Is this the year the breakfast salad went mainstream? What used to be the domain of whole foods cafes is now found on virtually every second menu, tossed with grains, fermented veg and soft-poached eggs (we particularly dig the salads at the Cross Eatery, Little Jean and Excelsior Jones). But Sydneysiders aren't repenting too staunchly for our sins: we're balancing all that with ever-more outrageous spins on waffles, French toast and pancakes (Henri Marc, Edition Coffee Roasters, Mecca Alexandria).
Coffee, too, has delighted us this year, from espresso tonics (Paramount Coffee Project) to carbonated cold brews. But it's also never been a better time to be a non-coffee person in Sydney, with specialty teas having a moment (Edition Coffee Roasters, West Juliett, Oratnek).
Pastries and other goodies baked on-site have made a strong case for the breakfast dessert, from croissant-doughnut hybrids (Devon on Danks, Brewtown) to cakes worth crossing town - and queueing - for (Black Star Pastry, Flour & Stone).
Here they are, the top 50 cafes in Sydney - grouped into area and in no particular order.
SYDNEY 155 Clarence St. 02 9279 4280
It's sunlight and good living-vibes as far as the eye can see at this bright CBD destination. Select from the bountiful display of serious salads or sandwiches (such as Maffra cheddar, pickles and mustard aiolI) for lunch, or the popular breakfast salad bowl of probiotic veg, slaw and a poached egg, accompanied by an caramel-toned latte, plus there's cold-pressed juice or kombucha on tap for the more virtuous.
CHIPPENDALE 206 Cleveland St 9698 7880
Their breads and pastries might attract a queue on their own but the cafe attached to this Chippendale bakery is a destination in itself. Expect seasonal plates such as fig and walnut toast with house-made ricotta or soft-boiled eggs with charred corn, avocado, coriander and hot sauce. In a rush? Get an excellent Mecca coffee to go and the famed Persian love cake. brickfields.com.au
Brickfields Persian love cake. Photo: Supplied.
HAYMARKET 1/425 Pitt St. 02 9281 2214.
The first cafe from the Chat Thai group, Boon is a cafe and Thai grocer in one. Start with one of several varieties of congee at breakfast or a runny-egg omelette with rice and japapeno-Sriracha sauce. At lunch, dig into Thai-flavoured sandwiches like fried fermented pork & rice cake with pickled cabbage. And don't miss out on a toasted croissant with pandan custard for dessert (or breakfast). booncafe.com
SURRY HILLS 618A Bourke St 9698 5044
This diner-style cafe is an homage to the '80s with beatboxes lining the walls and Laminex tables. Eggs are baked with spicy beef sausages and labneh or chickpeas, eggplant and spinach, while smashed avo toast is pumped up with refried beans and a fried egg. House-made icecream goes into the affogato and milkshakes, and we like the grey goddess tea from Redfern's Rabbit Hole.
SURRY HILLS 280 Cleveland St. 0410 101 789
Housed in a former pharmacy, this ye olde apothecary-style cafe runs with a 'cure for what ails you' theme. Those in morning-after pain might want fried eggs, bacon, and American cheese on a milk bun - with or without a side of drunken fries with fried onion and parmesan. Not in the mood to indulge? Try poached eggs with sauteed mushrooms and kale and a strong flat white.
Mini Luisiana slow braised pork bun at Dr Faustus. Photo: Supplied Photo: Supplied
Pablo & Rusty's
SYDNEY 161 Castlereagh St. 02 9283 9543.
This stylish CBD outpost can make even a 7am Monday breakfast meeting something to look forward to. Almost. Order poached eggs and spicy chorizo with quinoa, labna and mustard fruits, or a slice of the daily breakfast tart. The nitrogen-infused draft coffee - which looks akin to a glass of Guinness is bright and delicate. And check out the all-day brunch on Saturdays. pabloandrustys.com.au
SURRY HILLS 80 Commonwealth St 9211 1122
Housed in a high-ceilinged, stylish space in the Paramount House building, this specialty coffee destination draws as much as a crowd for its playful menu as its coffee sourced from an ever-changing list of suppliers. Get a ginger and turmeric latte or caramel popcorn milkshake to go with your buttermilk-fried chicken waffle or chorizo and adobo mushroom breakfast burrito. And if you've never tried a coffee tonic, now's the time.
