Sydneysiders are café people. We're constantly searching for the city's best coffee, we won't bat an eyelid shelling out more than $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 porridge, muesli, hotcakes, fritters, eggs and overpriced sourdough.
Whether it's a reward for tackling one of Sydney's most beautiful walks, a quick caffeinated catch-up or an indulgent hangover fixer after a night at one of the city's best bars, these are the 50 best Sydney cafés you need to visit.
Want more? Here's a dish-specific ordering guide to Sydney's best breakfasts.
The 50 best Sydney cafés
One Another is the neighbourhood café that every suburb longs for. Everything on the shapeshifting all-day breakfast menu clocks in at less than $20, and seasonal produce at peak freshness is always a guarantee. In autumn, that might mean an elegant spin on fruit toast with tender cubes of spiced apple, ricotta and rosemary. Come spring, asparagus appears alongside perfectly poached eggs, crisp potatoes and rich miso butter. The Sample coffee is on point, as are the irresistible housemade pastries. Good morning, indeed.
The striking, dramatic and very pared-back Scandi-Japanese aesthetic here is impressive enough, but then out comes that signature soufflé pancake: whipped to within an inch of its life, risen high in the oven like a phoenix and finished with toppings that range from mango, peach and cream cheese to sencha cream, rhubarb and elderflower. The dish has a 20-minute wait time, but boy is that time well spent.
This Surry Hills institution made big waves in 2019, with a slick refurb, the installation of a self-service batch brew bar and a serious menu update that reads like a glossary of native Australian ingredients, executed with restaurant-level technicality. If this is the future of Australian breakfast, things are looking bright.
You're here for the Ottoman eggs, are you? You and everybody else. It's a day starter that's achieved cult status in this breakfast-loving town like so few dishes can, and it proudly puts Parramatta on the map as a breakfast destination. Not a fan of creamy labne layered with fried eggplant, brown butter, crisp sage, crunchy leeks and poached eggs? Fret not. It's all killer, no filler – and that includes the coffee, roasted in-house.
Paramount is always pumping, and it's no mystery why. Not only is it housed in one of the city's sexiest Art Deco buildlings, in one of its buzziest neighbourhoods, but the team also has the food, coffee, design and service brief down to a science. On the menu, there's a bit of Japan, a tad of Korea, a hint of L.A. and a nod to the American South – and that's exactly what makes it the kind of Sydney café we can't get enough of.
Bill Granger's scrambled eggs, ricotta hotcakes and corn fritters are pretty much the Holy Trinity of Sydney Breakfast. They're the dishes that spurred the global obsession with how we like to eat in the AM, and they're still just so darn good, every time, even after all these years. The Darlinghurst and Surry Hills outlets are no less outstanding, but the fact that you can walk up to the Bondi branch fresh from a swim with sand between your toes is clutch.
It's far cry from a carbon copy of its older OG Alexandria mega-café sibling, but it's every bit as intricately detailed, taking inspiration from grand Parisian brasseries and the clubby interiors of glamorous vintage train carriages. What's happening on the table in front of you is no less enticing, be it a coffee tasting board or a lunch of lobster brandade on toast.
Our fair city's poster children for pickles and ferments keep it light and fresh on an ever-changing menu that celebrates the seasons with elegant simplicity. If a humble plate of summer's best tomatoes, figs, berries and baby burrata soused in cherry gazpacho doesn't get things off on the right foot, then what else possibly could?
How lucky are we that one of the best bakeries in town doubles as one of the best cafés? Grab a window seat and gorge yourself on all the ace pastries, from croissants and dazzling Persian love cakes to addictive cheddar and chilli scones. Or, live large and conquer the almighty bacon or broccoli sangas. If carb loading is on the itinerary, make this your very first stop.
Sydney's never-ending love affair with ramen reaches all-time highs at this Newtown café-cum-motorcycle-repair-shop, where breakfast ramen is the order of the day. It’s a beautiful big bowl of rich, fatty buttered-toast-infused bone broth with bacon, tomato and an egg. Should you sleep in, there are three ramens to choose from at lunch (including a wicked vegetarian option), as well as dynamite katsu burgers.
This Surry Hills stayer slays it across the board, so expect a queue that's every bit as long at peak hour as it was back when they unlocked the doors in 2012. But, know that the coffee (roasted upstairs) and Central and South American accented all-day eats (think chilaquiles and huevos divorciados) are absolutely worth it. Bonus points for the immaculate industrial fitout.
