137 Cleveland St Darlington, NSW 2008
|Opening hours||Sun-Mon Closed ; Tue-Sat 6–11pm|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Bar, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Family friendly, Pre-post-theatre|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 8937 0530|
When was the last time you sat down to a menu of home-grown Italianese with a side order of Neutral Milk Hotel? It's been awhile. Maybe never, in fact. But that's exactly what you'll find at this Cleveland Street newcomer offering fresh handmade pasta and a very drinkable wine list alongside an excellent soundtrack on the old Mulligans site.
Let's take a little minute to reminisce about that old Irish chestnut. Mulligan's, if you never had the pleasure, was an Irish restaurant that specialised in hefty, potato-based dinners and - this is the best bit - fortune telling. So your supper would be followed by a sojourn upstairs to a sparely decorated room with a wide choice of mystics. I guess no one predicted an Italian restaurant co-run by an ex-Icebergs chef who really likes to play Lou Reed.
So there's no more palm reading or rune throwing (they're currently using that upstairs area as an office space) but there is stracciatella made on cultured cream wearing a coronet of lightly pickled baby beetroots and heirloom tomatoes. Ordering the house-made sourdough alongside is all dependent on your feelings towards bowls of cool dairy punctuated with light acid. Personally, I think the bread's a pretty welcome reprieve from all that creamy Italian cheese. And chefs Neil Murphy and Matt Pollock are baking their own.
The whole live and local vibe stretches to extremely personable service and a surprisingly excellent and far-reaching wine list. You'll find your Si Vintners and your Jamsheeds alongside wines from spanning from Alto Ardege through to Burgundy. Take a big enough group and you could put a pretty impressive dent in the list without breaking the bank.
Further adventures in carbs involve one of the most enormous servings of bucatini I've ever seen. It's big enough for two if you do as the Italians do and order some greens on the side (a salad of crisp baby cos, smoked almonds and buttermilk dressing proves a decent foil for that spaghetti monster.) Or you could go hell for leather and just polish the lot. Props, again, for the fact they're making the pasta in-house here. So it's a little past al dente - it's nothing a hefty dose of pork fat, chilli and tomato can't help remedy.
Oh, and non-face-eaters rejoice - there's stracchino-filled ravioli, eggplant with soft polenta and whipped feta and a gargantuan dish of pearl barley, roast pumpkin, sauteed king brown mushrooms and silken whipped goat's curd. Again, this last dish is a whopper. - approach with caution. Or at least one friend and a side salad.
Darlington, Kindred's the local you've been waiting for with the wine list you need. Drink deep.
Pro Tip: Take an appetite or at least three hungry buddies
Go-to Dish: The stracciatella is a great argument to go meat-free for the evening