Go-to dish: Spanish baked egg, 1904 baked beans, sausage, salsa and toast.
Where: Forest Lodge.
Why: Because Ben and Elvis of Argentinean firehouse Porteno recently rustled up a new 12-dish weekend-only brunch menu that takes you from wakey-wakey (bircher muesli with pink lady apple almond, prune and yoghurt) to hangover cure. This hearty bowl of beans, egg and chorizo sausage from the excellent LPs Quality Meats ($22) should do the trick.
The experience: So here we are in a shed – a huge high-ceilinged, light-filled tramshed – overrun with kids and prams and gentlemen with cashmere jumpers draped elegantly over their shoulders. Prop on a mint-green leather stool at the long zinc bar, or slide into one of three booths, for well-executed dishes that aim to elevate brunch to a destination meal instead of a filler. Think rigatoni with pork and fennel ragu, or a warm octopus salad with kipfler potatoes, radicchio and a bitey green tomato and jalapeno dressing. And if you really like your Tinto de Rulo Malbec, drop in to the cellar store and take a bottle home for dinner as well.
Tramsheds,1 Dalgal Way, Forest Lodge, 02 8624 3133, bodega1904store.com
Kofta with salatim at Shuk. Photo: Supplied
Go-to dish: Kofta with salatim.
Where: Elizabeth Bay.
Why: Shuk has its own Bondi bakery, and the breads are universally brilliant, especially this grill-scorched roll of puffy, fluffy flat bread that comes with salads, pickles, egg and a long finger of gently spiced beef kofta ($20).
The experience: There's nothing more depressing than a cafe filled with same-age identical-sneaker inner-urbans – which is why the Shuks (also in Bondi and Chatswood) are so delightful. This one, in a leafy pocket of Elizabeth Bay, is especially so, due to the high incidence of elderly people from the Ardency Trebartha Luxury Retirement Resort above, who delight in their daily cafe outings. Bright young staff ferry colourful platters of Israeli shashuka (baked eggs) and obscenely large sandwiches and rolls, lurid with pickles, while carefully stepping over sausage dogs and cavoodles. Bay Roasters coffee is upfront on cocoa and nuts, and Aperol Spritzes are the order of the day, for the under-80s at least.
61-69 Roslyn Gardens, Elizabeth Bay, 0410 980 198, shuk.com.au
Go-to dish: "Now You're Just Some Melon That I Used To Know."
Where: Surry Hills.
Why: Because this isn't just brunch, it's #brunch. Every single dish (and drink) should have its own Instagram follower as it nails the zeitgeist with its super-pretty, borderline street-style – such as this jar of watermelon, apple, lime and pink salt ($8.50).
The experience: Not sure about what to wear to brunch next weekend? Take a tip from the gorgeous crowd inside, outside and upstairs on the balcony at Cuckoo Callay, who are almost universally decked out in skinny blue jeans, white boyfriend shirts, and pristine white sneakers. Wardrobe sorted, you might also like to follow their lead as to what to order: the Pimp Mi Goreng, a noodle-crusted fried chicken burger with kimchi, maple bacon and coriander aioli; or paprika-dusted avocado on pesto-slathered toast with cherry tomatoes and edamame.
Coffee is from Surry Hills' Reformatory Lab, with cold drip coffee and single origins on filter, and the on-trend rainbow-coloured smoothies are the drinks world's equivalent of those pristine white sneakers.
413 Crown Street, Surry Hills, 02 9557 7006, cuckoo-callay.com.au
A selection of steamed dumplings at Bodhi. Photo: James Brickwood
Go-to dish: Vegan yum cha.
Where: Sydney CBD.
Why: Because brunch isn't always about eggs and bacon. Sometimes it's about NO eggs and NO bacon; just green tea and choi sum dumplings, glass noodle spring rolls, and the most delightful, crisp-skinned pumpkin-shaped pumpkin balls that everyone, vegan and omnivore, can enjoy.
The experience: What a charmer, with its picnic tables scattered on a shady terrace overlooking Cook and Phillip Park. Open for vegan yum cha from 11am, seven days a week, Bodhi proudly states that no animals were harmed in the making of its flaky "prawn" taro rolls, barbecue "char sieu" buns, and pan-fried "duck" dumplings. The steamed, fried, baked dumplings come in all colours of the vegetable spectrum, from crimson beetroot to golden sweetcorn. Some are slightly surreal, like the frizzy fried taro dumplings that proudly bear a striped pink "prawn" tail, so you might be needing a Thirsty Vegan beer on the side. The Flying Pig coffee is roasted specifically for plant-based milks – or hit up the adventurous cocktail list for an espresso martini instead..
