Food / Wellbeing

These are the very best cafes in Sydney right now

What is it about Sydney and cafes that go so well together? More pressingly, where can we partake in the rite? The art of sitting alfresco-side with a batch brew is not a lost art amongst Sydney siders. Where gossip, camaraderie and furried friends collide, so does the desire for connection before the sun's out for the day. There are endless prerequisites to a cafe we love. It goes without saying: the food has got to be good. Ambience is another aggregate factor - are the fellow patrons swattable, or tucking away happily? Is the service up to par? Are there outlets for any WFH-ers? And what of the coffee, and the unavoidable alternative milks surcharge?

The bar is sky-high when the volume of brunch spots climbs each day. It seems near-impossible to round up the worthy, considering there are so many noteworthy spots in our city. But this is critical journalism, and for a cause I do not intend to profile lightly. For your consideration, the very best Sydney has to offer in cafe form. Care to share your own? Add to the pile- I won't mind if you do.

 

Poketto, Chippendale

 

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Known for: Great matcha, iced yuzu, and being the sister-franchise of Kurumac.

Poketto is an elevated entry into the Japanese cafe scene. Bright light filters into the cafe, which has replaced an old Cadbury Factory and is elevated by the potted bonsais that brighten up the space. Have a pick between their Dry Keema curry or cod roe toast. Come for a catch-up or a work stint, all are welcome.

 

AP Bakery, Surry Hills & Newtown

 

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Known for: being the cafe of happenstance, buckwheat pain au chocolat, and open-air, Sydney alfresco at its finest.

Yes, I'm anticipating some furore over this entry, but who cares? My press is good press. Perhaps Sydney's most notorious spot, the A.P Bakehouses (particularly the obnoxiously beloved rooftop on Paramount Hotel) are some of the most prolific in the game when it comes to baked goods of all kinds. I cannot fault their buckwheat pain au chocolat, and their lamb sausage roll is also killer. Some say it's overkill, but I don't. Sitting on a sundeck while nibbling on my something sweet is an uncontestable treat. Just beat the crowds, and by doing so lies your reward.

 

Rolling Penny, Newtown

 

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Known for: Zucchini flower tacos, sun-drenched seating, and a great cuppa joe.

Neighborhood favourite Rolling Penny has been a stalwart contender in the cafe league for years. With rotating specials that fuse flavours of the East and West, there's never a bland contender for your next brunch fix at Rolling Penny. Their divorced eggs are delightfully creamy and pack an explosive punch. Park yourself in the back, and wait for a furry compatriot to join you in sunbaking. How does that Lana song go again? That's right: Let the light in.

 

Kaska Eatery, Darlinghurst

 

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Known for: great soups, batch brews, and rotating baked goods.

This cafe is RUSSH-tested and approved, for all quality control purposes. Apart from slinging delicious miso-chocolate chip cookies directly below our office, they also make a mean tomato soup with a cheese toastie to die for. If you're in the mood for something a little moreish, opt for their rendition of a kimchi pancake. It's loaded with greens and great to share (with yourself).  We would know, we journey past every day and like clockwork, hardly ever stop by without picking up a little something for ourselves.

 

Valentina's, Marrickville

 

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Known for: being where the nicest people serve the nicest food.

Quite literally - that's the cafe slogan. There's lots to yarn on about Valentina's. The vegan sausage muffin is a great one, for starters. Fitted out on an unassuming strip of Livingston road, the cafe is a retro blend of diner food and an all-Australian coffee rotation. I've waltzed back and forth from the joint on many quarantine walks for a little low-risk reward in those fickle years.

 

Reuben Hills

 

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Known for: THE reuben, optimised WFH settings, great coffee.

Reuben Hills has stuck around for oh-so many years, and it's all because they've got their protocol down pat. From their non-exhaustive coffee selections sourced straight from Bolivia, Venezuela and Peru, to the signature Reuben sandwich, there's not been a stone unturned in mastering the greats that they offer. The baked eggs with goat's curd? Yet another winner we can get behind.