SURRY HILLS 60-64 Reservoir St 9211 0665
Single Origin Roasters has now expanded with new cafes in Botany and the CBD but the Reservoir Street flagship remains the standard-bearer for Sydney cafe-roasteries. Try house-made ricotta on toasted sourdough with walnuts and a fig-coffee-balsamic syrup or a 'mothership bowl' of sweet potato, pickled red cabbage, avocado and spinach with poached eggs and a delicate single-origin pour-over or cold filter coffee. singleoriginroasters.com.au
Flour and Stone
WOOLLOOMOOLOO 53 Riley St. 02 8068 8818.
Seats are at a premium at this jewel box of a patisserie-cafe, with regulars spending weekend mornings with the papers and boiled eggs and soldiers (try to resist making a souvenir of the sweet hand-knitted animal egg hats) or sourdough crumpets with ricotta and honeycomb. But that pastry cabinet is the star attraction: strawberry and rosemary brulee tarts, zucchini, chilli and gruyere buns, and chocolate and sour cherry cookies. flourandstone.com.au
SURRY HILLS 71-73 Campbell St. 02 9280 2289
Head to Rumah for a south-east Asian spin on Sydney cafe staples, from an Asian Cuban sandwich to puffy little madeleines filled with kaya, the Malaysian coconut jam. There's also kaya toast - the breakfast beloved in Singapore and Malaysia - eaten with a bowl of soft eggs and soy sauce. Coffee is by Cabrito Coffee Traders, and we also love the iced sodas, especially the rose and milk.
SURRY HILLS 61 Albion St. 02 9211 5556.
South and Central America - the destinations of the Reuben Hills' team's coffee-buying trips - form the inspiration for a creative all-day menu, from huevos divorciados and pork arepas with corn flatbread and smoked jalapeno jam, and their famed fried chicken in a basket. Skip your usual coffee order in favour of an exquisitely brewed filter coffee, or an alimentative ginger and turmeric tonic. reubenhills.com.au
Flour and Stone pastries Photo: Supplied
Relish Food Co
SURRY HILLS 45 Albion St 9281 4362
A sweet and cheerful cafe with its blonde wood, exposed brick walls and turquoise pressed-metal counter, Relish turns out excellent sandwiches (try the chicken piri piri with mint slaw or Irish ploughman), salads and pies, along with very good coffee, and baked goodies and granola in the morning. For now it's only open weekdays, so it's a lunchtime destination for Surry Hills salary folk. relishfoodco.com.au
DOUBLE BAY 1/1 Kiaora Rd 9238 0201
This sun-filled cafe and bistro has been enthusiastically embraced by locals for its creative and inviting breakfast offering, from a kale, quinoa, avocado and kimchi bowl to soft rolls filled with Pialligo bacon, egg and chipotle relish. Pastries are all baked in-house and the excellent Single Origin coffee is made with care, plus there's Tea Craft tea, Callebaut hot chocolate and house-made soda. littlejean.com.au
RANDWICK 2a Belmore Rd. 02 9326 5280.
The Shenkin cafe empire has expanded, bringing its popular shakshuka and hummus plates east. This venue is smaller than the others, with a focus on Israeli street food for takeaway, but you can pull up a seat at the counter for a full Israeli breakfast (poached eggs with Israeli salad, puffy pita bread, avocado, labanne and smoked salmon) and a Mecca coffee or pot of Ovvio tea. cafeshenkin.com.au
DARLINGHURST 265 Liverpool St.
Sydney is almost unfairly spoiled when it comes to both specialty coffee and exceptional cafe dining, and Edition exemplifies the best of both. Order a Porco Rollo - braised Berkshire pork and Japanese omelette with miso BBQ sauce in brioche with a pot of exquisite Chung Feng Jasmine tea or their golden, whisky-like Elixir cold brew coffee. editioncoffeeroasters.com
POTTS POINT 6/81 Macleay St 8356 9264
Look for the scarlet signage that serves as a siren call to the Potts Point locals who flock to this tiny cafe for fantastic coffee, roasted under its own label, and a simple but thoughtful menu. Breakfast might be a plate of soft-boiled egg, tomato and basil salad, provolone and avocado, and the $10 lunchtime sandwiches are a bargain (roast pork, fennel slaw, pickled zucchini and aioli). gypsyespresso.com.au
POTTS POINT 10 Llankelly Pl. 0425 810 174
The Mecca coffee is unfailingly excellent at this discreet laneway cafe (lost? Look for the tiny '10' on ceramic tiles over the entrance). The food, too, is a knockout, from an open-faced sandwich of cured ocean trout and soft eggs with pickled fennel to the breakfast red rice and quinoa bowl with rhubarb and yoghurt. And don't miss the double-shot affogato with white chocolate ice-cream.