The team that brought us Bart Jr delivers once again, with a Redfern café basking in Miami Vice-like tropical kitchy glory. The menu takes cues from here, there and everywhere, spruiking the likes of breakfast dhal, breakfast tacos, a winning scramble with eggplant pahi and a rice bowl with mushrooms in XO sauce. There's a stellar list of natural wines on the pour, too, so pop that pet-nat and start the party.
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. Plus, there's no better spot for colourful Kings Cross people watching than a perch along Llankelley Place.
This Canberra import has made a name for itself sourcing and roasting some of the tippity top coffee in the country, and its minimal, miniscule Marrickville outlet is a caffeine fiend's paradise. There are separate menus of blends and single origins for black and white coffees and a pricey reserve list for filters, so don't hold back and nerd out hard – the staff know it all back to front and are more than happy to guide your journey.
Back in the day, Andy Bowdy won over Inner West sweet tooths with his weekly menu of elaborate soft-serve desserts at Hartsyard. Fast forward a few years, and he's still responsible for many a sugar high at the helm of not one, but two cafés showcasing his OTT glucose-driven creations. If you're more of the savoury persuasion, the sambos are top-notch, too.
Getting your mitts on quality coffee in the CBD still isn't as easy as it should be, but thanks to one of Melbourne's great specialty roasters, we've now got one more address to pin if we're on the hunt for a pick-me-up. And while you're in this oh-so-very Melbourne white-on-white coffee clinic, be sure to admire the baristas at work on the beauty of the La Marzocco Modbar system.
It doesn't get much more Inner West than this laid-back Marrickville haunt behind a roller door on Chapel Street, with plenty of exposed brick, communal tables, mismatched furniture and an entirely vegetarian menu. House-baked sourdough is a great place to start, but the made-from-scratch ethos is alive and well on each and every plate.
You might have to poke around a bit to find Cavalier 2.0, hiding in an unassuming back alley, but if you spot what looks like a hungry horde of locals, you're probably in the right place. Jaffles are a serious drawcard, as are milk coffees made with Jersey milk, but there's fine-dining-level attention to detail happening from top to bottom.
Nothing wakes you up quite like a croissant smothered with bright green pandan custard and a trad Thai iced tea with condensed milk, which is exactly why you should get the day going with a real bang at this East-meets-West café in a jampacked Southeast Asian grocer from the brains behind the Chat Thai empire.
You will be tempted to raid the entire counter at all-star baker Nadine Ingram's Woolloomooloo HQ, piled high with lemon drizzles, canelés, meringues and all manner of baked goodness. But by no means does that mean you should skip the epic spanakopita, flaky pies or sausage rolls.
Nostalgia is alive and well at this Marrickville showstopper that references the look and feel of old-school milk bars and arthouse cinemas. The food side of the equation, meanwhile, takes a creative, globetrotting approach with options like Persian rice pilaf and pork cassoulet, while tricked-up sides (popcorn chicken, falafel) and housemade desserts sweeten the deal.
How the hyper-efficient staff manage in what some would call a world-record-setting shortage of space remains a mystery, but they get the breakfast essentials really right, time and again. And they've got a fiercely loyal contingent of Potts Point locals to prove it.
Fans of sweet breakfast should flock to Meet Gerard for the yoghurt panna cotta, which is widely considered a must-try, served with honeyed puffed rice, housemade granola and fresh fruit. Avo toast gets an upgrade here as well, courtesy of pickled chilli, yuzu, sesame seeds, feta and coriander. Bullseye.
Harry's has proudly served the residents of Bondi since 1997, which is a medal-worthy achievement in its own right. So, too, are the famous Crispy Rolled Egg, spiced with black lentils and smoked paprika (with chorizo on the side FTW), and the house-cured pastrami salmon.
Be sure to spring for a yuzu tea and the outrageously spongy matcha brûlée pancake that lands on every other table at this cute little Japanese-ish Ashfield café. And be sure to grab a jar of the outrageously delicious housemade brown rice miso to take home on the way out.
Go to see the Gypsy, and you will find a bare-bones space warmly decked out in raw materials, extracting exceptional coffee and dishing out hits from here, there and everywhere like Thai curry, spag bol and the curious 'pink eggs' livened by beetroot and creamy horseradish sauce.
The wood oven is the shining star at this Annandale bakery, café and general store, churning out loaves of sourdough, rye with malt molasses and caraway, and so-called gluten-free 'Life-changing Bread'. Order a Ploughman's Plate and soak in all that rustic, artisanal charm.
