What better way to keep warm than with a book and latte in hand? The hybrid bookshop-café is the perfect place to eat, read and chat in an unhurried and cosy environment – these are our favourites.
Ampersand is stocked with exactly what one would expect of a traditional café-bookshop: plush red velvet armchairs to nestle into with a good book. Gaze out the window on the third floor and enjoy a hot drink of your choice. Or on sunny day, there is a little street level courtyard. The café is located on the ground floor, but there’s seating on every level. It has a superior selection of lunch options, too, from fresh salads and toasties to a ‘burger of the day’. All three levels are packed with reads on every subject: classic literature, crime, modern bestsellers, children and YA fiction, as well as rare books. Seek out ‘the Library’, it's a cosy underground room with a big communal table, more armchairs and a fireplace.
The Japanese bookshop in the city is vast, and it's divided into sections of neatly stacked books. There's a huge range of manga and anime. Set aside time to browse the collection, then sit down at Black Star Pastry for sweet layered cakes of raspberry and lychee, or strawberry and watermelon. There are iced cronuts, danishes and pastries too.
Berkelouw's ground floor is dedicated to new books and bestsellers, as well as knick-knacks, toys, stationery and tableware. The second level contains the café, 1812, named for the year the original Berkelouw bookshop was established in Holland. It's stacked with art, design, fashion and architecture books. Pick the soup of the day and while away the afternoon looking out onto the busy Oxford Street. The café also has salads, sandwiches, cakes, wine, and an impressive range of teas by the pot.
Organised chaos is how we would describe Sappho. Thousands of books are squished into a three-story, rambling 1880s building. Sappho buys and sells second-hand books from a wide selection of genres: art, literature, history, politics, philosophy and foreign language titles. A rickety staircase leads to a series of small rooms, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore – including an entire room dedicated to vinyl and sheet music. Head to the outdoor café and courtyard, pick up a blanket and order up a flat white and one of the share plates named 'The Great Gatsby'.
After a brisk beachside walk in the winter sunshine, head to Gertrude & Alice for a hot coffee and a browse of their many paperbacks. They've got hearty winter food on the menu, including a meat stew with potato and lentils, and a range of toasted sandwiches. Every inch of this shop is stacked with bookshelves that weave their way around a communal table. You'll find cookbooks, novels, non-fiction, an impressive shelf of Penguin classics.
This little book-nook in Caringbah is the avid reader's dream. It looks like an average café from the outside – but venture to the back and down a few stairs and you’ll find ornate red and purple velvet armchairs to lounge in. The café sells focaccias, wraps, quiches and a huge range of fresh or toasted sandwiches, made to order. There are rows of dark wood shelves piled high with books, all of which are secondhand. Plus, if you buy a book and bring it back, (in good condition) the Book Station will credit your account with half the original price.
The Book Kitchen is the perfect place to snuggle up with a new cookbook. It has a stylish rustic industrial setting – whitewashed brick, exposed metal beams, a corrugated iron ceiling and an open kitchen. Their all-day breakfast menu ticks all the boxes and there is a modest range of cookbooks for sale – from popular staples like Annabel Crabb and Gordon Ramsay to books dedicated to cooking with maple syrup and jam making.
This hidden gem is a busy hub for locals. The big windows provide the perfect place to bask in a patch of sunlight and enjoy a long, leisurely breakfast. There is a big shelf of second-hand books for sale – an eclectic mix of Dan Brown to self-help books and thick encyclopaedias. The breakfast menu is the protagonist here. Highlights include the three-egg omelette with goat’s cheese, bacon and cherry tomatoes; the Surry Hills with poached eggs, maple bacon, fresh avo and rocket; and Corn Fritters with relish, poached eggs and sour cream.
Enjoy some quiet time
There's an art to hanging out by yourself. At worst, you'll end up sitting on a park bench staring wistfully at passersby. At best, you’ll enjoy a marvellous escapade where the only person calling the shots is you. Make time for yourself and try out Sydney's best adventures for one.