Coffee culture is strong in Sydney, whether you’re after an espresso, flat white, long black or a latte… with pretty much any milk under the sun. And the only thing better than a good brew is a great accompanying breakfast or brunch. Yes, you’ll find cafes dishing up Aussie favourite smashed avocado on toast, but there are plenty of other ways to start your day.
Caffeinating the city’s office workers, shoppers and visitors alike, Sydney’s CBD cafes are as diverse as they are prevalent. Just next to Darling Harbour, you can eat your way around the world at dining precinct Darling Square. French-inspired cafe Auvers puts an Asian twist on classic brunch fare with their taro French toast and black sesame lattes; Hungarian pastry cafe Kurtosh bakes fresh chimney cakes right in front of your eyes and nose; and Japanese-style milk bar Dopa serves perfect mounds of matcha kakigori (shaved ice dessert), fluffy Shibuya toasts and luxuriously topped rice bowls.
If you’re shopping at the boutiques of Pitt Street Mall or the Queen Victoria Building (QVB), top up your energy levels at The Grounds’ city outpost – The Grounds of The City offers the cult-loved Alexandria cafe's menu with décor that transports you to a Parisian bistro (just be prepared to queue!). Order the TikTok-famous hot chocolate at Manon Brasserie in the QVB, a delicious cup of Valrhona cocoa thickened with cream and served with Chantilly cream. If you’re after something a little stiffer, order a single origin coffee (or award-winning cocktail) from Sammy Jr, by the team behind Maybe Sammy, voted one of the World’s Best Bars every year since 2019. They source and roast their own beans, serve cascara (a coffee cherry tea that can be served both hot or cold) and offer an Italian menu from breakfast through to aperitivo hour.
Closer to Circular Quay, Bar Mammoni at Hinchcliff House does all your favourite coffees, freshly made pastries and a short but sweet breakfast menu, before pivoting to pizzas by the slice made with 72-hour fermented dough at lunch. For waterfront views, visit the Museum of Contemporary Art’s MCA Cafe and Sculpture Terrace and soak up the glittering harbour scenes while you sip on your latte. Head up the cobblestone streets of heritage area The Rocks to find La Renaissance, a French patisserie famed for their almond croissants and decadent layer cakes.
We couldn’t count the number of cafes in inner-city Surry Hills if we tried to. Walk a few steps in any direction and you’ll find a hangout to while away your morning in. A perennial favourite is Bills, where there are two things on the menu you should not miss: the cloud-like ricotta hotcakes and the sweet-corn fritters with avo salsa. Order a bloody mary on the side for good measure. More breaky cocktails await at Cuckoo Callay, where the jaffa espresso martini beats any cappuccino. Then around the corner, flaky croissants, zingy lemon-and-curd tarts, and the best pork-and-fennel sausage rolls you’ll ever eat await at Bourke Street Bakery.
If you’re serious about caffeine, Artificer roastery serves nothing but coffee, Paramount Coffee Projectrotates its beans every six weeks, and you can join a free tasting session at Reuben Hills. While you’re in the latter, order a bulging breaky burger. And while Sandoitchi may be small, everything on the menu is big in flavour. If your last meal on earth is their pork katsu sando, you will not be disappointed.
The good life – surf, sunshine, sand – of Bondi naturally attracts a plethora of achingly cool cafes, many of them serving up health-conscious fare, like the pea pancakes that people queue for at Porch and Parlour– ocean views sweeten the deal. Eat inside a bookshop at Gertrude & Alice, or look out over the ocean (and all those beautiful people swimming in it) from Icebergs Terrace. Other spots with water views include make Harry's Bar & Dining or Chapter One Coffee. A Bondi institution since 1928, Speedos serves up rainbow-coloured bowls and smoothies that are almost as pretty as the view – even Hugh Jackman is a fan.
Try a wedge of Black Star Pastry's strawberry watermelon cake, one of the world’s most Instagrammed cakes. The original café is in Newtown, but there are three other outlets across the city. Raspberry lychee, orange-fig and chocolate chiffon are other must-try cake flavours. The Grounds of Alexandria is another venue where you’ll want to have your camera handy – from the lush gardens to the fairy lights and perfectly-plated meals, this place is social media heaven. Added bonuses: the food and coffee are seriously good, plus there’s a kids’ petting zoo; make sure to say hello to the resident pig, Harry Trotter. In Glebe, sip on your latte surrounded by more than 30,000 second-hand books at Sappho Books, Cafe and Bar.
The only thing rivalling the number of craft beer breweries in Marrickville is the many fantastic cafes. The team at Illi Hill always have a smile to spare, decadent breakfast delights (think kimchi waffles topped with fried chicken and siracha mayo) make up the menu at Roastville, the ever-popular Two Chaps dishes up Med-inspired dishes, and artisanal coffee is poured in a hip converted warehouse at Double Roasters. Meanwhile, Brickfields is the kind of place you won’t want to leave. Come here for more-ish almond croissants, danishes and stellar brews.
Sydney has its fair share of cafes with standout views. Celcius Coffee Co. is set in a glass-fronted ferry wharf overlooking the harbour in Kirribilli. Manly's The Boathouse Shelly Beach does rustic-chic steps from the water at Balmoral and Shelly Beach. Try stand-up paddleboarding before sitting down with a warm drink at Mosman Rowers. Grab a table at The Navy Bear, set within the Royal Australian Navy Sailing Association (RANSA) in Rushcutters Bay. Its sister venue, Flying Bear, boasts an equally picturesque locale, on the wharf of the Sydney Flying Squadron Sailing Club in Kirribilli. Fancy a swim after your breaky? Locals love the striking art decoBathers’ Pavilion on Balmoral Beach.
There’s no Aussie worth their weight in salt who doesn’t love Vegemite or smashed avo on toast. But if you want to travel the globe over your morning meal, we have a few ideas. Savour the dashi omelettes with purple rice at Rising Sun Workshop, a communal motorbike workshop and cafe in Newtown. Order inspired Middle Eastern dishes at Nour on Crown Street in Surry Hills. Head over the Sydney Harbour Bridge for Scandinavian at Fika Swedish Kitchen in Manly (there’s also an outlet in Bondi). Grab a Portuguese pastry from Sweet Belem, which sells between 600 to 1,000 custard tarts on a weekend day. Or devour a bagel with a shmear at The Bagel Coin Rose Bay. The challah here is dreamy as well.
Desserts at Sweet Belem, Petersham
Tea is still caffeine, so it counts, right? In a nod to Australia's colonial heritage, high tea is an English tradition that has been enthusiastically adopted by Aussies. Enjoy delicate cakes, crustless sandwiches and petite pastries in heritage buildings at The Tea Room QVB (we also recommend a flute of champagne). Meanwhile Strangers’ Restaurant at Parliament House (overlooking the Domain), Estate Vaucluse House and Gunners' Barracks in Mosman all deliver dapper waiters and tiered platters of sweet and savoury snacks to see you through to dinner. Cheers to that.
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