15 Sep 2016
No boring menu items to see here, folks. Move along…
Sydney-siders love a weekend breakfast
almost as much as more than hipsters love their beards. It doesn’t matter how many drinks were consumed the night before or if the dark clouds threaten to drop their load. Sydney will be up and queuing for their favourite breakfast spots by 9.30am every Saturday and Sunday, without fail.
You’ll find great cafés all throughout Sydney from the Northern Beaches through to the Sutherland shire and from Parramatta to the coast, but one of the highest concentrations of exceptional cafés lies in the city’s trendy Surry Hills.
Finding the best breakfast cafés in Surry Hills is no easy task. But after living, working and breathing this cafe hot spot for the past 8 years I have my favourites. I like a creative menu, consistency, quality and ideally service with a smile. For those reasons, these are my picks for the best breakfasts cafés in Surry Hills.
Modern Moroccan and Mediterranean
579 Crown Street
Café Mint is a small space with a cosy atmosphere serving moreish and comforting Moroccan breakfast. Service is friendly and quick, an advantage of being in a small space. Breakfast rolls over into lunch and after a short afternoon break, you can come back for dinner if you just can’t get enough. The baked eggs with shakshouka ($15.9) are deliciously rich, warming and come with za’atar toast – the kick you need to cure a hangover of any size. My menu favourite is the ‘Hummus Plate’ ($15.9). It’s served with a spiced za’atar toast and you get to choose from one of 3 toppings: Spicy slow cooked lamb mince with pine nuts & onions, sumac & thyme roasted field mushrooms or if you like more chickpeas with your chickpeas, pick the spiced chickpeas, roast pumpkin, spinach & dates.
A fashion store & café combo with Indonesian influence
71-71 Campbell Street, Surry Hills
A quote on Café Rumah’s landing page declares: “Food is not about nutrients and calories, it’s about sharing.” Now, these are people after my own heart! A double fronted shop house on Campbell Street separates the fashion store, called ’15 Sheets’ from the café with a connecting door space. (Although you can sit in the fashion store space too!) The bright café space with limited seating is also great for single diners with bench space looking onto the streets and high-end food and travel magazines available for your reading pleasure. With well travelled Indonesian-born owners, the menu is a mix up of their Asian favourites. Highlights are the Roti John ($9), a hearty spiced beef and egg roll with mayo. And for those looking for a sweet hit, the extra fluffy and made order madeleines are to die for. Order these even if you’re full, you won’t regret it! There are always specials on the menu like ‘Mama Yang’s Pork Belly Rice Bowl’ ($18) and the ‘Tom Yum Chicken Congee’($15). A great spot to reminisce if you’ve spent time in or lived in South East Asia.
Industrial chic coffee roasters and café with pan-American menu influence.
61 Albion Street
One of my favourite breakfast cafés in Surry Hills!
Walking into the Reuben Hills is a bit like walking into a super cool industrial garage that smells of coffee. The décor is a mix of wooden tables, exposed brick walls, wooden beam ceilings, tiled benches and neon light wall art. Coffee is taken very seriously here, no surprise when you source & roast your own coffee and many Sydney cafés have it on their menus. The food is like taking a trip through the Americas with ‘Really Fucking Great Fried Chicken’ ($19.5) being a hangover favourite. Huevos Divorciados ($18.5) come on a tostada, just like they would in Mexico and ‘Pork Arepas’ ($17.5) would make any Colombian feel right at home. By all means have one of their home-roasted coffees, but don’t discount the ‘Ginger & Tumeric Tonic’ ($9) or the ‘Ruby Red Iced Tea’ ($6). Most people don’t get past the ‘Salted Caramel Milkshake’ ($8.5) , which is un-be-freaking-lievable. It’s not often the drinks are as interesting as the food, but Reuben Hills have nailed both menus.
Orto Trading Co
A sweet farmhouse chic café with leafy courtyard and Italian influence.
