The owners of Grumpy Donuts are behind Marrickville’s new all-day diner, Valentina’s, but you wouldn’t know it.
The Camperdown doughnut shop’s trademark fluoro pink and green has been traded for a rich palette of burgundy, deep sage and timber. It’s a sophisticated, confidently understated contrast to Grumpy’s celebration of colour and confection.
“We’ve been boxed in for a long time,” says Elise Honeybrook, who co-owns both venues with partner Scott Clark. “We were ready to bring something different, and it’s been really exciting to reinvent ourselves.”
Although the aim was for the two brands to be distinct, like Grumpy Donuts, Valentina’s menu is inspired by American food.
“We wanted to be somewhere between a cafe and a restaurant, with a fit-out that’s impressive but also really comfortable,” says Honeybrook. “That’s juxtaposed with a really simple food offering: the kind of things you would get if you walked into a diner in New York or LA.”
But Valentina’s isn’t a greasy spoon. When developing the menu, Clark’s aim was to strike a balance between simplicity and attention to detail.
“We’re going for really high quality,” says Honeybrook. “That doesn’t have to be microherbs on pancakes. It can be the right amount of salt on a sausage patty.”
Stand-out dishes include the fried mortadella sandwich with crisp potato chips on thick white toast; a sandwich filled with jus-dipped roast beef; and vegan sloppy joe. Honeybrook is partial to the salty, southern-style biscuits with burnt white-pepper gravy, and short-stack pancakes served only with butter and maple syrup. There are also fish-finger sandwiches, a range of breakfast sandwiches (including sausage, egg and cheese) and slices of pie. Coffee is by Artificer.
The focus on detail finds its way into all elements at Valentina’s. Curves dominate Lucia Braham and Matt Woods’ design, with hand-rendered, chalky-white curved walls, an elegantly rounded timber counter, curved edges on the tables and chairs, and wide-wale corduroy upholstery on the banquette seats.
For Honeybrook and Clark, Valentina’s has been a long time coming. “We’ve been sitting on this idea for two years, waiting to find the right space. Scott had the recipes written and tested a year ago.”
In comparison to their early days as young owners, when they tried to wear all hats in the business, from delivery drivers to doughnut cooks, Honeybrook and Clark seem confident, evidenced by the fact that Valentina’s is the sole business among a strip of houses at the Marrickville end of Livingstone Road.
“We like being a destination instead of a passer-by thing. You end up having your customers, the people who come and understand what you’re doing,” Honeybrook says.
Valentina’s aesthetic is consistent, from the fit-out to the branded retro order pads used by staff. There’s one exception though: a mural of one of Honeybrook and Clark’s pet griffons, Tina, who is also the restaurant’s namesake. You’ll spot it on the way to the bathroom.
As for Abby, their other dog, Honeybrook foreshadows a potential sister venue sometime in the future. “We’ll have to open a bar and name it after Abby.”
132 Livingstone Road, Marrickville
Tue to Sun 7am–3pm