I’ve passed by Li’l Darlin several times in Darlinghurst, and have always meant to drop by for a cheeky cocktail or two. But it’s hard when Gelato Messina is only a few doors down, and somehow gelato always became a priority when walking down Victoria Street and the idea was quickly forgotten. Gelato can do that to you sometimes.
Luckily Li’l Darlin also has two other locations in Surry Hills and Randwick (which aren’t in very close proximity to a gelateria) so there was nothing to stop me from dropping by Li’l Darlin in Surry Hills to try some food and cocktails.
We begin with a few starters, including salt and pepper calamari with a choice of two sauces, nahm jim sauce or chipotle aioli. The calamari is perfectly tender and the chipotle aioli delivers a slightly spicy kick but I find the batter a little oily for my liking.
The arancini balls are crispy round nuggets of risotto stuffed with feta, fontina, tomato and herbs. It’s also served with the same chipotle aioli but I find that they’re perfectly tasty on their own.
A terracotta pot arrives on the table accompanied by some bread and we realise that lurking within the tomato-based sauce are some delectable grilled prawns. They’re great smothered in the tomato and chilli sauce and I keep going back for more of these.
The meatballs also prove to be popular on the table. Plump and juicy, they’re served with a tomato and onion sauce, basil and parmesan.
Next up are some of Li’l Darlin’s pizzas. We’re able to try four of the eight pizzas on offer tonight with my favourites being the grilled chicken and grilled prawns. The grilled chicken pancetta has tender pieces of chicken with fresh tomato, rocket and chipotle mayo, while the grilled prawn pizza has roasted capsicum, roasted tomato, salsa verde and a mild chilli sauce.
All the pizzas are on a nice thin crust with generous toppings and crispy edge.
One of the more unusual pizzas on the menu is the Peking duck pizza. I’m a little cautious about ‘fusion’ food but the peking duck pizza works quite well with chunks of duck breast, hoisin sauce, cucumber, coriander and an orange, star anise and cinnamon glaze.
Salads can be your friend when it’s packed full of deliciousness like sliced apple, roasted pumpkin and cheese! The Summer crunch salad has a jumble of sliced fennel, walnuts, fresh apple, peas, rocket and creamy blue cheese which go quite well together. A simpler salad is the pumpkin, rocket and goats cheese which is a great mix of sweet, salty and peppery flavours.
Our final savoury dish for the night is the char-grilled sirloin steak which is cooked to medium rare (though some parts are closer to medium). It’s thoughtfully sliced up which makes it easy to share and make sure you dunk your steak into the mushroom sauce which tastes amazing! This dish is also served with fries though we skipped the fries tonight as we were already extremely full.
Before heading straight into dessert, we whet our sweet tooths with some dessert cocktails from the Darlin’ Cocktail Collection. The very girly Fairy Floss Martini has vodka, blood orange, raspberry and vanilla syrup which makes it a touch too sweet but the fairy floss is definitely fun to eat.
No guesses as to why this cocktail is called ‘Hundreds and Thousands’. This one is more balanced with vodka and apple and strawberry juices, with lemon juice to tone down the sweetness.
The white chocolate and passionfruit martini has white chocolate liqueur, cake infused vodka, passionfruit and ruby grapefruit. Despite the white chocolate liqueur and the white chocolate flakes inside the passionfruit half, the cocktail isn’t too sickly sweet and has a bit of a tangy flavour from the grapefruit and passionfruit. I’m not a fan of amaretto so I pass on the Amaretto sour but others seem to enjoy the almond and cherry flavours.
We finish with the decadent chocolate brownie swirls which have a sweet pastry baked with brownie inside. It’s topped with lashings of melted chocolate, and is fresh and hot out of the oven. It’s hard to stop at just one and makes a nice sweet end to the meal.
Penguin says Feed Me dined at Li’l Darlin courtesy of The Darlin Group and Simon Says
420 Elizabeth St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: +61 2 9698 5488
Open Monday to Saturday, 12pm til late, and Sunday, 4pm til late