The 50 best cafés in Sydney
The mark of a really excellent vegetarian place is that you don’t even notice there’s no meat on the menu – you’re too busy trying to decide between a bright fresh tasting plate of springtime veggies or the waffles with fruit compote, blood orange syrup and buttermilk ice cream – before you realise there's no bacon. And that's exactly what Cornersmith in Annandale does.
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 is stunning, and what's happening on your plate is great too.
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.
Located within one of the hippest buildings in Surry Hills (you’ll find Golden Age Cinema downstairs and Paramount House Hotel upstairs), this bright café delivers a menu that manages to straddle both America’s Deep South and Japan’s urban precincts, all with some Sydney-inspired café flair.
This totally boss spot for a haloumi and egg roll understands the importance of multiple condiments. Not only do you get a herby aioli with your fried egg and cheese, but also a sweet swipe of tomato relish to brighten the wilted greens.
This dainty Dulwich Hill café and larder dishes out breakfast favourites like avocado on toast, granola and eggs-your-way alongside a bunch of burgers. You’ll notice plenty of vegan ops on the menu too, like the excellent mushies on toast.
While Paddo and Darlinghurst are brunching go-tos, this little café sits on the border between the two suburbs, quietly smashing out some of the freshest and most fun breakfasts this side of the city.
While these guys are baking some of Sydney's most delicious bread, the front half of this Cleveland Street favourite moonlights as one of Sydney's best cafés. Work your way through freshly baked Persian love cakes, custard date tarts and black sesame cookies, or order up one of the stellar sangas.
You remember Andy Bowdy right? He’s the Inner West pastry chef that sparked a thousand glucose highs with his weekly menu of elaborate soft serve desserts at Hartsyard in Enmore. And now he has his own café and bakery that makes getting a sugar hit even easier.
Forget everything you think you know about cured fish – at this beautifully appointed café in North Bondi they are curing, smoking and dry aging their salmon in house and the result is ribbons of smoky, pink fish that has a proper meatiness about it.
We need to talk about breakfast ramen. It’s a beautiful big bowl of rich, fatty broth made from an infusion of buttered toast, topped with stretchy, firm noodles made exclusively for Rising Sun Workshop to their own recipe.
Edition Coffee Roasters is a pretty special café. Not only is it beautiful to be in – all mid-century-style Nordic furnishings, white walls and wide open, galley kitchen – but the food crossing the pass is right on the cusp of what eating in Sydney is all about.
This long, skinny venue rolls up the garage door at the rear to let a whole lot of light and fresh air in from the back laneway. It’s the kind of place that is always three quarters full no matter when you visit, partly due to their house-roasted coffee, and partly due to the appeal of the Central American flourishes on the menu, the result of their coffee sourcing trips to the region.
This little café up the north end is very popular, but also very good at dealing with the queues outside on weekends. Order the ‘Woodsman’ even if you earned your breakfast by splashing about in the water rather than felling sequoias.
Nothing will wilt your fervour for a café breakfast faster than a queue. It’s the classic Saturday-in-Sydney conundrum: you want someone to make you scrambled eggs so badly it hurts, but you also don’t have it in you to wait an hour and a half for one of the six tables. Enter Little Evie, whom we love for their floorspace alone.
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.
This Surry Hills mainstay takes a two-pronged approach to improving your morning – grab a takeaway coffee from the espresso bar, or take your time and hoe into the full breakfast and coffee menu at the sit-down café further up Reservoir Street. Coffee is their game here, and the menu of both caffeinated beverages and eats is dynamic but fun.
Our CBD has long lived in the shadows of Melbourne’s and its warren of European laneways, but Sydney city is no longer a workaday café backwater. It’s rocking a newfound comestible cool thanks to places like Regiment.
We at Time Out have been fiends for pastry chef Christopher Thé’s work ever since he opened his first little bakery on Australia Street in Newtown way back in 2009. We still are, too. Only now with the arrival of Black Star in Rosebery, we don’t have to elbow anyone to get a seat. It’s a much larger offering here, in a big airy warehouse space.
