The 65 best cafés in Sydney right now
Summer 2023 update: Start your summertime morning on the right note with a swim at one of Sydney’s most beautiful beaches followed by a delicious brekkie and on-point coffee at one of the cafés below. Because who wants to cook eggs and bacon at home? Not us, that’s for sure. Sydneysiders are café people. We're constantly on the hunt for the city's best coffee, we won't bat an eyelid over shelling out $30+ a head for brunch, and we love nothing more than donning our finest sport-luxe activewear and catching up with mates on a weekend morning over eggs, fritters and crusty artisan sourdough. So, whether it's a reward for tackling one of Sydney's most beautiful walks, a quick caffeinated catch-up, an indulgent hangover fix after a night at one of the city's best bars, or a workday coffee stop, these are the best Sydney cafés, according to our in-the-know Time Out Sydney critics, including Food & Drink Writer Avril Treasure. We'll have a B&E roll, please. Is it lunch time? Check out our guide to Sydney's best restaurants right now.
The best waterfront restaurants in Sydney
You know you've reached peak Sydney when you're sipping a crisp vino over a beautiful meal and outside the windows is the big blue. Perhaps it's three-courses of modern Aussie fare from Sean's Panaroma overlooking North Bondi Beach? Or maybe you prefer the gentler harbour vistas you get at Chiosco or Catalina, or spots that are right on the sand like Bobby's and The Boathouse Shelly Beach? One thing's for sure, eating by the water gives your meal that extra shine, which is why so many Sydneysiders flock to the shores for a special occasion, year-round. For your next extra special soiree, book a table at one of the best waterfront restaurants Sydney has on the books, rounded up by Time Out Sydney's critics, including Food & Drink Writer Avril Treasure, who has had her fair share (and then some) of long, boozy lunches by the sea. Looking for an epic place for a drink? Here's our guide to Sydney's very best bars.
The best Italian restaurants in Sydney
There’s no doubt about it, Sydneysiders can’t get enough of Italian food. And who can blame us? There’s something about a bowl of perfectly al dente pasta paired with a luscious, rich ragu that just hits the spot. And white Italian cuisine differs throughout the 20 incredible regions – broadly speaking the northern regions eat more rice and polenta, and down south they feast more on seafood – Italians share a love of beautiful, seasonal produce, choosing simplicity rather than overcomplicating dishes, and cooking food with soul. No wonder we love it so much. Luckily, there are a wealth of excellent options to choose from when it comes to Italian dining in Sydney. Time Out’s editors and critics, including our Food & Drink Writer Avril Treasure, have picked our favourite eateries covering all bases – from casual red-sauce joints and classic pizzerias to fine dining restaurants – so no matter what mood you're in, there's something here for you. Not in the mood for pasta? Here are our picks of the best spots for Greek and French food in Sydney
The best sandwiches in Sydney right now
Sandwiches? Well, they're the best thing to come out of slicing bread. Here, the criteria is pretty simple: very good things in between two very good slices of well-sliced bread. No burgers, bagels, scrolls and banh mi (they’re a league of their own). No half-hearted strings of romaine here, no siree. Time Out Sydney critics, including Food & Drink Writer Avril Treasure, have eaten their way around carb-town (which frankly, is the most delicious place to be) to curate this list of the best sandwiches in Sydney. 'wich on, friends. Want more budget food? Here are the best cheap eats in Sydney right now. Heading our later? Check out our ultimate guide to the best restaurants in Sydney.
The best quick lunches in Sydney CBD
Sure, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but lunchtime is arguably the most exciting. You shouldn’t have to settle for soggy sandwiches and last night’s leftovers when there are fresh and fun eats existing in all pockets of the city. Whether you’re craving elevated sandwiches on oven-fresh bread, inspired savoury pastries, hearty bowls of laksa or build-your-own bentos, there’s something delicious on for lunch in Sydney every day of the week. We've rounded up our favourite places to grab a lunch on-the-go in Sydney's CBD. Whether its old, new, tucked away in the city's heart, or sitting on the fringe, we've got you covered when it comes to making the most of your lunchbreak, every day of the week. After a liquid lunch instead? Here are the best bars in the Sydney CBD right now.
