Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills: the rag trade centre of Sydney where many of the city's fashion flock have designed, tailored and traded their finery. And yet for all its garment glory, the area has not really offered anything much in the way of decent drinking quarters. So where can tired tailors and model slashies go for cocktails, cuddles and (air) kisses? Meet Li'l Darlin, the pizza and cocktail establishment of the eponymous small bar chain, that has opened up chic shop in the Hills.
A white picket fence sections off the outdoor tables, sprawling Paris-like along the pavement. Potted plants line the windows and fairy lights twist, twinkling, through the hazy interior. The staff are bubblier than bubbly and the ambiance is immediately convivial. Li'l Darlin is a perfect fit for those around Elizabeth Street looking for a nibble and tipple after work or a casual catch up of a weekend. But Li'l Darlin is no enfant terrible. This is an establishment from where you can expect decent, non-designer, prices for unpretentious and delicious food.
The lunch (from 12pm) and tapas (from 5pm) menus both focus on fun, fresh feasts. Far from haute cuisine, lunch is ready-to-wear, street-style fodder – expect treats like the Giant Chicken Schnitzel ($12) or the self-proclaimed World's Best Hotdog ($12). You'll find the tapas are equally as fabulous — the Li'l Cheeseburger ($13.90) comes slider-style, with homemade mustard and overflowing with fries. And seldom would a couturier otherwise delight in the discussion of plump, drumstick-like legs, but here the Crispy Chilli Chicken Drummers can't be overlooked ($11.90).
Though the food is fabulous, Li'l Darlin is a bar at heart. Its extensive Australian and New Zealand-centric wine list and selection of beers and ciders mean no trendsetter is without a toast. Try the Li'l Old Fashioned, a drupe-driven take on the classic cocktail, with rye whisky, maraschino liqueur, cherry bitters and a brandy-infused cherry ($17.90) And while snobs might scoff at the Icyee Cocktails ($12), it's hard to resist their young at heart charm.
Li'l Darlin is a fun and entertaining addition to this stretch of the Hills. Strut, don't stroll, in for the cocktails, tapas and kitsch.