Hidden down the far end of Mullens Street, well off the main drag in Balmain, is the diminutive Little Ethel’s Espresso Bar, a tiny cafe servicing local offices and lunch-hunters in the know.
With its astroturf, white picket fence and 1970s style garden seating (all inside), it’s a sunny little place, even on a grey day. Named after owner Jamie Woolcott’s grandmother, there’s a halcyon artwork adorning one wall, which depicts Ethel growing from a girl into an elegant old lady. It’s a talking piece and makes it easy for staff to explain the name when they’re inevitably asked “Who is Little Ethel?”.
The eat-in menu here is another talking point. Pies are made onsite along with delights including confit pork and beetroot cured salmon, while the toasting plate (with bread by Adriano Zumbo) is a stroke of genius – a tasting plate of toasts and toppings in your choice of savoury or sweet. Charming touches abound (look for the birdcage silhouette and the box of ‘borrow blankets’ to take to the park) and coffee is by Single Origin.
It might be small, but Ethel’s is building a big reputation and has opened a sister bistro a few doors up.