Breakfast is by far my favourite meal of the day, and when my lovely friend Amelia first came to live in Sydney, we decided to do a bit of early-morning exploring and meet up for coffee dates before work. Conflicting schedules have since slowed down our rate of breakfast-expeditions somewhat, but here is a summary of the places we have attended thus far, and a few which remain on our to-do list.
COMPLETED THUS FAR (in chronological order):
Gathered Kitchen (99 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe)
A plant-based cafe popular among locals for its vegan croissants, my go-to here is actually the toasted banana bread with espresso butter, and a coffee/date/banana smoothie. Just a heads up, though; despite the awesome pastries, Gathered Kitchen is definitely more suited to a savoury (lunch) palate. Make sure to take full advantage of their very Instagram-able abundance bowls while you are here.
Grounds of the City (500 George St, CBD)
The younger sister of The Grounds of Alexandria, The Grounds of the City is much more centrally located in The Galleries, next to the Queen Victoria Building and right above Town Hall Station. Decked out like a 1920s coffee-lounge, the filter-style coffee menu is interesting, and the coffee itself is consistently good, but service can be a bit hit-and-miss, especially during rush hour (which is almost always). I have also learnt the hard way to check my take-away order is correct before I get too far down the street. A case of more style than substance, I think, but definitely something to be experienced at least once, and a nice place to take out-of-towners to see the sights.
Reuben Hills (61 Albion St, Surry Hills)
I was mildly devastated when we returned to Reuben Hills for an early morning breakfast last Saturday and found that they had replaced the gorgeous little embroidered carpets which had previously cushioned our (very pretty, ceramic) mugs of Kenyan filter coffee with cardboard coasters. Despite this minor setback, Reuben Hills remains a firm favourite. Situated on leafy Albion Street, I would definitely recommend snagging a stool by the window to watch the passing foot traffic while you nibble on your sourdough topped with ricotta and thyme roasted peaches. Yum.
Paramount Coffee Project (80 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills)
Some cafes find it hard to both look trendy and serve decent food. Paramount Coffee Project probably falls slightly on the ‘trendy’ side, but still manages to hit enough of the right food notes to make it a worthwhile breakfast destination. Located within the foyer of the old Golden Age Cinema, this space is admittedly beautiful, with lots of natural light, hanging plants and pressed-concrete everything. Bring a newspaper or laptop and settle in with a coffee.
Flour and Stone (53 Riley St, Woolloomooloo)
Situated just around the corner off William Street, I seriously spend more time at Flour and Stone than I do at work. For those with less of a sweet tooth like myself, go for a bran muffin or zucchini, chilli and gruyere bun (hot, with loads of butter and an extra sprinkle of sea salt). For those with an extreme sweet tooth like Amelia, go wild, have a sour cherry and chocolate meringue before 8am. And for those who like their coffee hot and very strong, be willing to wait for a table. It is so, so worth it.
The Fine Food Store (Cnr of Kendall Ln and Mill Ln, The Rocks)
A pretty cafe hidden down a cobble-stone alley, located just off the pedestrian part of Argyle Street, The Fine Food Store is an old favourite, but a good one. Snag a stool by the window on a rainy day or when trying to escape The Rocks Markets crowds. I would definitely recommend their brewed chai tea; Amelia had a granola and yoghurt bowl with fresh fruit, which was very large and very pretty.
Hills Brothers (5 Martin Pl, CBD)
Amelia wasn’t very impressed with Hills Bros, but I didn’t mind this busy cafe perched in the foyer of a Martin Place high rise. Situated (and somewhat hidden) along the bustling pedestrian strip, the aesthetic of Hills Bros is very much one of pressed concrete, wooden bar stools and suited bodies at early morning meetings, laptops and engraved stationary at hand. The younger, swankier brother of Reuben Hills (described above), the fare is similar is slightly limited, the coffee is excellent, and the service is efficient if lacking in pleasantries. Hills Bros is a wonderful place to seclude yourself away on a weekday morning to get work done, but if it is a raucous brunch with friends you are after, save it for the more relaxed vibe of Reuben Hills, and the weekend.
Bourke Street Bakery (633 Bourke St, Surry Hills)
Ginger creme-brûlée tart. Enough said.
