The willingness of Sydneysiders to wait in line for breakfast demonstrates just how much we love to get on board with the latest, hottest, most-'grammable new cafe. But we're not as fickle as we may seem, returning again and again to sit at tables we've been visiting for years.
One of the most exciting openings of 2015 has been Darlinghurst's innovative yet beautifully understated Edition Coffee Roasters; and we were also thrilled to see some Surry Hills favourites, the relative newcomer Devon and Sydney institution Single Origin Roasters, move out of the 2010 postcode with second venues in Waterloo and Botany respectively.
Here is a selection of our picks both old and new. To make it on to this list, a cafe has to deliver a whole experience, great coffee, of course, but also good food, snappy service, a great vibe, oh and we've made sure we've travelled all over. So here it is, the north, south, east and west of Sydney's best cafes.
Anvil Coffee Co.
The Kirribilli Wharf-Circular Quay ferry has to be one of Sydney's most desirable commutes. Order the popular poached egg Smithie roll and a punchy long black, or settle in with a pot of Tea Craft tea and the buttery, spicy Arabian eggs. Plus, views don't get much more on-water than this. (Also at Artarmon.)
Kirribilli Commuter Wharf, Holbrook Avenue, Kirribilli, anvilcc.com.au
Salvage Specialty Coffee
The town-square feel of the little courtyard in front of Salvage encourages lingering – as do the good-natured staff. A talented team behind the bar turn out sublime espresso and filter coffee, with an ever-changing menu of specialty roasters. Weekends see an expanded menu; go for the gloriously messy croque madame.
5 Wilkes Avenue, Artarmon
Showbox Coffee Brewers
Combining a creative, wholefood-focused menu (nasi goreng with cauliflower "rice") and a creative coffee menu showcasing specialty roasters, Showbox has cemented itself as a Manly destination since opening in early 2014. The originality extends to the rest of the drinks list, too, such as tart drinking vinegars with soda.
19 Whistler Street, Manly, showboxcoffee.com.au
Everyone has salty hair and a dog in tow: so far, so very beachside cafe. But Smalltown's attention to detail sets it apart. Single Origin Roasters coffee is expertly made (V60 pourover and cold drip are also on offer), while poppyseed ricotta pancakes with maple and lavender fruit compote are almost too pretty to eat (almost).
1/21-23 Old Barrenjoey Road, Avalon
Grind remains as much an essential part of the Cronulla morning as a dip in the surf. Food is limited to the pastry cabinet, but the extensive coffee menu, fashioned from an antique train station board, offers espresso any which way you like, it plus syphon, pour over and a citrusy cold drip.
Shop 4/15 Surf Road, Cronulla
Single O Botany
SOR's coffee is found all over Sydney, but it wasn't until late 2014 that the Surry Hills cafe opened a second outpost, at their roastworks HQ. There's a terrific all-day menu (try the mothership breakfast or banana bread with espresso butter), but the coffee gets top billing, with a filter bar turning out specialty brews.
28b Cranbrook Street, Botany, singleoriginroasters.com.au
Devon on Danks
The team behind the wildly popular Devonshire Street original has expanded south. An all-day menu draws on Devon mainstays (such as the excellent Breakfast with the Sakumas). New additions include an immense meat board for two featuring a Thai sausage, scotch egg and soy glazed wagyu brisket. Try the Japanese cold drip or cold-pressed juices.
2 Danks Street, Waterloo, devoncafe.com.au
The Copper Mill
Much has been made of the coconut hot chocolate, and by God it's good. But it you're not in the mood for such sweetness in the morning go for a well-made long black on the single estate bean of the week. An appealing brunch menu is available until 3.30pm – we'll take the slow-roasted pork, kumera and egg roll, thanks.
338-356 Mitchell Road, Alexandria, thecoppermill.com.au
Edition Coffee Roasters
There's neither an egg nor an avocado to be seen at Edition, one of the year's most exciting cafe openings. The Japanese-Nordic menu is worth a visit alone, but there's a serious coffee offering, with beans roasted under the cafe's own label. Staff are as calm and chic as the bare-bones decor.
