It'll beckon you in from the street and seduce you with hearty food and a chilled vibe. You may never want to leave. That's ok.
The only thing stranger than the story behind the name 'Bootsdarling', is the tale of how it came into being. If it wasn’t for a tumble off a 30 metre cliff, the Bootsdarling you know and love might never have been.
Justin Iddles and Dano Clucas, the boys behind the thriving Darlinghurst cafe, were just days away from signing the lease at a property on Foveaux St, Surry Hills, last year, when a clifftop drinking session in North Bondi took a turn for the worst – literally.
Both boys went over the edge and although Justin walked away with scrapes and bruises, Dano broke his spine. The signing of the lease was off. Plans were put on hold until Dano recovered, but once he did, it all came together. “This space is so much better,” says Justin. “I guess everything happens for a reason.”
While we may never know what the Surry Hills venture would have looked like, there’s no doubt the Darlinghurst venture is working for the locals, who make up most of the mid-week crowd. Gone are the sterile white walls of the clothing store that was here before. Now it’s all found-wood and exposed brick and potted plants coming out of your ears (and your tables). There’s a Mrs Weasley’s kitchen meets rustic Australian country vibe going on, melded together and churned out to meet (and exceed) the standards of Sydney cafe dining.
Bootsdarling is the ideal place to waste a few hours of the afternoon in happy idleness.
The vibe: Chilled, friendly and a little bit cozy.
Ideal for: Coffee on the go, brunch, or when you just need to get out of the house and read the paper.
Try the... Boots Baked Eggs ($17)
By the way... Check out the small stage at the back. You might be seeing live music there on Friday nights in not too long.
Find Bootsdarling on Facebook: Bootsdarling
Knickknacks sourced from Vinnies give it that lived-in feel: toy Viking figurines, rustic farm tools, a retro ‘60s mint green fan… water is served in brown bottles from a communal tap and a chandelier hanging overhead is actually an old wagon wheel. Let it never be said that these guys aren’t creative.
We suggest you rock up with an hour to kill and a paper to read. Park yourself on the benches overlooking the street, order the zucchini, corn and ricotta fritters and chill to the croons of Dire Straits and James Brown. Soon you might be listening to more: a small stage at the back is ideal for musos to play a tune or two on Friday nights.
Food-wise you’re looking at a mix of classic cafe dining and gourmet twists. The all-day breakfast is not a light option, unless you go for the croissant; the aforementioned fritters come heaped with lashings of bacon and a poached egg. No stingy portions here. Trust us when we say the food baby is worth it. The other standout dish is the Boots Baked Eggs, a kind of breakfast stew of baked beans, capsicum, tomato, feta, onions, flaked almonds and mint, served in a pan with a side of crusty brown bread to mop up the leftover sauce. It’s got enough ‘breakfast-y’ flavours to satisfy the palette, but the mint, feta and almonds are what takes it to the next level.
When it comes to lunch (11:30am to 3pm), you’re looking at a mixture of salads and burgers, although as we move into winter, you can expect a lot of that to change. One of your long term options, however, is the chicken and coleslaw sandwich Well, they say sandwich, but really – if it’s between two buns, it’s a burger. A burger of deliciously flavoured chicken and fresh coleslaw, that is.
Getting a table here on weekends might be a little tricky as you compete with fellow Sydney-siders wanting to see what all the fuss is about, but Justin says the wait’s usually about 10 minutes. I guess there’s nothing more motivating to leave an empty table behind than sympathy for the hungry people watching you.
There’s only one downside to Bootsdarling’s success. Downstairs there’s an indoor / outdoor space brimming with potential; Justin and Dano originally wanted to turn it into a whiskey bar. But with the roaring trade of the cafe upstairs and the limits of the small space, the downstairs is being used for prep and storage. One room, however, is on its way to becoming a recording studio. How about that for a silver lining?
Before we leave – although the temptation to blow off the office and stay all day is strong, I might add – I have one more question for Justin. What’s behind the name Bootsdarling?
“Bootsdarling is the imaginary childhood friend of one of our mates,” he says with a laugh. “She told us one evening and the name kind of grew on us. It just worked.”
I guess everything really does fall into place.
Address: 333 South Dowling St, Darlinghurst
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 6:30am-4pm, Sunday 8am-4pm