Clare and Libby Cairns reckon it’s a great time for Thornbury. And if the crowds in their new café, Short Round, are anything to go by, Thornbury locals agree.
Built in 1880, the former butcher’s shop and pet store has undergone an extensive refit over the past 11 months. Libby (former head barista at Monsieur Truffe) and Clare (once in hospitality recruitment) were fortunate enough to have family in the building business. So together with their dad and Libby’s partner, they skilfully reshaped the building, modernising its spaces with plywood and tiles while retaining its original character. “It’s a heritage overlay, but only on the outside, which means we’ve been able to restore a lot of things but also put a twist on it,” explains Clare.
The insistence on buying Victorian extends to Short Round’s menu. The Cairns insisted chefs Kate Pratt and Jo Baring keep their dishes genuinely seasonal, which means no tomatoes in winter. One particularly local dish is the Labourer’s Lunch, a modified ploughman’s plate using ham and kransky from Velimirovic, a continental butcher that has operated in the area for 63 years.
“Libby and I are both from northeast Victoria, so both of us grew up with veggie patches,” explains Clare. “We really wanted to drive that seasonal thing home.”
While Short Round’s only open during the day for now, the Cairns’s are keeping their options open for night-time dining. “Maybe in summer, we’ll think about opening Friday and Saturday late – the courtyard’s beautiful in the sun,” says Clare.