The best places for pasta in Sydney
Whether it’s a simple spaghetti with garlic, oil and chilli, ravioli stuffed to the high heavens, or lovingly layered lasagne, few foods give us the feels quite like pasta. Let’s be real – Sydney’s Italian restaurant game is seriously strong on all fronts, but when the hour calls for carbs, these are the spots that turn flour, eggs and water into small miracles. Need an aperitivo before you chow down? Knock back a cocktail at one of the best bars in Sydney.
The 22 best vegetarian restaurants in Sydney
Long gone are the days when mushroom risotto was the only option on Sydney menus for vegetarians. Okay, so a few places are still championing that veggo staple, but if you know where to go you need never set eyes on it again. Not all of these restaurants are exclusively vegetarian, but everyone on this list is serving the kind of exciting, delicious vegetable-based fare that will make you reconsider meat in favour of a whole head of cauliflower, a perfect pizza or a totally plant-based degustation. If you're a dedicated herbivore, you can find Sydney's best vegan restaurants.
Seven Sydney institutions for your dining bucket list
New restaurants are often in the spotlight, ready for their Instagram close-up. But Sydney is also home to a host of long-running venues that are still at the top of people’s dining hit lists – hell, Time Out has been writing about them from our very first issue, back in 2007. These establishments have stuck to their mission statement, offering great food with polish and personality. They’re safety zones that don’t give in to fast-breaking fads, but they can be progressive, too. Meanwhile, places like Sean’s Panaroma, Golden Century and Fratelli Paradiso show that it’s possible to stay timeless without coming across like a dusty museum display. These are the restaurants that have stayed vital over the last ten years and belong on the Sydney dining honour roll. Want more top chefs? Check out our guide to the 50 best restaurants in Sydney. Want something a little more casual? Check out our guide to the best burgers in Sydney.
The Sydney bartenders' guide to hooking up
Walking into a bar – in comedy, it’s a classic set-up for a joke; in life, it’s a popular way to find romance. There are plenty of reasons to hit a low-lit, boozy venue when love is on the cards. Sydney has many great venues that’ll (responsibly) serve you drinks to calm your nerves or spark conversations with strangers. Plus, any interest is well-catered for: you can play arcade games at 1989 Kitchen and Arcade; bust curfew and exchange numbers at Frankie’s Pizza By The Slice over pinball and rock; or enjoy spirits the grown-up way at Rosebery’s Archie Rose Distilling Co., where you can tour the namesake distillery and make your own booze. There’s another big advantage to looking for romance in a bar: the staff. “The bartender is often your friend. If you’re at a good bar, they’re often looking out for you,” says Luke Ashton from This Must Be The Place. “I always keep an eye out for people on dates and try to make their experience a fun and memorable one,” says Jemima McDonald from Earl’s Juke Joint in Newtown. “If that means making them do shots with me, then so be it.” “You can spot a Tinder date a mile away and usually the whole front of house team knows about it, exchanging updates of ‘how’s it going?’” says David Hobbs from Dead Ringer, Surry Hills, and Bulletin Place, Circular Quay. “You may have half the staff rooting for you… I remember one which started awfully, they pushed through it, stayed on the wine and four hours later, they left ‘in a hurry’.” “You some
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Greek is the word at 1821. It’s obvious as soon as you walk through the door, and spot a blockbuster-sized version of the country’s flag on one wall and a sculptural horse bolting through another. History buffs will recognise the latter as a military reference to the Greek war of independence. The restaurant itself pays tribute to that battle via its name (which is when the conflict officially started) and the name of Odessa bar downstairs (it was in the Odessa settlement that Greeks started plotting their revolution against the Ottoman Empire). And while you can go nerd-level deep on the Hellenic references in the interiors (which are by Athens designer