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 serving 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 washstand that did their own stint in the Russell Crowe historical drama, The Water Diviner.
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 ($17.50). Tossed with avo, candied walnuts, witlof, mizuna, radicchio and served with a poached egg, sherry vinegar dressing and sourdough toast, it made for a very decent morning filler.
We also opted for the ricotta and buttermilk hotcakes ($18), because life's too short for just salad, and the combination of saffron-poached pear with dark chocolate praline, vanilla bean labneh and pistachio with orange and saffron glaze was smooth, sweet and satisfying.
Coffee is sourced from another inner-west favourite, Coffee Alchemy, and with the roaster just down the road, Illi Hill has the luxury of offering seriously fresh beans. As for lunch, the menu offers hearty, wholesome dishes like turmeric-roasted cauliflower salad ($16), six-hour lamb salad ($19.50) and a lemon, garlic and thyme-roasted chicken sandwich with red peppers, tomato, avo, goat's cheese, rocket and aioli, plus oven fries on the side ($16.50). Should you want something a little less wholesome, but equally hearty, look to the reuben with house-made corned beef ($18) or the Say-Cheeseburger ($18.50) served with three cheeses (aged cheddar, swiss and blue) on organic beef patties from Marrickville brand and all-around winners Feather & Bone.
All in all, 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 and continue serving the inner west with excellent eats.