Rise and shine: Sydney’s best breakfasts beyond eggs on toast

Gram's souffle pancakes with butter, cream and maple syrup.
Gram's souffle pancakes with butter, cream and maple syrup. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Eggs and avocado: it's not you guys, it's us. Sure, we still love your sunny disposition and healthy fats, but lately we've been seeing other breakfasts more and more. 

Maybe it's because of all the homemade toast we've been eating since the pandemic hit. Breakfast at a cafe or restaurant should be something we can't make ourselves. A dish punching with flavour and excitement. Food worth putting on pants for.

Owner of Banh Cuon Ba Oanh, Minh Thuy Nguyen with her daughter My Nguyen, aunt Ba Linh (seated left) and mother Ba Oanh ...
Owner of Banh Cuon Ba Oanh, Minh Thuy Nguyen with her daughter My Nguyen, aunt Ba Linh (seated left) and mother Ba Oanh at their restaurant in Marrickville. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

We love eggs but why stick to scrambled on sourdough? Fika in Manly smashes eggs on crispbread with Swedish fish roe paste, for example, while the Rooty Hill legends at A-Team's Kitchen serve fried googs with Filipino sausage. A world of AM adventure awaits. 

These are some of our favourite ways to start a day in Sydney, but they're still only a sample of the breakfast options beyond avo toast out there. Yum cha, say, deserves a cover story of its own, not to mention all the huevos rancheros, hoppers and Hong Kong French toast asking to be enjoyed. Bypass the bircher and Sydney has one of the most diverse breakfast offerings in the world. 

Sandoitchi Cafe in Darlinghurst. The strawberry sando . 27th August 2020. Photo: Edwina Pickles / SMH Good Food

The strawberry sando at Sandoitchi in Darlinghurst. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Breakfast sandwiches 

No one is denying the pulling power of great toast. But consider, for a moment, the pre-noon sandwich. A breakfast food for the discerning bread enthusiast, it's all about the structure. At Fleetwood Macchiato (43 Erskineville Road, Erskineville), their all-day sandwich menu is sympathetic to the early morning messy eater, offering the likes of a roast chicken roll with Japanese condiments and coleslaw that stays together until the last bite. 

Penny's Cheese Shop (4 Roslyn Street, Potts Point) can't boast anything close to a clean time when it comes to their outrageous toasted cheese sandwich (with up to nine types of cheese between two slices of sourdough), but then, that's the point. If you are after architectural greatness in your breakfast sandwiches, head to Darlinghurst Japanese sando bar Sandoitchi (Shop 3, 113-115 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst). This is proper sandwich construction, from whipped cream and yuzu-soaked strawberries to gently folded Japanese-style scrambled eggs. Lose the cutlery, pass the napkins. Myffy Rigby

Vn Street Foods in Marrickville on September 4, 2019. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

VN Street Foods in Marrickville. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

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Breakfast soup

Pho, or Vietnamese beef noodle soup, is often eaten as a breakfast food in Vietnam and for good reason – it's a steadying, soothing and medicinal way to start the day. The better broths such as the ones found at Bankstown crowd favourite An Restaurant (27 Greenfield Parade) and Cabramatta's Pho Tau Bay (Shop 12, 117 John Street) will be fragrant with cassis, cardamom and star anise, marrow-rich with deep savour. Meat choices are highly personal, ranging from thin slices of brisket, to soft meatballs and tripe. Chicken, too, if you swing that way. There will always be flat rice noodles for the flavour-neutral soothe-factor. Good pho shops such as VN Street Foods (294 Illawarra Road, Marrickville) are generous with herbs and fresh, sweet and crunchy bean shoots to top it all off, and if you've landed at Pho Ha Noi Quan (346B Illawarra Road, Marrickville), you could add a salt and pepper quail to your order, you wild thing. MR

Fried chicken and waffles, available on weekends at Belles Hot Chicken.

Fried chicken and waffles at Belles Hot Chicken. Photo: Lewis McQueen

Breakfast fried chicken and waffles

Better cancel lunch. If a big breakfast is the Rule Britannia of morning starts, fried chicken and waffles is Chuck Berry turned up to 11.  An all-day diner staple of America's South, Sydney's most traditional chook and waffle brunch can be found at Belles Hot Chicken (Forest Lodge, Darling Square and Barangaroo), but only at weekends. Fill those waffle pockets to the top with maple syrup, calming the heat of Nashville fried chicken while sweetly enhancing its spice. All the better with a peach iced tea. 

Paramount Coffee Project (80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills) serves chicken and waffles drenched in maple bacon gravy, with pickled apple and radicchio on hand to cut through fat. The version at Roastville (157 Victoria Road, Marrickville), meanwhile, is a savoury smash, featuring kimchi-spiked waffle batter bolstered by Kewpie mayo, Sriracha and parmesan. Callan Boys

Ginseng congee at Paramount Coffee Project.