Dimitris Economou), the menu also loudly declares its Greek heritage. But don’t expect textbook classics – chef David Tsirekas likes to remix his Greek staples. Like the baklava (yet another thing the Greeks and Turks will understandably argue over – but then, who would easily give up bragging rights to this great dessert?) Tsirekas flips it into an ice-cream sandwich, with the vanilla bean ice-cream subbing in for the traditional layers of filo pastry. It’s genius – and doubles as a gluten-free cooking hack that everyone can enjoy. In between the thick, creamy slabs are caramel fudge and the crushed nuts you’d typically find in baklava. This was one of Tsirekas’s first-ever experimental desserts, and it has followed him via his time at Perama in Petersham, Xanthi in Westfield Sydney and his Perama pop-ups at Summer Hill’s Pl
The term 'corporate dining' doesn’t exactly set your heart ablaze. So your expectations for District Brasserie – located inside Chifley Square, a ritzy shopping plaza down the suit-wearing end of town – might start low. Sure, everyone loves a Chinatown food court but eating at a mall restaurant below the offices of sober-sounding businesses like DBC Advisory, Equities First and Adamantem Capital – well, that sounds less fun, doesn’t it? Raise your expectations, then, because the food at District Brasserie is really good and even contains a creative streak. Sure, the business crowd loves its steak and hearty red wines – and the menu delivers some leftfield takes without scaring anyone who likes food fairly straight. The tartare comes with a smoked onion crumble, confit egg yolk and tapioca crisp, while the steak frites is more conventional, but served with triple-cooked chips seasoned with kombu and rosemary. But you can have a fine time at District Brasserie by skipping the steak-eating business lunch clichés (although, go straight ahead, if you feel like shelling out $98 for cote de boeuf or $415 for Pommery Louise Champagne). The crumbed flathead with pomme Anna is a wry version of fish and chips: the crunchy fish pieces sit atop a crisp plank of beautifully layered potatoes, and are served with a bright-green pea mash and warm tartare sauce. It’s comfort food that scores high marks everyone can interpret: a telltale scraped-clean plate (and a table-wide negotiation of the
When Italy won the World Cup grand final in 2006, Riccardo Bianchini went to a tattoo parlour to celebrate. It had been his dream, since he was 12, to see his national team take out the championship. (It’s why his resulting tattoo says “1982-2006”, to mark those timelines.) So perhaps it’s not a surprise that his latest restaurant, Zona Azzurri, is located inside Alexandria’s Ultra Football – a megastore dedicated to the sport. Accordingly, there have been times when they has been serving bomboloni and focaccia at 4.45am, to football fans who are watching matches live. But, Bianchini is keen to point out that Zona Azzurri is not a soccer restaurant, even if the name is a reference to the sport. Ok, so the venue is also the only place in Australia to serve wine by footballer Andrea (pick from his pinot noir and chardonnay), but there’s plenty to like even if the world game isn’t your sport. Bianchini knows what he’s doing – he’s been in the (restaurant) game for 25 years, mostly running businesses in Melbourne (Cucina & Co and Cucina Bar, DOC). His head chef, Emmanuele Cipoletta and pizza chef, Gianni Pugliese, are long-time employees, so it’s no surprise that things run smoothly and the menu delivers solid Italian hits. Relationships are important, which is why the cherry tomato sauce that goes with the gnocchi is from a Sicilian farm run by Bianchini’s childhood friend; and the excellent pappardelle Lucia is named after the chef’s mum and is modelled after the way she cooks
Stanton and Co