Israeli couscous and lentil salad at Bondi's The Nine. Photo: Daniel Munoz
BONDI 163 Glenayr Avenue
The latest edition to Glenayr Road has a focus on "clean, traceable food". Bondi blondes order the cured fish and leave the toast on the side, salty guys order takeaway lattes and mooch out the front. So far, so eastern beaches. But the thing is, the food here is very good. I'd also like to elect a bonus point for the fact there's a list of things the team here like to drink with brunch. Slices of beetroot-cured salmon come sprinkled with dukkah, bedazzled with toasted pecans, a salad of apple and fennel, a blob of goat's curd and a perfect poached egg. It sounds like overload, but somehow it all melds together into a plate of delicious "stuff". Coffee, by Five Senses, is definitely executed better with milk (their work is actually really nice) than short. Ristretto nerds, stretch yourself with an organic ginger root tea, and save yourself the over-extraction. theninesydney.com.au
WAVERLEY 1/173-179 Bronte Rd 0404 379 585
Whether you're doing the breakfast-salad thing or the burger-followed-by-a-brownie thing, Ruby's has it covered. With a menu offering paleo muesli at one end and a beef brisket bun with smoky BBQ sauce at the other, you might find a happy medium with scrambled eggs with a split pea curry and coconut-chilli-coriander sambal with flaky roti. An extensive drinks list spans bulletproof coffee and macha lattes to housemade kombucha. rubysdiner.com.au
The primal burger at Ruby's Diner. Photo: Supplied.
BONDI JUNCTION 60 Bronte Rd. 02 9387 6506.
It's Bondi, so we are - not surprisingly - in wholefoods territory: green breakfast salad, super food smoothies listed by health benefit (liver booster, inflammation fighter) and kombucha, but there's also a southern-fried chicken burger and smoked BBQ brisket with bacon creamed corn. We like the substantial salads, such as roasted sweet potato with kale and cabbage slaw and pickled chilli, and the Campos piccolo lattes. nelsonroad.com.au
PETERSHAM 340 Stanmore Rd. 02 8065 3466.
You don't need to have a child in tow to enjoy Daisy's, but it's so damn cute it's almost a shame to visit without one. The retro menu matches the decor: pulled pork and mac 'n' cheese jaffles and lemon butter pancakes with lime sugar and toasted coconut. Dessert is a chocolate crackle sundae or a knickerbocker glory, and the Double Roasters coffee made with care. daisysmilkbar.com
ST PETERS Suite 1.03/75 Mary St. 02 9517 3963.
The second Sample cafe is much larger than the tiny Surry Hills original, and a destination for the home brewer, with specialty gear on shelves lining the walls. Order a delicate, plum-toned batch brew or iced coffee made with slightly sweetened almond milk to go with your ploughman's plate with bresaola, smoked pork neck and pickles or a baba ghanoush sandwich with walnuts and watercress. samplecoffee.com.au
SUMMER HILL 1A Lackey St. 0415 945 651.
With its calm grey fit-out and inviting seasonal menu, Heritage Coffee Brewers has been a welcome entry to Summer Hill since opening in 2015. There's a genuine focus on coffee, with a rotating cast of guest suppliers, while menu standouts include a mezze plate, which changes weekly, or waffles sweet (pumpkin and ricotta with maple panna cotta) or savoury (zucchini and haloumi with guacamole and poached egg).
PETERSHAM 1 Station St. 02 9568 4644.