We take great joy in finding something in the last place you’d expect it to be. Appearing like a cheerful mirage Circa is a sight for sore eyes, brightening up the dreary brickwork and abandoned lots of this utilitarian street with beautiful murals and the smell of strong coffee hanging in the air.
When Four Ate Five opened in 2010 we gave it our first ever five-star rating for a café. In the interim, things have only improved, with a streamlined fitout that preserves the open plan (you’re sharing space with the barista and the juice bar) and waiter service that borders on mind-reading – but the menu has refocused onto an Israeli theme.
Seats outdoors spill onto Hall Street where most people are eating classics a la Bills – corn fritters, creamy scrambled eggs, hotcakes. Inside, copper pepper mills on marble tables give a sort of Balthazar-via-Bondi vibe, though the cold-drip coffee sitting on the counter next to a mass of oranges waiting to be juiced is pure Sydney.
They serve the kind of clean living café fare here that makes you want to do something productive with the rest of your day and they also sell locally made icy poles from Pure Pops. Because summertime.
Think you need to check into a fancy hotel to get an all-you-can-eat cake buffet for breakfast? The good news is you’re wrong, and you’re about to be better off by a whole lot of dollar signs. Every Saturday and Sunday, Ovo Cafe, a Brazilian joint hidden inside the no-longer seedy, but still far-from-chic Oxford Square shopping centre, puts on a sweet breakfast feast.
Competition for tables at Redfern’s cafés can be fierce. We’re talking lions-stalking-the-Serengeti fierce. It’s a case of too many hangovers and too few venues. Fortunately at Kepos Street Kitchen they have crowd control covered: pop your name on a list, order a takeaway coffee and bask on the sunny benches outside until you’re called.
The Cross Eatery has set up in the cavernous foyer at 155 Clarence Street and they are bringing brunch vibes to your midday meal. The bank of elevators up the back make it clear you are in the heart of the business district, but the timber-lined cooking area, clean white counters and communal wooden tables with native posies feels more like a sleek country kitchen.
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.
It's one of the most Instagrammed places in the state (thanks to the mini farm, florist, fountains and more), but this mega café isn't just about aesthetics.
If you’re in Seattle, the Showbox is a famous music venue that hosts the likes of Caribou, Marilyn Manson and Amy Schumer. If you’re in Manly, Showbox is an excellent little café on Whistler Street where drinking vinegar is a treat and not something that happens if you blaspheme in front of your gran.
They do some of the best coffee in the CBD here – two large steely silver La Marzocco coffee machines pump out espressi, which are the exact right way to kick start your morning: rich, gentle and very well made. Their pourover is worth an order too – on our visit it's an Ethiopia Abaya that's got soft, fruity notes.
It's been nearly four years since we stumbled upon this café in the quiet suburban streets of Ashfield and ordered the pork hash breakfast. That dish was a revelation. We went back to Excelsior Jones recently to take the temperature of the area, and that breakfast bowl is still the hot ticket item.
Named for Mendoza’s grandma, Clementine’s does a roaring trade in coffee, with folk from the nearby office buildings piling in for a warm-up brew. The beans are by Marrickville roastery Blind Man Coffee and the flat white is chocolaty, smooth and light rather than rich, complex and robust.
Ask any resident where to go for breakfast and they’ll say Henri Marc. The industrial style café found near Penrith’s Memory Park War Memorial is so popular they’ve expanded into the vacant garage shop next door (they’ve kept the steel roller door) and onto counter benches out front.
Veganism is no longer a trend in Sydney – you only have to look at local pubs that have switched out steaks for pulled jackfruit, pizzerias saying farewell to milky mozzarella and the number of purely plant-based eateries popping up across the city to know that the shift towards plant-based eating is well and truly here to stay.
Set in the space formerly occupied by the Kick Inside, Fleetwood Macchiato has taken over the light, airy little café leaving Kate Bush free to frolic on the moors while the Fleetwood team bring their A-game on the food front. Sure, it all fits easily into categories like baguettes, soup, salads, eggs and toast – but like Darryl Kerrigan famously said, "it’s what you do with it".