It's home to the mi goreng toastie that nearly broke the internet and that is pretty much all you need to know. It will all make sense after one bite of the tangled mass of instant noodles soaked in spicy mayo and sandwiched between two slices of white bread, made extra rich by melted cheddar and a fried egg.
Rolling Penny might come off as easy-going on the surface, but this is the kind of place where a bacon and egg roll means smoky speck, a free-range poachie, aioli, mixed leaves and housemade tomato relish on a Brickfields milk bun. And that is exactly why we love it.
You will have to combat Disneyland-like wait times, prams larger than a Smart car and squadrons of Instagrammers for a spot at this Alexandria theme park of a café, but there's nothing else quite like it.
If you want a lesson in how to shakshuka, hit up this long-lived modern Middle Eastern favourite in Redfern. Be warned: a visit might also make you crave falafel for breakfast for the rest of your days.
Craving a little slice of NYC in the CBD? Wedge yourself right between the teensy tables built into the bench outside of Regiment, order a bagel and a cared-for filter coffee and watch the world go by.
This Brazilian joint hidden inside the no-longer seedy, but still far-from-chic Oxford Square shopping centre somehow remains a well-kept secret. Every Sunday, there's an all-you-can-eat Brazilian-style buffet breakfast that sets you back a mere $25. Run, don't walk.
These coffee titans supply beans to dozens of quality establishments across town, but a pilgrimage to the Alexandria HQ is a must for any caffeine worshipper. Thankfully, the food is no afterthought either.
When Four Ate Five opened in 2010, we gave it our first ever five-star café review. The interior's more streamlined, the menu slightly more Middle Eastern, but snagging a table is still a competitive sport.
Ever wondered if there was somewhere out there you could find a croissant made with activated charcoal dough, piped with crème patissière and raspberry gel, dipped in caramelised white chocolate? Well, head to Manly and wonder no more.
We're all about places that sweat the details. The crew at West Juliett choose their own fruit and veg at the market, make all their delectable baked goods on the premises and even remove the leaves for you when they steep your tea. Amen to that.
Sydney's very first vegan deli knocks it out of the park with a sandich named Steve, Reuben's Vegan Brother. Props for the humour, but when you taste it, you realise they're really not messing around. (How is there no meat in there!?)
This Manly charmer flies the flag for ethical, organic wholefoods without the inflated sense of worthiness that sometimes comes along with them. They simply do what they do here because they care, and it shows.
Erskineville's best café kicks major goals, not only for a punny name, but also for consistently cheery service, ace coffee and food that is far more accomplished than you'd expect from a kitchen with a few hot plates and one chef.
Simple, honest cooking turned these guys into nationwide superstars, bringing the brand as far north as Byron and Brisbane. Even now, the humble, rustic Bronte original remains the heart and soul of the empire.
The pork hash is what gets the people talking at this bright little neighbourhood favourite, tucked away on the suburban backstreets of Ashfield.
Proper New York-style bagels are few and far between in the Land Down Under, but Lox Stock and Barrel boils 'em daily and gets 'em right, as well as the lox and pastrami that accompany them.
Of course there's a café tucked in a warehouse beneath the approach to the Harbour Bridge. Of course it doubles as a cycle repair shop. And, of course, the coffee is excellent.
Antoine Moscovitz serves some seriously elegant breakfasts on Saturdays and Sundays inside this beautifully restored heritage buildilng on the Glebe foreshore. Be your best self, make an entrance and get dropped off in a water limo.
The classic shakshuka at this North Bondi café and bakery is the hands-down standout, but there are green and vegan variations on the theme as well. If it's been a real big night, a bowl of hummus with slow-cooked lamb will sort you right out.
We seem to be in an ongoing love affair with all things Italian, so why should breakfast be an exception? Enter Barbetta with its dashing good looks, cannoli and biscotti and a Carbonara Australiana scramble, complete with hearty cracks of black pepper, bacon and sharp pecorino.
Weekend brunch at this buzzing beachside hangout is peak Bondi, but that shouldn't stop you from joining the shaggy surfers and the Lululemon set, and ordering the green pea pancake and a golden gut turmeric latté.
Small, simple and much-loved by Lane Cove locals, with very fair prices to boot, Birdwood proves that sometimes less really is more.
Lasting more than a decade in the Eastern Suburbs is no easy feat, but Ruby's has, and once you enjoy a breezy brekky alfresco here, you'll totally understand why.