When elderly couple Con and Mary closed the doors of their Marrickville deli, perched on the hilltop halfway down Illawarra Road, after 47 years of trade, the area lost an icon. Oleh Sokolovsky and partner Perry Silvio, however, saw an opportunity not to be missed. The result: Illi Hill, a delightfully appointed cafe that not only still homes the two aforementioned superstars out the back but serves up tasty and health-conscious food centred on a philosophy and love of local.
Having studied theatre and film before moving into set design and opening his own boutique furniture store, Juliet's Balcony, Sokolovsky has done a pretty fab job with the fit-out. Think polished brass topped tables, Bentwood Thonet chairs (previously loaned to appear in The Great Gatsby), as well as zinc wall sconces and a marble wash stand that did their own stint in the upcoming Russell Crowe historical drama, The Water Diviner. Let's just say, for a brand spanking newbie, this place has history.
The food is also rich and developed, but more in nutrients and freshness. Looking at the menu our eyes were immediately drawn to the breakfast salad ($15.50), and the seasonal greens (sourced from Marrickville Market provedore legend Mr Taste and Flavour) didn't disappoint. Tossed with avo, baby peas, almond flakes, micro herbs (grown and supplied just 20 steps away by Con and Mary) and served with a poached egg, dollop of lemon zest labneh and sourdough toast (The Bread and Butter Project) it made for a very decent morning filler.
We also opted for the ricotta and buttermilk hotcakes ($15.50), because life's too short for just salad, and the combination of saffron poached pear with dark chocolate praline and vanilla bean labneh was smooth, sweet and satisfying.
Coffee is sourced from another inner-west favourite, The Little Marionette, and with the roaster just 900m away in St Peters, Illi Hill has the luxury of offering seriously fresh beans every three or four days. We also discovered via Sokolovsky that if you're popping in for lunch, the lamb burger is "sensational". While we'll let you make your own mind up about that, we can tell you these guys get their meat from Marrickville brand and all-round winners Feather & Bone, so we can harbour a guess it's probably gonna taste pretty awesome.
All in all, while one staff member might need a little extra training, merely to boost confidence in dealing with a busy Saturday morning crowd, it's clearly evident Illi Hill knows what it's doing. And thank goodness. When a true piece Sydney history, loved by many, closes its doors, it's always nice to see something with real substance take its place.