Ginseng congee at Paramount Coffee Project. Photo: Supplied

Breakfast congee

As mentioned, toast, you're swell. No one denies the blank-canvas abilities of sliced, browned bread to allow Vegemite, caviar and everything in between to shine. However, we reckon there is more fun to be had letting loose with congee toppings.

Century eggs, mustard greens, poached chicken, spring onions and ginger are all cracking Chinese rice porridge enhancements, and Canton Cafe (127 Rowe Street, Eastwood) serves a top-notch traditional take on the carb-heavy breakfast. Get a deep-fried dough stick in there and eat, eat, eat. 

Thai restaurant and grocer Boon Cafe (425 Pitt Street, Haymarket) offers congee as a full meal brimming with crab and shiitake, or alongside its version of an Aussie big breakfast: a tasting tray starring skewered pork, baked eggs, bacon, avocado and mushrooms. X23 (Shop 102, 18 Park Lane, Chippendale) will sort you out with a straight-up congee featuring pork floss and preserved vegetables, while Paramount Coffee Project (hello, again) rocks the prettiest version of the breakfast in town. The slick cafe's congee hums with ginseng, pickled ginger, kale and a thicket of crisp-fried enoki. Yes, you want the optional chilli ground pork, too. CB

AFR Life & Leisure. Writer: Necia Wilden. Story: Small Artisans  Caption: Chocolate crumpets, Crumpets by Merna. Photo: Rob Locke @foodwinedine

Crumpets from Crumpets by Merna. Photo: Supplied 

Breakfast with one hand and no table

Let us give you some stand-up breakfast advice, hard-won by getting literal egg on our actual faces. Some of you will know the folly of the Saturday market breakfast well. Perhaps you've made the choice of a pho or buddha bowl or bibimbap. Great choices, all, except for a few extenuating factors. 

First, finding a seat is nearly impossible – no one wants to battle that person with three dogs and a luxury shopping trolley laden with young garlic. Nope. Very likely you're going to be eating standing up. With one hand. So, consider the hot buttered crumpet from, say, Crumpets by Merna (every Saturday at Carriageworks Growers Market, 245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh). Gozleme, a staple at most markets, is another worthy contender for the title of Best Single Handed Breakfasts Of All Time (check out the Mona Vale Organic Food Market, every Sunday, 82 Mona Vale Road). 

Does anything touch the sides quite the way a Lebanese breakfast pizza does, though? Head to Granville to Afran Lebnan Bakery (29 Good Street) for lahm bi ajeen – Lebanese bread topped with minced lamb, tomato and spices finished with a squeeze of lemon. And if you need just a little more of an arm-twist to eat breakfast standing up, let Pasi Petanen of Cafe Paci fame convince you. He'll be doing a pop-up at Shwarmama (Shop 2, 106-112 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills) on October 18, serving lamb tongue shawarma and a snack pack. MR.

Good Food. Cafe Monaka, Mona Vale. “Asagohan” Japanese style breakfast. Photographed Wednesday 13th March 2019. Photograph by James Brickwood. SMH NEWS 190313

Japanese-style breakfast at Cafe Monaka, Mona Vale. Photo: James Brickwood

Breakfast Japanese-style

A composed Japanese breakfast is a beautiful thing. The kind of breakfast to enjoy in quiet contemplation, considering questions such as "why don't we eat more fish in the morning when seafood's at its freshest?"

Cafe Monaka (Shop 2, 24 Waratah Street, Mona Vale) is one of the few places serving a Japanese asagohan breakfast similar to the tasting plates found in Tokyo hotels. We're talking grilled salmon, furikake-seasoned rice, edamame, pickled veg, miso soup and all-important omelette, usually folded and sliced into spongy rectangles. Another pot of green tea, please.

In the same vein, Sokyo (80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont) takes advantage of its fish market proximity and rocks a seafood breakfast of snowy Hokkaido yumepirika rice, toothfish, flying fish roe and octopus with gently-cooked onsen egg. We also recommend the sushi temple's spanner crab omelette with sambal butter while you're there. CB.

S.  Ba Oanh's special steamed rice noodle roll mixed pork pieces and grilled pork served at Banh Cuon Ba Oanh in Marrickville on September 4, 2019. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Steamed rice noodle roll, pork pieces and grilled pork at Banh Cuon Ba Oanh in Marrickville. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Breakfast noodles 

There is a Haitian breakfast involving spaghetti tossed with tomato paste, pork sausages and pungent tete de maure cheese. No doubt it's delicious, but eating pasta at breakfast just seems odd. Like scoffing an English muffin at midnight. Even carbonara – theoretically prime breakfast fodder with all that cured pig, egg and cheese – doesn't sit right before noon. Breakfast noodles, though? Come on down. Flat, thin, fat, rice, instant, soba, rolled and steamed, we love them all.  

