, of course, but with Shortstop’s dedication to designer donuts front of mind, we got a little ahead of ourselves. That’s not to say that the coffee at Shortstop is anything short of scrumptious. With Market Lane Roasters out of Melbourne supplying the good stuff, we try out a few Shortstop’s best cups. Starting off with a Batch Brew long black and an espresso sidecar, the coffee gives up wonderful plum and blackcurrant notes. The espresso intensified the experience with a rich, dark crema and a perfect finish. Covering our bases, we also went for the staple Flat White. With the addition of the milk, the prominent flavours are smoothed out and linger more subtly on the tongue.
Suitably “donutted” and no longer decaffeinated, we are drawn back to the display of donut making magic and can’t help but dream of the donuts we’ll try on our next visit to Shortstop Coffee & Donuts.