Just a few hundred metres down from the towering sandstone pillars of the Harbour Bridge, a bunch of oversized commercial garages line the Lavender Bay side of the motorway. Look for the bay with the number ten on it. It was once used by Harbour Bridge maintenance and the SES and Highway Patrol, but it now houses a freewheelin’ café called Bay Ten Espresso.
Here the menus come in halved record sleeves and each item is attributed to a famous melody-maker. There’s the ‘Spanish Caravan’ (the Doors) arepa with egg and avo, ‘The Ghosts of Saturday Night’ (Tom Waits) breakfast platter, and the ‘Je Ne Regrette Rien’ (Edith Piaf) granola.
Sydney loves upping the stakes when it comes to proudly unhealthy eating. You can have a burger; you can have a burger filled with fried chicken; you can have a burger made out of fried chicken. Or you could have a croissant. You can take that delicious butter pastry and deep fry it to make a cronut.
It's amazing how a bit of funk, jazz and old school rock and roll can create such a ludicrously fun vibe in venues. And so it is at Kansas City Shuffle, the café from the fella behind Melbourne's beloved Proud Mary and Dr Morse cafés, Kayne Mordini, and Sydney's own Ben Sweeten of Surry Hills' Joe Black.
This shiny Bondi café is the little brother of popular brekky spot Brown Sugar, just around the corner on Curlewis Street. But unlike Brown Sugar’s fairly straight, surf-style café fare, Lox, Stock and Barrel are offering something a little left field. We’re talking bagels, and lots of them.
For a long time, health food has been a source of contention for diners who just want to eat something delicious. But no longer, because Ora in Manly is serving food that is good for your health and tastes amazing too.
You’ll see it stationed on every other table, and all over Instagram. And there are good reasons why the brioche piled with fruit, flowers and hot-pink fairy floss is the pin-up-pretty number that everyone wants to order at this Petersham café. Yes, it’s designed to rack up double taps and approving emojis, but this dish is actually delicious.
By day, the café offers Bronte an Inner West-style coffee bunker, covered in graffiti and staffed by hot folks. Take a seat under the mural of the angry-looking octopus stretching its tentacles across the wall. Or maybe dine down the side of the café, where night jasmine crawls up the walls and fairy lights are festooned overhead.
A great local café should be somewhere that you will go even when you could simply cook yourself the same breakfast; it's the reason you'll traipse outta bed to get a well made coffee; and it's the sorta place where they magically remember your name (even if you don't remember telling them it). Birdwood is exactly that to Lane Cove locals – it's a small set-up, but they keep the menu simple; they're doing teriffic coffee with beans from Double Roasters; and Suran and his team will always greet you with a smile.
The titular dish from this North Bondi café and bakery is also their standout offering. The tomato sauce that the eggs are cooked in is thick and rich, almost like a Napoletana. A scattering of olives reinforces the Italian accent on this Middle Eastern dish, and a side order of halloumi throws a little Greek twist in there for good measure.
This tiny little café at Forest Lodge is offering more kale than we’ve ever seen on any one menu. They even put it in their smoothies. We’re dubious, but our waiter is confident: “No dude, you should totally do it.”
There aren’t many cafés that would showcase a pig’s head at lunchtime, but unpredictable menu moves are what this Rhodes café is all about. We’re not talking a head-on-a-pike, Game of Thrones situation here but a pork burger with a pig cheek schnitzel wedged between potato buns, plus kimchi slaw, Sriracha mayo for added firepower and a fried egg.
Local artsy types, students and briefcase carriers alike have installed themselves in every nook and cranny available in this space. There's interesting artwork positioned all around the café and the expansive menu is scrawled on a massive blackboard mounted behind the counter.
Taking up shop underneath the Cahill Expressway, this café gutted an old fish shop and now has pared-back, industrial interiors. Food here is simple and focuses on breakfast favourites. They also do tacos and vino in the evenings.
Turns out pretty much every café in the city has been underdressing for breakfast, which is obvious now that Baby Coffee Co has swanned into the coffee game clad in pink suede, making everyone else look like they’re wearing activewear by comparison.
This is the definitive, ranked list of where to eat in Sydney right now.