With its mismatched chairs at communal tables, jars of native flowers and shelves of vintage china, this Petersham corner cafe is worth a visit just for the interiors inspiration. And the menu is comfortingly familiar rather than boundary-pushing - think sweet corn fritters with avocado salsa at breakfast, and chicken schnitzel with fennel and radish salad at lunch - with Deluca coffee and a cabinet of beautifully made pastries. thepigandpastry.com.au
PENRITH 2/438 High St.
Stylish Henri Marc continues its reign as Penrith's best cafe. A tiny kitchen turns out an all-day menu including fried chorizo and mushrooms with a poached egg and parmesan, or an enormous waffle strewn with apple crumble, cinnamon icecream and salted caramel. Don't miss a hot chocolate using Zokoko, the Emu Heights chocolatier, or the sweet house-made sodas. The Reuben Hills coffee is great, too. henrimarc.com.au
FIVE DOCK 84 Ramsay Rd. 02 9712 4606.
The Sydney obsession with gelato shows no sign of abating (and why would it?) but rarely is it done better than at this family-run gelateria in Five Dock. The gelato burger - one or two scoops inside a brioche - is a non-negotiable order, and the other sweets - cannoli, iris buns and arancini are just as good. Skip the coffee in favour of a pudding-like Italian hot chocolate. cremeria-deluca.com
MARRICKVILLE 314 Illawarra Rd. 02 8964 7463.
Undoubtedly one of Sydney's most beloved neighbourhood cafes, Cornersmith continues to set the standard for locally-sourced, seasonal, sustainable food with hospitality to match. The menu changes constantly but breakfast might be poached eggs on a crusty rye roll with smoky onion relish and a fennel salad, or soft-boiled egg on toast with miso mayo, pickled celery and lentil sprouts. And the Mecca coffee is unfailingly excellent. cornersmith.com.au
Cornersmith in Marrickville. Photo: Joshua Morris
MARRICKVILLE 122 Chapel St 9572 8858
An open warehouse space in industrial Marrickville is home to the Two Chaps bakery-cafe, where sourdough loaves and pastries (such as banana custard morning buns) are baked in-house. Ease sweetly into the day with blueberry sourdough crumpets with poached quince, sour cream and honey and a pot of Sticky Chai (the titular chaps are the cult chai's creators). Also open for dinner Thursday and Friday.
MARRICKVILLE 30 Llewellyn St. 02 9519 0101.
A stylishly spare Marrickville cafe with a real emphasis on local suppliers and bread and pastries baked in-house. Order the crusty rye roll with wilted kale, fried egg and haloumi and spicy aioli or fried eggs with braised lentils and morcilla. The Allpress coffee is made with care and tea is steeped and served with the leaves removed - a thoughtful move we'd love to see more often. westjuliett.com.au
NEWTOWN 6-8 O'Connell St. 02 9519 2920.
The specialty coffee is enough of a drawcard at this spacious, light-filled cafe just off King Street - roasted in-house under the Brewtown label - but just as much care has gone into the bistro-inspired menu. Start the day with waffles with stewed fruits and orange-infused ricotta, while lunch might be duck terrine with pickled beetroot and cornichon salad. And a bakery upstairs turns out their perpetually popular 'Brewnuts'. brewtownnewtown.com
MARRICKVILLE 199 Victoria Rd. 02 9518 0771.
The cafe formerly known as Double Roasters remains a worthwhile destination for exceptional coffee in a suburb with no shortage of them. Order an espresso and select from one of the two single origin beans of the day, or what might be the best-value cold drip in town at $3. There's a menu of breakfast classics (smashed avo, croque monsieur) and hearty sandwiches and salads at lunch. wickspark.com.au
ASHFIELD 139A Queen St. 02 9799 3240.
Smaller diners can be kept busy with a kid-sized caramel malted shake while larger ones can have an excellent 5 Senses coffee (or - why not? - a cream and soda spider). A housemade pita bread piled with roasted cauliflower and broccoli and a poached egg is hearty enough for brunch, yet not so much that you can't manage a Boston cream doughnut for dessert. excelsiorjones.com
ARTARMON 5 Wilkes Ave.
