132 Livingstone Rd Marrickville, NSW 2204
|Opening hours||Mon-Sun 7am-3pm (temporary lockdown hours, takeaway only)|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
Valentinas is a beautiful looking all-day American-style diner in the heart of Marrickville suburbia. There are inviting banquettes upholstered in olive-green corduroy below a wall of crimson-edged back-lit mirrors. There's a curving dark wood counter fronted by walnut-hued timber slivers and 1980s-vibe pink bar stools facing a bustling open kitchen.
There are white glass lights hanging from hand-rendered ceilings above honey-toned wood panels and shelves of retro metal teapots and green-and-white tea towels. There are even low-style cups and saucers that say "Valentinas" and sing "Damn fine cup of coffee", Agent Cooper-style.
All of this is right there in front of us but we can't go near it. Instead, customers at the recently opened venture from co-owners Elise Honeybrook and Scott Clark, of fried dough mini-empire Grumpy Donuts, stand outside on the footpath waiting for takeaway-only orders. Lockdown restrictions equate to what-could-have-been.
Oh to be inside at a wood-edged terrazzo table oohing at Lucia Braham and Matt Woods' elegant and earthily-hued interior design. Oh to be ordering cathead biscuits (fluffy hand-rolled Southern biscuits as big as a cat's head) with whipped maple butter and blueberry jam from a breakfast and lunch menu brimming with US diner-inspired comfort food.
Oh to sit at the long high counter eating chilli cheese scramble (spicy scrambled eggs on toast with fries), a stack of pancakes or roast beef with horseradish cream on a potato bun served on plates with knives and forks. And to wash it all down with a cup of bottomless filter coffee.
Today, visiting Valentinas, housed in a former convenience store on Livingstone Road's stretch of houses and bus stops, is all about what can be carried in a container or bag.
This doesn't stop Valentinas' fans. The cheery staff member helming the temporary ordering table at the front door barely has time to pass out takeaway coffee and bags of Grumpy Donuts before more customers join the queue.
Our lunch order of a fried mortadella sandwich, a fried chicken biscuit, a strawberry donut and a slice of house-made banana cream pie takes about 10 minutes.
I pass time pondering why Valentinas has no apostrophe. The restaurant is named after Braham and Woods's pet dog Tina, which seems like a possessive noun, otherwise it's plural and, oh please help me, to avoid a grammatical meltdown I'll get a ladder and paint one on, no worries.
The food arrives. We walk to the park sipping the house lemonade (citrusy, not too sweet) and an Arnold Palmer, a tangy sweeter punch made from mixing iced tea and lemonade. It's named after, and said to be created by, the professional golfer.
Wrapped in paper patterned in Valentina's signature green we extract the fried mortadella sandwich. The combination of crisped luncheon meat, gooey cheese, iceberg lettuce, crispy potato chips and mustard and mayonnaise in a pillowy soft bread roll is lovely and eaten in minutes.
In contrast, a hash is made of eating the fried chicken biscuit's combination of deep-fried meat, hot honey butter and crinkle-cut pickle slices. Holding it like a sandwich is probably not what Valentinas intended and so the chicken falls out as the cathead biscuit breaks into scone-like pieces.
But boy is it good. We jam the crumbs together and push them into torn-apart chicken to eat between slurps of Arnold Palmer.
Then, in the spirit of sweet treats buoying life, we scoop fingers-full of whipped cream-topped custardy banana pie into our mouths between teeth-jangling bites of the bright pink, sprinkle-coated donut.
Heavy with what a heath pamphlet would label "occasional treats", we walk back past Valentinas to salute its pursuit of unfussy, morale-lifting comfort food with panache. Here's to eating it beyond the front door in the future.
Main attraction: Quintessential American diner-style comfort food including Southern-style biscuits with breakfast egg, bacon and cheese varieties, sausage gravy and sweet trimmings, fried chicken, beef and fish sandwiches and house-made sweet treats.
Must-try dish: The hunky and golden fried chicken biscuit; battered chicken brushed with hot honey sauce and topped with pickles inside a fluffy cathead biscuit.
Insta-worthy dish: A slice of banana cream pie nut-sprinkled with golden pastry, softly gooey banana puree and piled whipped cream.