 

Barrel One, Potts Point & Manly

Known for: Lemon Espresso Tonic, crumpets, being in every corner quadrant of this city.

Barrel One serves some of the best coffee up and down Sydney. My favourite branch is off Roslyn street in Potts Point, but you can also swing by for their signature espresso tonic at their Brookwater  junction. Batch brew, long blacks and all caffeine entries are brewed using Barrel One’s single origin of the day. In the mood for a bite? Their crumpet offerings come powdered in cinammony-brown sugar, or sandwiched between LP's Deli Meats. Pick your poison.

 

Hearthe, Stanmore

Known for: dog-watching, an airy, open-plan sitting space, and enough baked goods to last.

Halfway between a cake shop and a cafe, Hearthe houses all of their fresh, daily-baked goods in an open-display window festooned with white veiling. After gawking at their display, you can make your selections inside and also place orders for any seasonal cakes they've been baking in-house. I personally favour their truffle salami foccacia with rocket and chives.

 

Soul Deli, Surry Hills

 

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Known for: warm, attentive staff, Korean-forward specials, and Pepe Saya butter dressing their Korean Fried Chicken and Waffles.

Korean brunch in the lobby of a hotel in Surry Hills. SOUL Deli is a part of the future. Bold flavours and deli specials that rove from sweet, savoury to anything laced with an appropriate amount of kimchi all comprise a big chunk of the menu here. For maximising, hearty impact, make room for their Soul rice-bread glistening with honey.

 

Little West, Haberfield

 

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Known for: Unbeatable service, farm-to-table produce, a dizzying range of specials.

Little West has it all, it seems. People are raving-mad over their bush tomato sauce made in-house, which accompany all of their breakfast roll and pie specials. A mid-week brunch spot that feels as accommodating as it looks, there's a reason Little West is heralded as the neighbourhood joint in the Inner West. The homemade cheesy damper is also a delight, and the perfect side slinger to their loaded brunch bowls.

 

PINA, Potts Point

 

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Known for: A high-octane atmosphere, great matcha, and undeniably good food.

Come on a weekday to avoid the crowds filing into Orwell Street. Though of course, we can understand explicitly why. The charred corn ribs, hash browns, and chickpea pancakes are all tantalising options for all-day breakfast. Just in the mood for a grab and go? Their speedy service is interchangeable for take-away and dining in. It's always time for an iced matcha, to enjoy in transit or seated with around the table.

 

Soulmate Coffee

 

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Known for: Curved, open-deck outdoor seating, mushroom toasties, and actually order-worthy avo on toast.

Right. To speak plainly, I strictly oppose ordering avocado on toast at any cafe institutions. To echo the boomer talking-points we abhor hearing, the $14 dollars of sliced avocado on buckwheat and the compliance to ordering it are the reasons why none of us have secured a house and home. And in most cases, they would be correct. Here, I would be damned if I went without. The avocado on toast comes doused in chilli oil on a generous bed of crumbed shiso and macadamia. I can't make this at home, and why would I? Soulmate is two blocks away.

 

Norma's Deli, Manly

 

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Known for: Being your one-stop shop for absolutely everything, and mastering a basque cheesecake.

The very best for last. A veritable truckload of options exist here, beyond your wildest imagination. Norma's Deli is not a deli. Nor is it a cafe, or a bakery, or even a bar. It is some twisted, glorious amalgam of it all, situated inside a back alley in Manly. With a European exterior that's somewhat Greek and also Wes Anderson-esque, it's stocked to the brim with everything you could need. Pillowy foccacia, lemon meringue tarts, Italian deli sandwiches, and basque cheesecakes in rotating flavours of passionfruit, fudge and pistachio. That's about a fraction of the goods on offer here. I've journeyed across at least four times, and I've never left without already planning my next visit. You'll have to cross the bridge for this one. But from the frequency of my visits, it's always been worth it.


Have a more formal occasion in mind? Here's our roundup of cool, fun and trendy restaurants to visit in Sydney.

 

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