A hideaway of a cafe just off Artarmon station, Salvage is a salve for both rushed weekday commuters and weekend brunchers, who sit in the sunshine at communal tables outside. Coffee from Artificer is excellent, with single-origin bean selections each for espresso, filter, batch and cold brew, while the blackboard menu offers poached eggs with creamed corn, manchego and chilli salsa and a ripper ham and cheddar toastie. salvagecoffee.com
AVALON BEACH 1/21-23 Old Barrenjoey Rd. 02 9443 2286
As if Avalon locals didn't have enough blessings - that beach, that headland - they've also got Smalltown, where you can make the five-minute stroll from the beach for a leisurely weekend brunch of brioche French toast with raspberries, ricotta and pistachios, or a super food bowl of quinoa with sauteed kale, avocado, sauerkraut and poached eggs. You'll need to be early to nab one of the specialty glazed doughnuts.
Snapper tacos at Smalltown. Photo: Steven Siewert
NORTHBRIDGE 160 Sailors Bay Rd. 02 9967 2007
Two Sydney obsessions - wellness and specialty coffee - collide at this hole-in-the-wall of a Northbridge cafe, where post-yoga groups dig into acai bowls or chia pudding and green smoothies. After something more substantial? Try the quinoa-falafel tortilla wrap with grilled eggplant and hummus and ask for the filter coffee of the week or a smooth piccolo latte. The treats in the cabinet are mostly raw, vegan and paleo - go on, then.
LAVENDER BAY 10 Middlemiss St. 02 9929 4441.
Turns out the spacious bays underneath the north approach to the Harbour Bridge are an ideal space for a cafe. It's hugely popular with cyclists - the space is shared with a bike fit and physio business - but the tiny kitchen turns out a deli plate of boiled egg, avocado, ricotta and prosciutto and substantial sandwiches (spiced lamb meatball and tzatziki) and very good coffee. baytenespresso.com.au
Axil Coffee Co
KIRRIBILLI Kirribilli Wharf. 0431 344 991.
Ferry commuters already have Sydney's best ride to the office, but those who frequent the Kirribilli wharf have a particularly sweet trip. Call in late to work and order the Billi's Eggs - soft poached eggs on charred sourdough with onion jam, chilli, burnt butter, mint and yoghurt - or roasted rhubarb and ricotta on toast with ginger maple syrup - with a strong piccolo latte.
MANLY 19 Whistler St. 02 9976 5000.
Showbox appeals broadly - noodles in bone broth for the wholefoods crowd, their version of a 'Big Mac' for the morning-afters, Hawaiian poke bowls for those who never again want to see another eggs Benedict, and filter coffee from roasters like Melbourne's Proud Mary for the specialty coffee crew - but retains a strong character and sense of fun, making it one of our favourite destinations this side of the Spit. showboxcoffee.com.au
ST LEONARDS 34 Oxley St.
This stylish, oak-panelled cafe does a fine dining spin on breakfast, from its popular 'Oldskool Newskool Salmon' - salmon three ways with poached eggs and caviar - to the English trifle French toast, spongey brioche piled with custard, bananas, whipped cream and biscuit crumbs. Just as much care goes into the coffee, with Byron Bay's Marvell St Coffee providing the house roast and guest roasters for espresso and filter.
MOSMAN 185 Avenue Rd. 02 9969 8999
A crowd-pleasing neighbourhood cafe with an extensive menu serving hearty sandwiches, burgers and salads, with substantial plates at breakfast such as corn and quinoa fritters with smoked salmon and poached egg and a treat-y kids' menu (pancakes with fruit, marshmallow and sprinkles). Coffee is from Double Roasters and there's an array of juices, smoothies and shakes, plus a short list of beer and wine.
ALEXANDRIA 24 O'Riordan St. 02 9318 1442.
Yes, it's a cafe inside a furniture store (the glitzy Coco Republic). But rare is the in-store cafe as chic as this. An Italianate menu offers salads and sandwiches but it's more fun to put together a little plate from the crostini bar - try the ricotta and proscuitto with agrodolce onions, and pancetta with soft egg and avocado. And Champagne by the glass is a relative bargain at $16.50. lamericano.com.au
Spicy pork stuffed chicken wings, chilli jam, chips and green laver at Oratnek in Redfern. Photo: Brendan Thorne
REDFERN 4 Pitt St 8394 9550.