2/4 College Street, Sydney, 02 9360 2523, bodhivegetarian.com.au
Go-to dish: Piccolo latte from Gypsy Roasters.
Where: Bondi Beach.
Why: The Gypsy House Blend is one-part Colombian, one-part Brazilian, one-part Costa Rican and all-parts fruit-and-nut ($3.50); just the thing to match to a chocolate brownie in this light, bright, boho-beachhouse.
The experience: The good times at not-for-profit social enterprise Heart Cafe come with an acknowledgment that we can't all be so lucky as to head out for a carefree brunch on the weekend. Owned and operated by The Wayside Chapel, it's a brunch magnet for Bondi beach babes while at the same time training up those less fortunate in a career in hospitality under Wayside's Wingspan initiative.
The breakfast-into-lunch menu wanders like a Bondi backpacker from a hearty Middle Eastern platter of eggs, baba ghanoush and haloumi, to beef cheek and potato hashcake. Brunch that does the heart good? Bring it on.
95 Roscoe Street, Bondi, 02 9581 9150, heartcafe.com.au
Jaffle stuffed with rotisserie chicken at Boronia Kitchen. Photo: Supplied
Go-to dish: Roast chicken jaffle with aioli, rocket and tomato.
Where: Hunters Hill.
Why: Former Aria chef Simon Sandall spit-roasts whole chickens on his rotisserie, then stuffs the meat into everybody's favourite hangover breakfast: the great Aussie jaffle ($15).
The experience: North Shore magnet Boronia Kitchen knows how to keep people happy, as chefs bustle about its busy, open kitchen, turning out a hi/lo menu that runs from prawn toast to slow-cooked lamb with grilled sourdough and mint salsa.
Weekends see a snacky/light meal menu that goes all day, because – let's face it – people wake up at different times on the weekend. Roll in for anything from house-baked pastries and Single O coffee to smoothies and spritzes, or book a booth and stay all day.
152 Pittwater Road, Hunters Hill, 02 9817 0666, boroniakitchen.com.au
Three Williams' truffle French toast with truffle ice-cream. Photo: Kimberley Low
Go-to dish: Truffle French toast with truffle ice-cream.
Why: Because who wouldn't want crunchy brioche French toast ($29) with truffle ice-cream gold feuilletine, chocolate brownie caramel cookie cream, popping candy, truffle anglaise, fresh raspberries and shaved truffle?
The experience: June marks the start of truffle season round these parts, and Three Williams' truffle-infused chef Jacqui Ektoros (formerly of Devon Cafe and Guillaume at Bennelong) is doing her darnedest to shave the earthy, aromatic tubers over everything in sight. Nothing is safe from Manjimup's finest, not the mushrooms on toast with scrambled eggs, not the mighty mac and cheese croissant nor the three-cheese waffle fries (at time of press, the excellent Single O coffee remains untruffled). The truffle menu sits beside this cheerful, relaxed cafe's normal menu, not that there's ever been anything too normal about it, for those who recall the famous narnies, or naan sarnies.
613a Elizabeth Street, Redfern, 02 9698 1111, threewilliamscafe.com
Coconut agave nectar and granola at Circa. Photo: Supplied
Go-to dish: Coconut agave nectar and granola.
Why: Because a leafy outdoor terrace in the heart of Parramatta is a beautiful thing – and because Circa has an all-day, all-weekend menu of ottoman eggs, French toast, and a coconut agave nectar and granola ($16) that comes with saffron-poached pear, coconut yoghurt, rose petals, macadamias and crushed pistachios.
The experience: Aykut Sayan founded Circa in 2010, and instead of languishing in its pioneering laneway setting, it has blossomed instead. The coffee roasting has since been taken in-house, roasted in small batches to maintain freshness, with a house blend that runs all year round and new single origin beans rotating weekly. But it's not all about the coffee - the house-made sticky chai, affogato ice-cream and green tea spider are all big orders. And if you're loving the vegan granola, you can buy it on-line.
21 Wentworth Street, Parramatta, no phone, circaespresso.com
Lankan Filling Station
Go-to dish: Sweet hopper with caramelised jaggery and whipped coconut.
Where: East Sydney.
