The eastern suburbs of Sydney are a mecca of charming coffee houses and brunch spots. From cosy and familiar to design-heavy and minimalist, there’s a café on almost every street, all slotting into their different localities. The only downside of this splendour is how hard it becomes to choose where to go when the weekend comes around. In an attempt to ease the pressure, Backyard Opera has compiled its top 5 cafes in Sydney’s east to help refine your list.
Cuckoo Callay – Surry Hills
Surry Hill’s Crown Street undeniably holds some of the best brunch spots in Sydney, and Cuckoo Callay has got to be the shining star of this assortment with a menu that spins classics into game changers. Favourites include the One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – sautéed broccolini, fresh kale, peas and snow peas, paired with wild grains, spicy chermoula, herbed labneh, activated almonds and a 63º poached egg – and the Roll Over Granola – raspberry granola, yoghurt and honey panna cotta, rhubarb and honeycomb (served with a maple syrup milkshake!). The coffee is also a hit, with rotating single origins and filter brews, plus a cold brew and iced coffee variations. The café itself occupies a coveted corner spot on Crown Street, and has the luxury of tables spilling out onto the street, plus inside seating and a divine event space upstairs. The décor is colourful and enticing yet doesn’t draw from the real hero of the café – the outstanding menu.
Saint Marks – Randwick
Saint Marks is a local favourite filled with an easy-going vibe and a whole lot of flavour. Parked just past the corner of Frenchmans and Clovelly Road, it’s hard to miss with the graffiti-chic floral façade and cheery tunes drifting out the door. It’s only been open since September 2017 but has already garnered a sturdy crowd of faithful locals, who can be seen milling outside every weekend. The locals-orientated experience is deceiving to outsiders, and it seems many haven’t yet figured out the extent to which Saint Marks is a café game changer when it comes to flavour, décor and caffeine. The lunch menu is where Saint Marks really shines, and with rotating burger specials plus staples including the beer can jerk chicken sandwich and six-hour brisket ragu, you’ll quickly find Saint Marks on your ‘must return’ list. The coffee is always fantastic with owner and barista Lachie manning the coffee machine (fondly named Black Betty), and if you need another excuse to visit, they serve a delicious collection of pastries, including Luxe muffins – i.e. the best muffins in town.
Paddington Alimentari – Paddington
Alimentari is little Italy housed in the sandstone centre of Paddington. Upon entry, you’ll be met with a gorgeous delicatessen, filled to the brim with antipasto essentials. The front section of the deli contains sweet treats and pastries, from divine baked cheesecakes to ricotta-filled cannoli, while further back you’ll find stacks of cheeses and meats, plus lunch goodies like arancini and quiches. Bowls of fruit, jams and Italian imports line the shelves, with baskets of biscotti and panettone in neat stacks on the floor, which add to the cosy and intimate atmosphere in the cafe. Behind the deli is a conservatory-like backroom, with beautiful long windows and tasteful magazines piled on the edge of well-loved wooden tables, plus a Romanesque courtyard decorated with stone furniture. You’ll likely find peaceful coffee drinkers reading out the back, perhaps munching on a soft Iggy’s panini, or snacking on a fruit tart, and from this sight alone you’ll find yourself ordering seconds before you know it. The food at Paddington Alimentari is bursting with authentic Italian flavour, and if you’re looking to escape Sydney for a while then this is the perfect spot to kick back with a glass of San Pellegrino and a book.
Shuk – Bondi
Shuk is more market than café, and features a consistently delicious Israeli/Mediterranean inspired menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Located in the back streets of Bondi, Shuk is surrounded by serious competition yet manages to outshine even the loudest of contenders. The airy and stylish café is built upon family history and an appreciation for Middle Eastern culture that shines through every dish they serve: flatbreads, spices and hummus galore. The café itself it’s a pleasure to dine in, with hanging greenery, panelled wood tables, and patterned stools tastefully filling the versatile, open, space. Fan favourite dishes include the shakshuka, teff pancakes, and çılbır bagel, which all look as mouth-watering as they taste. The adjoining Shuk Bakery serves freshly made bread, cakes and pastries, plus excellent coffee, all within walking distance of the beach – could you ask for anything better?
LUXE – Woollahra
Speaking of LUXE muffins…LUXE has a few locations across Sydney but the Woollahra venue is chic in the way only boutiques can pull off. Housed in the centre of the strikingly pink Queens Court, LUXE has the combination of an outstanding location and a phenomenal menu. The Tiffany blue of the courtyard tables contrasts beautifully with the rose-coloured walls, and sitting under the umbrellas on a warm day transports you straight to the well-lit streets of Saint-Germain. Menu highlights include the poached eggs with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, basil, salsa verde and haloumi, double ricotta pancakes with maple syrup, ice cream, berry coulis, pistachio crumble and fresh berries and the chargrilled chicken burger with Asian slaw, avo mash, tomato, lime aioli and a brioche bun. Although on the pricier side, this café is an absolute delight, from the dog-friendly attitude to the outstanding coffee, LUXE Woollahra will always be a hit.