Time Out says
Balmain's newbie boasts more than a handsome barista and great coffee
A decade ago the Balmain peninsula was awash with people brunching at one of the multitude of cafés scattered along the length of Darling Street. Sadly, some of the pizzazz has gone out of the area of late: cafés open and close with little fanfare and the mainstays have become tired and complacent. After all this café fatigue, walking into Little Ethel's feels like going from black-and-white to colour TV. Set in the grey façade of a commercial building, this tiny hole-in-the-wall setup is sweet relief from the dreary surrounds of Mullens Street.
Cleverly placed to receive maximum daylight, the entire space is decked out in 70s furnishings in orange and brown, with the best table in the house featuring painted deck chairs atop a carpet of astro turf. With only four tables and about 15 chairs Ethel's feels quite like a small bar in café form, which means that you are safe from the pram parades and hangover hordes at larger cafés. The menu is small but well considered, covering all your café mainstays. The coffee is single origin and the barista, complete with braces and two-tone shoes, squeezes every drop of caffeine out of those humble beans with cheery gusto.
Eight dollars will get you scrambled eggs, ricotta and mushrooms, or avocado and lemon salt which all come on toast, not to mention heirloom tomato bruschetta and housemade muesli. If you are having some trouble deciding they do a tasting plate with three different toast-and-toppings for $8.50 or, for something a bit special, the sharing plates feature assorted salumi, antipasti and cheeses for $16.50. The stand-out is the dry-fried prosciutto: a wafer-thin flavour bomb, salty and crisp and totally delicious. Along with the deli goods they also feature wraps and pies for people who are more luncheon-minded and the assortment of small Adriano Zumbo cakelets is a sweet finish at only $3.50. There are no grossly overladen plates, and the meals come ungarnished on brown and orange vintage crockery, but the simplicity of the food is part of the appeal. Little Ethel's is a friendly orange beacon, enticing people in off the main drag for a coffee and a solid dose of whimsy.
84 Mullens St
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 6.30am-4.30pm; Sun 7am-2pm|