Why: Brunch was never what you'd call a Sri Lankan specialty. It is now, with sweet, bowl-shaped hoppers ($8 each) adding to the savoury versions served with spicy sambals; and crisp, fried egg rolls with fermented chilli sauce and pol sambol.
The experience: When O Tama Carey opened Lankan Filling Station, half of Sydney was quick to fall in love with her bowl-shaped hopper pancakes. Now that she's turned her attention to the noble institution of brunch from 10am to 4pm on weekends, the other half will no doubt follow suit. There's nothing fancy about the tiny narrow space; but it has a warm earthiness about it, spice in the air, and homely, flavour-first cooking that does Sri Lanka proud.
58 Riley Street, Surry Hills, 02 8542 9936, lankanfillingstation.com.au
Boon Cafe's bacon and egg congee. Photo: Jennifer Soo
Go-to dish: Bacon and egg congee.
Why: This is the place to take your adventurous food-loving out-of-towners for brunch, to make them squirm with envy. Imagine the comfort-food factor of rice porridge ($18) with the addition of Feather & Bone organic bacon, galangal chilli paste, and two fried eggs slowly sinking on top. It's the perfect conjunction of farm-fed north-eastern Thai cuisine bent to the will of the casual Australian cafe.
The experience: "Sarnies by day, Isaan by night" says the sign on the window, which perfectly encapsulates the fused, but not confused, sensibility driving this cafe within the jam-packed Jarern Thai grocer and greengrocer. Second-generation Thai restaurateur and first-generation organic farmer, Palisa Anderson, forges a new path for gutsy, no-nonsense Isaan cuisine, merging it with great Australian cafe fare. Coffee runs from well-made Single O coffee (Killerbee blend) to a double ristretto in a whole coconut, and a newly installed list of natural wines, sake and Asahi and Singha beer, means there are even more possibilities.
1/425 Pitt Street, Sydney, 02 9281 2114, booncafe.com
Bottomless brunch at Barzaari. Photo: Supplied
Go-to dish: The bottomless boozy brunch.
Why: Because the best way to eat eastern Mediterranean food is to gather a bunch of mates and cover the table with platters of mezze, baked eggs, pastourma and halloumi, and whole rainbow trout with chermoula, with two hours of bottomless spritzes built-in ( $75 per person), weekends from 10.30am to 3pm.
The experience: Andrew Jordanou and former Quay chef, Darryl Martin have cleverly built on the success of their Marrickville Barzaari with this cheery, two-level, open-kitchened space. Their spicy, colourful food of Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt lends itself to a long, lazy brunch with friends, from the flatbreads right through to the baklava. But then they go one better, by turning brunch into a feast-with-benefits with unlimited) spritzes and brunchy cocktails (limited only by your responsible drinking practices).
3 Kensington Street, Chippendale, 02 8277 8533, barzaari-chippendale.com.au
The Big Brekkie at The Grounds. Photo: Supplied
The Grounds Of Alexandria
Go-to dish: The Big Brekkie.
Why: The Big Brekkie ($25) is designed specifically for people who don't like missing out on anything – not chorizo, nor serrano ham, braised white beans, cherry tomatoes, soft poached egg, crackling, piquillo peppers, halloumi, avocado, toast or hollandaise.
The experience: In case of apocalypse, head for The Grounds – with its landscaped gardens, play areas, coffee roastery, florist, cocktail-dispensing garden shed, cafe and bakery, it's like a self-sufficient suburb in its own right. They don't call it brunch, but all your brunch favourites are here from 11.45am until 3pm; from avo on toast (with dukkah, labna, feta and heirloom tomatoes), four different "health bowls", brekkie burgers; or a kale, cabbage and parmesan salad. And of course, there's the petting farm with new resident pig, Harry Trotter – fresh from Hogwarts – and his barnyard friends. Be warned: expect to queue (both now and post-apocalypse).
7a, 2 Huntley Street, Alexandria, 02 9699 2225, thegrounds.com.au
Go-to dish: English muffin with Albany bar cod stomach, XO chilli and fried egg.
Why: You may not think fish-eye crackers or coral trout-head terrine would be your preferred brunching fare, or a brick-lined, bare-tabled diner in Paddington with no view of the sea. But Josh Niland's inventive snacks (like this sustainably designed fish-and-egg muffin, $16) sneak straight past your brain and into your stomach.