52 Waterloo Street
Orto’s big draw card is the sweet outdoor space under trees, which only enhances the exciting Italian influenced breakfast menu. Orto’s previous British/Australian owners have left their mark with some favourites like the Southern Fried Chicken Benni ($18) sitting tight for now. Since the change of hands, dishes are becoming more refined and definitely more Italian without loosing any of the comforting flavours. The Orto breakfast ($16), for instance, is a moreish combo of chorizo and wild mushrooms with a poached egg. A simple but utterly delicious baked slice of pumpkin is served on grilled sourdough with goats cheese and poached eggs ($14). It’s easy to spend a morning here and walk out way past the midday mark. Lunch is equally delicious and if you’ve had your quota of coffee, there’s a delicious selection of fruit and vegetable juices available for re-hydration too.
Western food with a Vietnamese twist in a sweet corner terrace with courtyard.
67 Albion Street
White Taro really is an all rounder. Catering to western and Asian palates, coffee lovers and frappe/fruit juice enthusiast, there’s outside space for the waggy tailed and a comfortable inside space to host small groups and room for prams. The breakfast menu is actually an extensive 24 dish all day menu, so if the ‘Taro’s omelette’ of king prawns with roasted tomatoes & enoki mushrooms ($18) doesn’t do it for you, an even heartier deconstructed Banh Mi ($19) might hit the spot? There’s a vegetarian “No carbs brekky’ ($16) of honey roasted pumpkin, grain & seed, Bulgarian feta, grilled asparagus, sautéed mushrooms in a balsamic glaze or something for a western palate that would also appeal to a (hipster) carnivore: The Breakfast Bun ($15) combines flame smoked grilled chorizo, grilled bacon, soft fried egg, wilted spinach, roasted tomatoes, house made tomato relish and aioli served on a matcha brioche bun. If you haven’t had enough, come back for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday nights.
A cool industrial warehouse space that doubles as art gallery and creative food den.
613a Elizabeth Street (technically Redfern, but since it’s on the border we’ll pretend it’s on our side of the fence)
Three Williams is a large space and unlike many in the prime café real estate of Surry Hills, has lots of room. Easy for pram or wheelchair access, it also has a kids corner to keep little ones entertained. The all day menu offers a wide range of plates reminiscent of the New York style brunch menus. There are lighter items like cauliflower three ways ($16) – pickled, grilled and roasted with turmeric tahini, almond, barberry and cumin dressing to a more substantial king salmon with wasabi ($24) or a clam and crab pasta ($25). But the rockstars on the menu are the NARNIES ($15). Once a lunchtime item only, patrons revolted and voilà – they’re now available at from 9am. A soft naan bread envelops whatever fillings are the flavour of the month. Right now that’s a sage crumbed field mushroom narnie and a roast Peking duck narnie. These things are legen-wait for it- dary! They also makse their own seasonal sodas, which can be ordered with a shot of vodka if you want to kick your day off with a bang.
A beautiful, warm industrial space that’s all about coffee education and creative food.
80 Commonwealth Street
The Paramount café is housed in the old Paramount Picture building complete with adjacent golden age movie theatre. A stunning space with high ceilings and polished concrete floors, seating is around long, shared tables. There’s nothing even remotely standard on the menu here. Take for instance the innocent sounding “Avo on toast” ($13). The paramount cafe version comes with fermented salsa and vegemite, sesame & cashew butter. There’s a Gumbo on the menu ($21) with chorizo, fried chicken, okra, kale, pickled slaw, prawn crumb & house made cornbread. Or for something sweeter try the Pearl Barley Porridge ($15.5) with molasses poached apple, charred sweet mandarin, gingered rhubarb, house made almond milk & pistachio butter. The drinks list is equally enticing and if you’ve ever wondered what the husk of a coffee tastes like, go for the sparkling cascara ($5), hops and orange drink. Just don’t expect it to taste like coffee.
In a city that lives for its weekend breakfasts, Sydney sure makes you work hard to stand out. Whilst many of us love a serve of smashed avo on toast, it doesn’t hurt to add a splash of excitement to your food, style the space around you a little and add a touch of charm to your service.
Who gets your vote for best breakfast café in Surry Hills?
I would love to hear from you – please leave your comments below.