You might call Richard Stanton an overachiever. Born in 1862, he became Ashfield’s mayor (twice) and did some serious time as a furniture dealer, auctioneer and real estate agent, too. As a developer, he’s responsible for the “garden suburb” look of Haberfield and Rosebery. And his trend-setting Californian bungalow in Rosebery helped this residential style catch on in Australia. (His desire to raise the public perception of real-estate agents wasn’t as successful, though – there’s only so much you can do in one lifetime.) His spirit lives on in Stanton and Co., located in the 2018 postcode he helped develop. Hidden on the first floor of The Cannery building, the venue’s industrial look is furnished straight from the Modern Restaurant Playbook: exposed lightbulbs, pipes and bricks, concrete planters and, of course, a random typewriter. The best decorations were added after Stanton and Co. announced its launch last year. Richard Stanton’s grandson, Richard Haberfield Stanton, contacted restaurant owner Brody Peterson and gave him custody of original posters, dating back to 1918, from Stanton’s real-estate business. To go with the vintage decor, Regan Porteous (The Fat Duck, Toko, Riley Street Garage) has channelled memories of his mother making pickled onions into an excellent burrata dish: a cloudbank of creamy mozzarella offset with the ultra-sweet tang of thin, brined-pink rings and rough-grained seasoning of pistachio furikake made with roasted nuts, crumbled Parmesan, sa
Cornersmith - Marrickville
Each year when New Year’s resolutions hit we all try becoming better versions of ourselves, and the same has gone for Marrickville’s Cornersmith, who decided to go into reboot mode, too. But don’t worry, the change is more like an operating systems update rather than a complete overhaul. This much-acclaimed café hardly needed improving – it’s already an overachiever. For seven years, Cornersmith has scored high marks for its forward-thinking approach to minimising food waste, using local produce and fermenting, smoking and hand-preserving in-house. After the OG café opened in late 2011, they also launched the Picklery up the road, where you can learn to make miso, cheese and sauerkraut from scratch, as well as an all-vegetarian café in Annandale and a range of cookbooks.And so they’ve circled back to their flagship venue, where along with a new coat of paint and extra shelving for Australian wines like the Latta pet nat, the café is attempting dinner service again. Drop in for organic Wapengo oysters, a platter of Kristen Allan cheese, or say yes to a toastie for dinner. The latter is filled with a creamed corn recipe by head chef Ava Stangherlin (Hotel Centennial): the yellow mess bubbles with melted Maffra cheddar cheese and Cornersmith’s own malt-vinegar onions. Be grateful that there’s no curfew on ordering this cracking hot sandwich. You can also bank up share-plates for a more substantial dinner. Get the corn with Calabrian butter: an ultra-savoury mix of parsley, orega
Otto Ristorante Sydney
You might assume the long-running vegan menu at Otto was inspired by some righteous celebrity. After all, this glitzy Woolloomooloo institution is known for being a wharfside runway for stars, and there are many A-listers who are pin-ups for the plant-based diet. Turns out a regular – a vegan diner who has been visiting fortnightly for a decade – was the one who sparked executive chef Richard Ptacnik’s experiments with animal-free dining. And so the question becomes: how does a menu without egg, meat and cheese rate in a restaurant known for stylish updates on Italian food? Well, it turns out you can drop the pork ragù and squid ink and still eat incredibly well at Otto. In tandem with the vegan menu, Ptacnik offers a dedicated vegetarian menu, too – and they echo each other in perfect harmony. The stunning ravioli – made from beetroot that’s pickled in spices and red-wine vinegar until it’s a perfect Pantone shade of burgundy red – is filled with a hommus-like cashew cheese (produced locally by Sprout & Kernel) as a vegan option. The vegetarian alternative hides a salty hit of Woodside goat’s curd. Both are served with crinkly golden beetroot chips that have the snap and flavour of ultra-savoury, addictive crisps; a little dose of pistachio and horseradish sharpens the effect, and each version is an excellent opener for the meat-free tasting menus. Next is an artichoke salad, which is more like a light intermission than a headlining dish. Heavier-hitters are the fried zucc