The experience: Who else in the world would turn the stomach of a bar cod – actually huge, and generally discarded by chefs – into an amazing brunch dish? And pair it with a banana and whisky sour infused with bacon from broadbill fish belly? Yep, you heard right. Josh Niland takes sustainable seafood snacking to the next level, driven by an obsession for using every part of the magnificent, under-utilised fish that come to him via Australia's finest independent, small-scale fishers.
While there is no longer any official brunch as such – the starting pistol has moved from 11am to noon – you can still kick back with a coffee from Artificer, and Niland maintains a brunchy theme on the weekend lunch menu, from snapper sausages to crumbed garfish and chips.
362 Oxford Street, Paddington, 02 8937 2530, saintpeter.com.au
Grilled cheese and kimchi open sandwich. Photo: Christopher Perace
Go-to dish: Grilled cheese and house-made green kimchi open sandwich.
Where: Surry Hills.
Why: A young, blond Bill Granger opened a fresh little cafe in Sydney 26 years ago and changed the breakfast and brunch world as we know it. The newest incarnation is a glossy, marble, leather and terrazzo eatery that hasn't forgotten its roots. This open, toasted sandwich, rich with melted cheese and tangy with fermented cabbage, ($16.50) might just knock good old avocado on toast off its perch.
The experience: Open all day, every day, bills runs with separate breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. But fear not, the lunch menu still features bills' classics such as sweet corn fritters, ricotta hotcakes and "The Full Aussie" (eggs with the works). For something different try the 'nduja, XO and prawn fried rice or a cloud-like pistachio pavlova with passionfruit and yoghurt cream. For something the same, bills' scrambled eggs are still the ones to beat.
359 Crown Street, Surry Hills, 02 9360 4752, bills.com.au
Go-to dish: Onion, stracciatella, tonburi and eucalyptus.
Where: Potts Point.
Why: When the onion dish hits the table, all heads in the restaurant turn. A whole, roasted sweetly scorchy onion is stuffed with sweet onion puree, creamy stracciatella, kombu and eucalyptus ($32) and finished with white balsamic vinegar, chives and tonburi (nutty seeds known as 'mountain caviar' in Japan). Vegans can swap out the stracciatella for walnut milk.
The experience: This is where brunch hits the big-time, at Sydney's only two-hatted vegetarian fine dining restaurant. Go for broke with the beautifully structured seven-course vegan brunch menu or go a la carte, from 11am on weekends (reservations recommended). The onion isn't the only head-turner on Brent Savage and head chef Chris Benedet's brunch menu – there is also kombu scrambled eggs, dashi and fushimi, and eggplant, white fungus, kelp and cocoa. And breakfast martinis on the side, if that's the way your day is going.
57 Macleay Street, Potts Point, 02 9332 2344, yellowdining.com.au
Inside Cornersmith cafe in Annadale. Photo: Brook Mitchell
Special mentions go to ...
■ Bitton Cafe & Bistro, Oatley: For Frenchy omelettes, club sandwiches with fries, and croque-monsieur (or -madame) toasties.
■ Bread & Circus Wholefoods Canteen, Alexandria: For bright and healthy soups, salad plates and sandwich boxes.
■ Cornersmith, Annandale: For local, seasonal, plant-based cafe cooking that's cooked from scratch.
■ Efendy, Balmain: For the mighty cover-the-table Turkish Van Breakfast Feast of breads, dips cakes, fruits, cold meats and more.
■ Fika Swedish Kitchen, Manly: For a light bright, all-day Scandi brunch of smashed eggs, Kalle's cod roe paste, crispbread, meatball rolls and good coffee.
■ Goodfields Eatery, Lindfield: For the breezy all-day breakfasts and the over-the-top, butter-roasted lobster tail bagel with poached eggs and crustacean hollandaise.
■ Next Door, Cronulla: For buttermilk waffles with mascarpone and berries, and wagyu pastrami on toasted sourdough overlooking North Cronulla beach.
■ Porch & Parlour, North Bondi: Cosy picture-perfect beachside cafe that takes your weekend from granola to green pea pancakes and booze.
■ Single O, Surry Hills: For the newly expanded, sit-down cafe and its crazy menu, from crocodile croc-ettes to banana bread with vegemite butterscotch, and trippy new ways to take your coffee.
■ Woy Woy Fishermen's Wharf: For the fried flathead, chips and salad, the Bloody Mary oyster shooters, the sunshine, the water and the punchy Mother Sky coffee.