Boasting one of the finest ground-floor views in the city, the Sydney Dance Café has all the trappings of an inner city attraction: historic building? Check. On the water? Check. A view of the bridge? Check and mate. The beautifully restored wharf houses the Sydney Theatre Company; Australian Theatre for Young People; and the Sydney Dance Company and by patronising their café you can feel like a key part of the creative community - in a specifically lunch-based capacity. If it's a beautiful day then we recommend securing a spot on the large, communal benches set outside so that you can enjoy the fresh sea air, but be warned: where there be salt water, belligerent seagulls be not far behind.
The original industrial interior is accentuated with the addition of lots of black steel, which is then brightened up by a series of copper domed lights, stylised festoon lighting and a baby grand by the entrance. It may have blue-collar roots but there is no doubt that we're in highbrow country now.
There is a selection of pre-made sandwiches, salads and sweets on display, while the more substantial options are listed on blackboards on the wall. Breakfast ends promptly at 11.30am at which point lunch is on. This is not a café for late-rising hipsters but caters to an older crowd who rise, eat and retire early. The options are simple and there are no surprises: five burgers, four pastas, a pad Thai and a selection from the grill. You order and pay at the counter.
Once you have a number and a beverage it's time to settle in and get to people watching. As we eat, the lithe figures of dancers periodically swan by on their way to and from classes, prompting an internal battle between the desire to emulate these specimens of perfection, and the desire to finish our chips and aioli. The carbs win.
Elsewhere on the menu, smoked salmon pappardelle and the steak sandwich are both solid offerings.
The café is now also open of an evening as a wine bar and restaurant and the dinner menu is designed for a more formal pre-show meal (mains are a reasonable $18.50-$28.50). But by day it remains a place to fuel up before a matinee, all the while keeping a watchful eye out for a glimpse of our Cate.