This pretty cafe in a converted Redfern terrace serves up a Japanese take on cafe classics - macha French toast or wild mushrooms with miso butter and poached eggs at breakfast, a pork katsu sandwich with cabbage and Japanese bbq sauce for lunch. Tea fiends can order a fragrant pot of Mariage Freres Earl Grey, and you can get a brilliant-green macha lamington to match your macha latte (sorry). oratnek.com.au
REDFERN 118 George St. 0421 203 382
This Redfern sandwich bar does a cracking lunchtime trade with sandwiches like slow-roasted pork, apple-dijon mayo and fennel slaw and poached chicken and crunchy cabbage salad with potato straws. In the morning, a breakfast sandwich of boiled eggs with bacon, cheddar and a herbed ricotta and a bottle of 5 Senses cold drip (or a mug of hot Milo with textured milk!) makes the perfect commuter's breakfast.
CRONULLA 4/15 Surf Rd 0403 844 533
For Cronulla locals, Grind needs no introduction. But for the rest of us, a trip to (or via) Cronulla is incomplete without a stop at Grind. The vintage train-station board lists your extensive options - try a smooth, heart-starting espresso or, for something less intense, the cafe con cinnamon. The food is secondary and minimal, but those in need can grab a prosciutto and provolone croissant or blueberry bagel.
The Copper Mill
ALEXANDRIA Suite B, 338-356 Mitchell Rd. 02 9517 3214.
The genuinely lovely staff and rustic, easy fit-out make this Alexandria cafe feels instantly like a familiar local. The cosy vibe continues throughout the all-day brunch menu, with treats like a Reuben sandwich with slow-cooked brisket, sauerkraut and pickles, and gouda, and corned beef and potato hash with with a poached egg and radish. Order a golden turmeric latte if you're feeling virtuous, and the coconut hot chocolate if not. thecoppermill.com.au
WATERLOO 2 Danks St. 02 9698 7795. devoncafe.com.au
The Devon cafes gained fame (and brunch loyalty) for dishes like Breakfast with the Sakumas, but their fine-dining-meets-cafe menu is ever-evolving. Start with the Venus - fried cauliflower with pomegranate-studded quinoa and a soft-boiled egg - and a Japanese-style cold-drip. And don't leave without a 'cronnie' (croissant-doughnut) - where else will you get the chance to try a pork floss and condensed milk version?
ROSEBERY 85-113 Dunning Ave. 02 9557 8656.
You don't need permission to craft an entire meal of several courses of pastries - but you've got it. The bigger, sleeker Black Star outlet still attracts a line, especially on weekends, but (thankfully) a shorter wait than the tiny Newtown original. Pick up a burnished lamb shank and red wine pie and a slice of delicately layered pistachio lemon zen cake or vegan chocolate popcorn cake. blackstarpastry.com.au
Black Star Pastry's famous strawberry and watermelon cake. Photo: Jennifer Soo
Bread and Circus
ALEXANDRIA 21 Fountain St. 0418 214 425.
Bread & Circus describes itself as a canteen rather than a cafe, so find a spot at one of the communal tables and prepare to make friends with your neighbours. But a lovely wholefoods-focused daily-changing menu is anything but generic feeds for the masses: caramelised banana pancakes or quinoa, greens and fried eggs at breakfast and substantial salads at lunch, plus coffee from Byron Bay's Marvell Street. breadandcircus.com.au
ALEXANDRIA 2/26 Bourke Rd. 02 9698 8448.
The Mecca company expanded its hub and roastry to include space for public coffee cupping workshops and, at the front, an elegant new cafe space. The menu swings from a brown rice, lentils, hazelnuts and kimchi bowl with a soft egg to a fried chicken roll with chilli mayonnaise and fermented veg. Go for the nitro cold brew coffee or a bright-and-bubbly keffir spritz. meccacoffee.com.au
The Grounds of Alexandria
ALEXANDRIA 7A/2 Huntley St. 02 9899 2225.
Busier than the SCG on day one of a Test, the Grounds continues its reign as Sydney's most diversified venue (cafe/restaurant/bakery/coffee roastery/garden). There's an extensive, crowd-pleasing menu (we love the brekkie board) and exceptional coffee - try the deconstructed iced coffee or pour over filter. Can't get a table? Choose from the takeaway menu or pastry counter and head for a picnic in Sydney Park. thegrounds.com.au