‘Why did you decide to study law?’
It’s a question I receive too often from people who I just meet and the inevitable question of ‘what do you do?’ is exchanged among the pleasantries. I never fail to get a chuckle at my response of: ‘I didn’t know what I wanted to do; so when my parents suggested I study Law, I remember from Legally Blonde that it looked fun, so why not!?’
Unfortunately, that response is entirely honest and true. I spent my senior years of high school doing a variety of subjects that were said to ‘look good’ in terms of scaling your UAI (University Admissions Index at the time; I now believe it’s called an ATAR), an English, mathematics, ancient history and legal studies unit, and the sciences of course – biology and chemistry. The folks tried to persuade me to take up physics, but I put my foot down at that. I regret now not having taken up the subject I came top in for two years – Food Technology – as clearly it’s where one of my key passions lie, but the subject “didn’t scale well” and it was unlikely I would pursue further education along those lines.
I did well enough in all of those subjects, and when I got into university I did well enough in my combined business law degree too. But that’s how I’ve always been – if I apply myself diligently enough I do well; not the straggler in the class, but never in the shining top elite either. It’s probably been why I’ve been reluctant to commit myself wholly to a definitive career in the last year or two. I was given a talking to by my folks a few months ago about needing to choose ONE path and to pursue it – and nothing else – in order to progress faster. I enjoy variety, and I blanch at the idea of solely pursuing any one of my current lifestyles: solicitor, dance fitness instructor, or food blogger.
I still very much feel a sense of child-like wonderment and awe when it comes to good food, and the food at Illi Hill is no exception. Situated in north-east Marrickville opposite the popular joint The Henson, Illi Hill is a cute cafe popular amongst the locals for their house-made nourishing meals, made from factory-farming-free seasonal produce and some assistance from local suppliers.
I was here for Sunday brunch with the girlfriend Night Owl and a good friend of ours. This good friend – let’s call her M – is my hairdresser and after a year or two of salon visits we struck up a firm (quite often very sarcastic) friendship and took things out of the salon, visiting inner west foodie markets and hipster cafes, before I introduced her and Night Owl. M has been helping Night Owl and I in our quest to “go lighter” for the Sydney summer months, transitioning Night Owl from brunette to blonde and lightening my balayage. To thank her, we were taking her out to brunch at one of our favourite inner west discoveries.
There’s usually a wait here of fifteen minutes or so, but the staff are quick, friendly and super efficient and have us seated soon in a nice corner table with laminated menus and water. M and Night Owl order coffees (Coffee by The Little Marionette – $3.50 each), while I select the Earl Grey Blue Flower by Teacraft ($4.00).
The teapot is an interesting strain-type system where at the push of a button on top, the hot tea strains from the top compartment into the bottom, before you pour the filtered tea. It reminds me of the massive white chocolate chai teapots you can get from Max Brenner.
The food arrives quite quickly for how packed the joint is. Night Owl always tries something different when she’s here, so she had selected the Green eggs, scrambled ($15.00) on rye with crushed peas, baby spinach, shallots, roasted sunflower seeds, feta, basil oil and sumac.
Quite healthy and a good dish to have if, like her, you had had a morning gym session. She did feel however, that it was underseasoned a tad and so added some salt to it – something she never does.
M loves beef brisket, and had gone with the Corned beef brisket and chat potato hash ($18.50) with cut carrot, kohlrabi, purple cabbage, poached eggs and hollandaise. It was a spectacular looking affair:
The weather wasn’t overly warm so I was in the mood for something a little heartier – and I love my baked eggs; set in amongst stewed, herbed tomatoes. Illi Hill’s Baked Eggs ($17.50) came with braised beans, sugar peas, balsamic field mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, fetta, fresh herbs, pepita dukkah and sourdough.
I love it when these things come in a cast iron pan, keeping the dish for as long as possible. The pepita dukkah added a lovely amount of crunch to the otherwise soft dish, and the two half-slices of bread was just enough to scoop up the flavoursome homemade tomato sauce and the rest of the baked beans.
While there are one or two indulgent items on the menu (Buttermilk and ricotta hotcakes with dark chocolate praline being one, as well as their epic triple cheeseburger), Illi Hill essentially excels in feel-good food with a lovely homely atmosphere and cheery attitude. This place is sure to remain a firm favourite.
72 Illawara Road
Marrickville, Sydney NSW 2204
(02) 8318 2296