Breakfast ramen at Rising Sun Workshop (1C Whateley Street, Newtown) is a modern classic: bone broth flavoured with buttered toast, lapping grilled tomato and bacon. Umami party, ahoy! At Battambang (70 John Street, Cabramatta), Cambodian locals huddle over nom banh chok, a traditional Khmer breakfast of fermented rice noodles and fish curry that's more refreshing than any green smoothie. Banh Cuon Kim Thanh (Shop 7, 313 Chapel Road, Bankstown) has six regular menu items and each features Vietnam's most delicious slippery rice noodle creation. Nuoc cham dipping sauce is essential whether your banh cuon is filled with pork mince, omelette or wood-ear mushrooms. In Marrickville, corner shop Banh Cuon Ba Oanh (343 Illawarra Road) excels at the same rolled noodle craft and you can expect a queue of fans at weekends. 

We must mention cheong fun too, and could fill five pages listing Sydney's best examples of the crepe-ish Cantonese noodle. However, the prawn-filled rolls at Palace Chinese (Shop 133/145 Castlereagh Street, Sydney) are all the fun you really need. CB.

***EMBARGOED FOR SUNDAY LIFE, AUGUST 4/19 ISSUE***
Life Loves - Eat : Who needs avo toast when you can have a falafel crumpet ($14) with tahini, pickled onion and soft boiled egg? Just one of many dishes drawing the crowds to Nour for Sunday brunch. 490 Crown St, Surry Hills; (02) 9331 3413
Photograph by Jennifer Soo (photographer on contract, no restrictions)

Falafel crumpet with tahini, pickled onion and soft-boiled egg at Nour. Photo: Jennifer Soo

Breakfast banquets

Rest in peace, breakfast buffets of Australia. May your bains marie find happiness in breakfast heaven, joining Uncle Tobys Grinners, Mini-Wheats and the Honey Smacks bear. 

It's hard to imagine a post-COVID world where strangers still fight over sweaty bacon and shared utensils. But, breakfast banquets are a different story. Safely sharing food at a table with friends and family seems more important than ever coming out of the pandemic, and Middle Eastern restaurants can morning feast with gusto.

Shakshuka stars in the $33 breakfast set-menu at Shuk (2 Mitchell Street, North Bondi), eggs baked proud in their heady tomato and capsicum sauce. Sourdough is all you need on the side, other than a long black or latte. More dangerously, Nour (490 Crown Street, Surry Hills) offers $49 bottomless cocktails with its weekend brunch banquets, including falafel crumpets, fattoush and eggplant fatteh, the latter engineered for oven-crisp pita. 

The most filling feast, though, is at Almond Bar (379 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst), open for a full Syrian breakfast on the first Sunday of every month. Expect merguez sausages, sumac eggs and ful medames, plus Middle Eastern coffee stronger than an ox. CB.

SH S: Gram - Shop 67, Level 3 Chatswood Station, 436 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood. Tiramasu pancakes. 13th August 2020, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sun Herald.

Tiramisu pancakes at Gram in Chatswood. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Breakfast dessert

There is an art to the Sugar-Only breakfast. But very happily it's one that can be practised at any level, from the relative safety of a pancake to a full cake-fuelled coma. 

At Japanese pancake cafe Gram (Level 3, Chatswood Station, Chatswood), only 20 orders of their souffle pancakes are available each day. Missed out? You can also pre-order their fluffy chocolate pancakes filled with chocolate cream to go. Enmore's mayor of patisserie, Andy Bowdy, is constantly developing new ways for his customers to add more sweet notches to their belts at his cafe, Saga (178 Enmore Road). The latest, "Sticky Fingers", sees croissant dough folded with peanut butter cookie and banana custard, and glazed in salted caramel. 

Of course, we all hail the chief when it comes to the art of the sweet treat. Nadine Ingram's bakery, Flour and Stone (53 Riley Street, Woolloomooloo) specialises in cakes for comfort and cookies for joy. Her panna cotta lamington is legendary among those who prize cake for breakfast. MR.

Breakfast booze

Nothing says "Well, that was a joyful breakfast, let's move this party through to lunch" like a nip of courage. The Italians know this, "correcting" the dregs of their espresso with grappa. But if that's starting to look a little like an invitation to lose Saturday as well as Sunday, consider something sweeter, and slightly less deadly. 

Mr Black recently teamed up with Melbourne heavyweights St Ali (stali.com.au) to make a single origin coffee liqueur, to be drunk at any time of the day. Out-and-about brunchers can get down with bottomless mimosas at Surry Hills neighbourhood fave Dead Ringer (413 Bourke Street) and if you've set about creating the breakfast to end all breakfasts at home, order a clutch of the newly released Everleigh Bottling Co (everleighbottling.com) bottled spritzes as a statement of your intent. MR.