333 South Dowling Street Darlinghurst, New South Wales 20100421 181 534
|Opening hours||MON-SAT, 6.30AM-4PM; SUN, 8AM-4PM|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
It’s a cold winter’s morning and the inner-city creatures are emerging from their habitats. Here are the bearded bros with bleary eyes and sore heads from the night before; the legging-clad women still glowing from their early gym session; and a couple of smartly dressed girlfriends catching up over coffees. Oddly, a few men are still sporting suits. Someone tell them it’s Saturday, please.
With a stroller in tow, can we squeeze in to join them? The crowd obliges and we wriggle through.
Bootsdarling is one of those tiny, cool cafes where you’d normally expect to wait for a table but within moments of arriving we somehow find ourselves tucked into a comfortable nook.
Before we proceed – what’s with the name? It’s inspired by a friend of the owners, Justin Iddles and Dano Clucas, who dubbed her imaginary childhood friend Bootsdarling.
Stranger still is how the venue came into being. Iddles and Clucas - both from The Brewery on Erskine Street but mates from way back - were set on another address in Surry Hills when a cliff-top drinking session went awry, sending both over the edge. Iddles was OK but Clucas broke his spine, so the original plans were nixed for a year or so. They then found the new site on South Dowling Street and opened in January.
It’s a cute corner spot, with window seats and a stand-up table skirting the large central kitchen. Oodles of dark wood, starring a large rustic candelabra, lend it a tavern-like vibe. Flashes of greenery add a domestic touch.
The small space feels relaxed and calm due to the efforts of our waitress, who breezily clears surfaces and negotiates the confined limits with grace. Our spot, a communal table near the food counter, is a perfect perch to watch the hearty breakfasts emerging from the kitchen.
But first, the coffees. The Milky Bar Bandido flat white (from Melbourne roaster Joshua Bailey of Bailey Coffee) is the punchiest I’ve had in a while, with a deep aroma and bitter notes. The Kenyan AA espresso is no lightweight either, fruity and rich, with plenty of body. The cold drip and “flight of coffees” to sample different brews pique our interest too.
Simon Says Juice supplies a daily batch of fresh red, yellow and green blends, delivered by bicycle. Our OJ is frothy and pulpy and tastes ultra-fresh.
The all-day breakfast menu is filled with ample winter warmers and we go for the heartiest of the lot. The Boots baked eggs is a shakshuka-like revelation with rich, soupy flavours. Splodges of soft feta and slivers of roasted almonds adorn a searing pan of tomato, egg and beans. It’s delicious but a serving this generous would be better served with an extra egg or two.
The slow-cooked pork and pea hash is a stately affair with complex flavours – a poached egg tops sweet shreds of soft pork jumbled with chunky potato and shredded kale. A side of dijon mustard gives extra bite.
The zucchini, corn and ricotta fritters are a welcome surprise. They are richer, cheesier and softer than the usual variety and, piled with egg and bacon, more substantial.
Distinctive coffee chased with wholesome, filling fare in a cosy Darlo bolthole – just the tonic we need to face the chilly day ahead.
THE PICKS Zucchini, corn and ricotta fritters; Boots baked eggs
THE COFFEE Bailey Coffee Milky Bar Bandido blends; single origin espressos
THE LOOK Tavern-like with lots of dark wood
THE SERVICE Quick and accommodating