In a city where you can get pizza by the metre and deep-dish versions impersonating a Mary’s burger, is it still possible to stand out with slices of pie? Yes and Madre in Marrickville is doing just that. This tiny corner pizzeria is the latest venue for Piero Pignatti Morano and Kim Douglas, the A-team behind the ever-popular Two Chaps café, located only blocks away. And they’ve tuned out all the gospel about what makes a classic Italian pizza to create something thoroughly local – and unlike anything else around. Madre borrows Two Chaps’ make-it-from-scratch philosophy and its ingredients, with chef Kim Douglas using the café’s four-year-old sourdough starter and a mix of three Australian flours to create the bases for Madre’s pizzas. Given that the dough shares DNA with the bread baked on site at Two Chaps, it’s not surprising that pizzas have a strong earthy bite and the tart flourish of a good sourdough loaf. The slices are still sturdy but thin, making them excellent delivery systems for the local topping. The three-cheese pie includes fior di latte from the same postcode, as well as melted portions of domestically made blue cheese and aged washed rind. To stop the pizza from hitting dairy overload, the kitchen adds Warrigal greens from Pocket City Farms in nearby Camperdown and tips of cavolo nero from Moon Acres Farm in the Southern Highlands. Some hazelnuts, lightly toasted in the oven, are smashed and sprinkled over the top for a satisfying crunch. You could do an a
Dutch Smuggler doesn’t deal in illicit goods, but its inspired range of coffee and toasties could pass off as valuable cargo. In fact, the menu at this CBD café is so likeable that Customs would probably understand if you tried to take a lunchtime order across borders – or, at the very least, back to your office. Of course, you could always hang out and dine in. The trick is finding the tiny kiosk that houses Dutch Smuggler. It’s located in the same architecturally striking pavilion that hosts Edition Coffee Roasters. The building itself slinks down a staircase and leads you into the Burrows, a large outdoor space that’s also home to the Food Truck Fridays event. When that frenzied gathering of restaurants-on-wheels isn’t on, the site is much quieter – so grabbing a free table isn’t hard. It’s impressive what owners Byron Van Zyl and Chewie Stevenson can achieve in Dutch Smuggler’s compact space – the staff must constantly have to watch their elbows. They took over this kiosk in late 2016 (downsizing from the original Dutch Smuggler in Ultimo) and they’re constantly transforming well-grilled slices of Infinity Bakery’s traditional tin loaf into killer toasties that demonstrate the stretching powers of good cheese. The best is the “Mi Goreng”, a genius collision of two great late-night snacks: instant noodles and the contents of a fridge-raiding session, wedged into a toaster. Dutch Smuggler’s version squeezes in noodles, a fried egg, shallots, a double meltdown of cheese (ooz
Anyone would think Joseph Hyde was running for office, so dedicated is their effort to keeping everyone happy. Can’t eat meat, dairy or wheat? This Potts Point café goes beyond the solitary vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free option that some places begrudgingly add as an afterthought, and offers plenty of inspired dishes instead – from spiced carrot waffles to hash brown stacks that can be accessorised to meet your dietary needs. Feel like a Negroni, Aperol Spritz or chenin blanc at 10am? Joseph Hyde will deliver your boozy hit with no judgments. Aiming for something more virtuous? Well, how about a glass of cold-pressed carrot and apple with turmeric and ginger or a leafy green juice? And if you’re chasing a caffeine buzz, the punchy Double Roasters custom blend is served every way you can think of – even as an espresso with tonic water. Perhaps this all-in-one convenience shouldn’t be a surprise as Joseph Hyde is run by a pro – this is the fourth café for Lou Hunt, and she’s a veteran at pleasing the brunch crowd (as previous ventures Orto Trading Co and Baffi & Mo proved). You won’t see her posting dockets on Instagram, loudly complaining about diners with dietary requests – instead she’s a menu ninja who has engineered every dish to easily adapt to any restriction. The poke bowl with Japanese furikake seasoning and edamame can be turned vegan with avocado switched in for cured trout. The ultra-crunchy potato hash – sandwiching lemon-dressed rocket and cherry tomatoes – is n