265 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst, editioncoffeeroasters.com
Yes, there's a raw breakfast salad and super-food muffins, but also brioche French toast and a banana split with Serendipity ice-cream. The Single Origin Roasters coffee is superb (and $2 for a piccolo latte); then there's wild kombucha on tap and bulletproof coffee. Go with #cleanliving intentions, and see how you feel when you get there.
1/173-179 Bronte Road, Waverley, rubysdiner.com.au
Newbies will walk straight past it – look for the tiny "10" above the entrance – but this tiny laneway cafe turns out some of the area's best coffee (spot regular Neil Perry). We dig the breakfast rice or jaffle with soft-boiled egg, smoked salmon and hollandaise – with an affogato for dessert.
10 Llankelly Place, Potts Point
After four years, Sample has opened a second, larger cafe and roastery at St Peter's. But the tiny original bar remains a Surry Hills destination with a devoted following. The coffee – Sample's Pacemaker blend for milk and single origin beans for black and filter – is exquisite. Try the iced latte with cold brew and sweetened almond milk, or a Venezuelan hot chocolate.
1a/118 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills samplecoffee.com.au
Spacious and airy, this is a polished operation, making the most of what was formerly the Newtown Berkelouw building. Coffee is roasted on site, and there's an impressive filter bar (with cold brew on tap) to explore. A hearty all-day menu features corned beef hash with peas, parmesan and a poached egg, and pastry freaks go for the Brewnuts.
6-8 O'Connell Street, Newtown, brewtownnewtown.com
The commitment to all that is local and seasonal is unrivalled. Staff treat everyone like a regular, even during the weekend rush. Settle in with a Maffra cheddar and ham jaffle with house-made sauerkraut and a caramel-toned Mecca flat white (or a rhubarb and apple milkshake). And check out the new set menu dinners Thursday-Saturday.
314 Illawarra Road, Marrickville, cornersmith.com.au
Penrith's favourite cafe is a haven off the high street. An appealing all-day menu includes ricotta and pesto on sourdough with heirloom tomatoes and a pillowy egg-white omelette with spiced pumpkin and charred corn. Local chocolatier Zokoko supplies the goods for the silky hot chocolates, and the coffee comes by way of Reuben Hills.
2/438 High Street, Penrith, henrimarc.com.au
Every neighbourhood deserves one: a cafe worth crossing suburbs for but within strolling distance of home. Order the crunchy potato hash with hot smoked salmon and soft egg and indulge a child – either the one you've brought with you or the one you used to be – with a spider. An expert hand on the espresso machine turns out fine 5 Senses coffee.
139a Queen Street, Ashfield excelsiorjones.com
Mecca Espresso King Street
Sydney's CBD has been spoiled with a recent slew of cafe openings, but the popularity of Mecca's original King Street spot never wanes – with good reason. The menu is short and smart; go for the breakfast bowl or a substantial salad at lunch. The coffee, of course, is unfailingly great.
67 King Street, Sydney, meccaespresso.com
Look for the distinctive turquoise signage to discover one of the city's most creative coffee menus. We're partial to the Aunty A (double ristretto, three quarter flat white) and the Jimbo (double macchiato with a dot of milk), and there's also sparkling cold drip and Swiss Gold filter.
3/259 Clarence Street, Sydney, vellanero.com.au
Gumption by Coffee Alchemy
When Coffee Alchemy expanded to the CBD at the end of 2013, devotees of the legendary Marrickville roastery and coffee bar were thrilled. To sit outside this pretty pale green and brass coffee bar in the Strand Arcade with a piccolo latte is one of the loveliest ways to refuel in the city.
Shop 11, Ground Floor, The Strand Arcade, Sydney
Pablo and Rusty's
The working breakfast got a significant upgrade with the opening of the CBD's first Pablo and Rusty's. A plate of beetroot-cured king salmon with zucchini and dill fritters, creamed corn, crisp jamon and poached eggs with a cup of silky batch brew sure beats a protein shake at your desk.
161 Castlereagh Street, Sydney, pabloandrustys.com.au