Bills (359 Crown St, Surry Hills)
I really love Bills. Recently relocated a couple of doors down from the old site and refurbished with a swanky art-deco theme, the service here is absolutely brilliant. When we went for breakfast, Amelia and I just had coffee and rye toast with marmalade, but there were some interesting offerings on the menu which I am keen to go back and try. Bills is also open into the evening, a fact which has saved us a couple of times when it has been cold, rainy and dark, and we were in desperate need of a cup of tea.
The Wedge Expresso (55 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe)
A narrow little cafe situated only a couple of doors down from Glebe Point Road, The Wedge is the perfect place to grab food and a beverage before, during or after a trip to Glebe Markets on a Saturday morning (located at the Primary School across the lane). The filter coffee is excellent, but served in the most horrifically ugly mug I have ever seen (Amelia thought the mugs were brilliant), the banana bread is thick and decadent with copious amounts of coffee-infused butter melting on top, and the open wall along the length of the cafe allows sunlight and fresh air to flood in. I suggest perching up at a bar stool to watch the passing foot-traffic.
Hunters Corner (89 Pitt St, Redfern)
I have to say my most enduring memory of Hunters Corner was the giant street art on the side of the building; a rather unflattering image of Tony Abbott as groom, beside Tony Abbott as bride. Classic. The food and coffee were good too.
The Cross Eatery (155 Clarence St, CBD)
After visiting for the first time with Amelia, The Cross has since become a personal favourite; I got into the habit, when I was working on the North side of the Bridge, of stopping by on my way to the bus stop or Wynyard Station most mornings. In fact, I was there so often that Luke, the friendly serving guy, ended up just ringing my order through before I even got to the counter, I was so predictable; filter coffee, and a bowl of seedy porridge, topped with stewed prunes and tahini yoghurt. Heaven.
Cornersmith (314 Illawarra Rd, Marrickville)
There is a lot of hype around Cornersmith, so I was interested to finally go and check this picklery/cafe out. Amelia and I visited on a Sunday morning after a trip to Marrickville markets, and I was surprised by how deserted it was for a Sunday brunch hour. We shared rye toast with marmalade and a serve of sourdough with ricotta and roasted pears, and of course, multiple rounds of coffee. Given the hype, I was perhaps a little underwhelmed by Cornersmith, but I think multiple visits and a try of some of the more savoury offerings on the menu are needed before I make up my mind.
Café Oratnek (4 Pitt St, Redfern)
Café Oratnek is hidden down Pitt Street; so much so that if you didn’t know it was there, you would likely miss it. The menu is a combination of traditional Sydney brunch meets Japanese cuisine, a mixture of flavour profiles which produces offerings like wild umami mushrooms in miso butter with goats cheese, chilli flakes and lemon balm on Sonoma sourdough (my choice), and coddled eggs in a jar with wasabi mash, edamame hummus and buttered soldiers (Amelia). Everything, except the coffee and the bread, is made in-house, with a focus on seasonal and sustainable produce; an ethos I appreciate as a customer. And if you still have room after round one and are feeling brave (as Amelia was), why not try a luminous green matcha lamington for dessert?
YET TO BE COMPLETED:
Two Chaps (122 Chapel St, Marrickville)
I have been to Two Chaps for dinner (selecting the $50pp feasting menu was one of the best decisions of my life), but I am still keen to try their breakfast/brunch offerings. This is the next destination on our list.
Four Brave Women (26 Lackey St, Summer Hill)
A community project supporting female chefs who have recently come to Australia as refugees, the food at Four Brave Women is themed differently each month depending on the traditional cuisine of those cooking there. Designed as a professional leg-up into the Australian business community, all profits go to the chefs, so you can enjoy your food while knowing that you are directly supporting your hosts. What a positive way to start the day! This is definitely on the to-do breakfast list.
A1 Canteen (10 Kensington St, Chippendale)
I have heard good things about this Chippendale eatery, founded by chef Clayton Wells (from Automata, located only a stone’s throw away). Will keep you posted.
And as always, dear reader, we are absolutely open to any suggestions or personal recommendations. If you have a breakfast, brunch or coffee destination you think we might like, please send it through, and we will add it to the list.