Avocado on toast: we’ve all been there, done that. At Morley Eats in Rosebery, you can get your avo fix on a hash brown waffle instead. The café’s reboot of the breakfast staple comes with a fried egg and sweet chilli jam – and it’s not the only act of reinvention going on here. This venue originally was an offshoot of Du Liban, a Lebanese bakery that owners Raed Malas and Dorrie Krahe opened in Marrickville two years ago. But the 2018 postcode didn’t respond in the same way, so the couple went into reset mode and rebranded the café as Morley Eats.They retained the industrial interiors (a mix of recycled furniture, distressed wallpaper and exposed brick in keeping with the heritage building’s origins), but gave the menu an international outlook. There’s Portuguese chicken, shakshuka and matcha waffles on offer. In fact, Morley Eats seems to be challenging itself to make as many different culinary styles coexist as possible.Want your waffles Belgian-style or in a Pantone-bright batter that resembles American red velvet cakes? You got it. Your schnitzel as a Persian crumbed chicken patty with lettuce and dill aioli, on a burger? Breakfast can come in the form of Lebanese-style pizza, in #cleaneating format (kale pesto with rocket, cherry tomato and egg) or never-too-early-for-dessert guise with Nutella and strawberries. Morley Eats basically hasn’t met a border it didn’t like crossing – this round-the-world ticket menu leaves behind menu clichés like relatives at a departure
The Grounds of the City
This has got to be the most beautifully designed café in the CBD. The bespoke taps are so stylish, they deserve their own Instagram account. The kitchen rangehood – with its burgundy-red curves and pleated detailing – would probably take the tiara and sash if there was some universal beauty contest in its category. Even the receipts are pretty at the Grounds of the City. It’s no surprise that this venue is so good-looking. Its predecessor – the Grounds of Alexandria – has been one of the top ten Instagrammed places in the country, beating popular Australian landmarks (having an in-house stylist probably helps.) But this inner-city spin-off – which sits on the ground floor of the Galeries – is no thoughtless carbon copy of its older sibling. If the original Alexandria mega-café is a sprawling blockbuster, then the Grounds of the City is like an intimate period movie. Its yesteryear-Paris-bistro look has been grandly set designed by Acme & Co and includes book shelves made from 300-year-old French oak; coffee grinders up to a century old; butler trays found in London; and a pressed metal ceiling time-lapsed with Porter’s Paint to look like it’s weathered decades of distress. It looks spectacular. Like the original, the Grounds of the City has all-ages appeal, attracting everyone from dessert-obsessed schoolkids to tailored business lunchers, and the menu skips across demographics and eras, too. Bistro classics are covered (steak with Café de Paris butter and fries), as well as
1989 Kitchen & Arcade
No, 1989 is not the name of a Taylor Swift concept café (although, someone please make that happen), but a Newtown eatery dedicated to the coin-operated joys of old-school arcade games. The venue’s title comes from the year its Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles machine was unboxed from the factory – 1989’s owners, Marnie and Ben Campbell, bought their four-player version from the UK, where it previously belonged to a policeman who’d purchased it with his bonus from the 2012 London Olympics. The Campbells aren’t obvious hospitality candidates – she currently teaches at NIDA and he edited the first two seasons of Peppa Pig – but a trip to New York’s Barcade, whose two-in-one charm as an arcade parlour and bar slinging craft beer, was the inspiration for 1989’s 8-bit origins. But this venue is a Sydney remix, with 23 local craft beers on tap or as tinnies. By day, 1989 reboots and runs in café mode, with all-ages-friendly drinks like milkshakes made with Serendity ice cream, and the Little Marionette’s Sanchez 7 Blend for coffee – a dark roast with a nice, round finish. Unsurprisingly, the café’s soundtrack fires off plenty of plinks and beeps as players face various rounds of combat in Streetfighter II, The Simpsons, Double Dragon or Turtles. They also have a console of Ghosts 'N Goblins, notorious for being one of the “hardest games ever made” – one reviewer concluded that its final room is actually devised by Satan himself – and a Point Blank II machine that came from a kids’ nurse