Australian breakfasts are legendary in other parts of the world. Find out what makes us numero uno at these brilliant cafes and restaurants
Best for... health nuts and coffee nerds
To us, Ruby’s ticks the ever-challenging box of ‘cafés that serve food that’s as good as their coffee’. For all the raw and paleo gear (stay right where we can see you, super food muffin. You too, bulletproof coffee) they offer (it’s inescapable once you pass Bondi Junction), there’s also a smart mix of regular deliciousness to be had. Slow-cooked brisket, all smoke and barbecue, is served with a side of ‘slaw, rice, beans and a squeeze of lime. It’s Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy in a breakfast. A massive gingerbread-flavoured milkshake comes ice-cold and frothy with a crust of cinnamon powder. And the banana split will pretty much end you for all other desserts: white chocolate ice cream is scooped over runny salted caramel, chocolate fudge, covered in banana slices and a thick blanket of praline. Goddamn. Sydney cafés may pop up every second day but few deliver with the same dedication to their neighbourhood and their own good taste the way Ruby’s does.
Best for... killer views
Ferry commuters are lucky enough to travel on Sydney's most scenic mode of public transport, but those that alight at Kirribilli wharf are extra-spoiled with this beautiful cafe. As ferries roll in and out, glassy green waves lap up against the weatherworn wooden wharf – turn left to catch a ferry or veer right in to Anvil. The setup is like a boat-driver’s-quarters-turned-café, but the furnishings pale in comparison to the natural décor this little outlier café is blessed with. Through rusted iron window frames you’ll find uninterrupted views of Sydney Harbour. While the menu isn’t extensive, the few dishes they do have tick all the right boxes. Try the house-toasted muesli topped with braised rhubarb, which also makes an appearance in a vanilla milkshake (just like a freshly baked pie, only frothy). Savouries run to pulled pork and a little dish they’ve dubbed the 'buttered Arabian eggs'. Sweet onion relish is softened by licks of yoghurt and butter, combining to make a neat hollandaise substitute. Add in two soft poached eggs and malty sourdough, and then pull it all together for a veggo breakfast that doesn’t even give us a second of bacon-FOMO.
Best for... Saturday brunch
Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt’s chic Potts Point bistro now offers more than an interesting and delicious wine list and those can’t-get-enough-of-them spicy beef tendon puffs. They now offer brunch. And it’s good. Really good. Roll up on a Saturday or Sunday for three gently poached eggs floating like little protein islands in a light onion consommé, with fresh sweet peas, chestnut mushrooms and a pile of golden toasted grains for crunch. Break the eggs open to enrich the broth for instant breakfast soup. The intensity of Savage’s licorice bread is such that you can smell it three tables over. The wedge of richly flavoured, ebony-coloured, almost-cake is coated in a spray of sea salt flakes. It's served with a splodge of whipped butter, which you probably won’t need. Baked eggs, for the Sydney brunch traditionalist, come indented with spicy fried chorizo, light and aerated yoghurt and a pile of toast. And while we might not call Yellow a coffee destination (you’ve got Gypsy Espresso up the road for that), we would suggest ordering the house-made peach iced tea. Fresh.
Best for... big tables, booked in advance
Why Bill Granger waited up till now to open in Bondi is a total mystery. The queue’s a mile long, but nobody seems to care – partly because it’s a scene in itself waiting for a table and everyone seems to know each other, and partly because the turnaround is unusually quick. Most couples are only waiting five or ten minutes. Try risking an eight top, though, and you might be hanging out for a while (also, why didn’t you book? You can, if there’s a group of eight or more. Remember that!) The big question this morning is whether ordering a smoothie of mango, avocado, cucumber, almond milk and aloe is a good idea. The answer is no. And yet, at least three other people in the room are joyously sucking theirs down. Ah, Bondi. For everyone else, there’s a shakes menu (chocolate fudge!), house-made sodas (fizzy liquorice root!) and frappes (watermelon and lime!). ‘Broken eggs’ with sourdough crostini pretty much just translates to a fairly firm ricotta and spinach frittata covered in toasted pine nuts, served in a little cast iron pan. On the other hand, brown rice stir-fried with prawns and slices of chorizo is spiced up considerably with fresh chilli, a side of chilli sauce and a thicket of coriander leaves. Add a squeeze of lime, a wobbly poached egg and a side of kimchi and you’ve got modern Australia on a breakfast plate. It works, too. Breakfast at Bills isn’t cheap, but then a morning meal in Sydney rarely means getting away for less than $50 once you’ve factored in coffee, juice and an extra serve of smashed avocado – let alone a little sneaky breakfast dessert. Love to hate it or love to love it, Bills continues to deliver a level of food and service most Sydney cafes aspire to.
Best for... early breakfast with a clear conscience
Set an alarm for breakfast here. Anything post 8am and you’re playing with fire. Such is the popularity of this tiny corner café, offering a menu of rustic breads, house-made pickles, community sourced fruit and veg and their very own honey (bees permitting). While it might sound like you’re eating in a cult – and they’ve caught more flak for their café than most in the area, having suffered through broken windows and graffiti (“fuck off yuppie scum”) – it’s actually pretty straight. They’ll pull you a deliciously oily ristretto using beans from Sample coffee, or mix a prune shake and serve it in a sweet little glass milk bottle. A poached egg roll with ham and kale is a single-handed win, while fig toast spread with fresh curd, blobs of carrot and lime jam and a sprinkling of toasted almonds and mixed seeds is sweet and delicious though better shared as breakfast seconds rather than the main event. There’s plenty of local love for Cornersmith – get on the bus.
Best for... mid-week crumpets
Petersham has always been a destination suburb for some hangover-busting Portuguese chicken and custard tarts. But look a bit further and you’ll discover that this little pocket of the Inner West is kicking goals on all fronts when it comes to eats and drinks. And now a sunny corner café is charming the early risers with coffee, crumpets and a brisket for breakfast. You’ll find this cafe in the leafy backstreets behind the station. Sunshine streams through the windows and washes over a simple room of charcoal grey banquettes, bentwood chairs, claw-footed tables and tiled counters for coffee and food. Vegan naysayers should stick a fork in the roast cauliflower salad. Golden brown florets of cauliflower dominate a jumble of shredded kale, pickled cabbage, puy lentils and blanched, toasted almonds in a sweet vinegar dressing. Prefer meat? Indulge your love for brisket with tender strands of slow-cooked beef on extra crunchy potato hash with a poached egg, a swirl of zesty parsley and garlic sauce and some crunchy onion rings to top it all off. Once you’ve laid the foundations of your day with some savoury victuals, consider the crumpets: four little guys that actually sit somewhere between a crumpet and an English muffin (mumpit? Cruffin?). Petersham has been quietly amassing a seriously fun food and drink portfolio of late. With the addition of Brighton the Corner you have yet another good reason to invest your time here.
Best for... Sunday brunch
The Pinbone team spend the majority of their time doing exciting, experimental things with your dinner at their narrow Paddington restaurant. And as strong as their evening game is, when it comes to brunch these guys knock it out of the park. Done your dash with corn fritters? Prepare to rekindle your love with the creamed corn. A generous dish of fregola (kinda like knobbly Sardinian pasta beads) is cooked with fresh kernels until it’s a creamy, almost sweet breakfast risotto, sprinkled with chives and crowned with a perfectly poached egg. Earned yourself a serious hunger? Settle your debts with scones capped in a fried egg, melted, smoked cheese and gravy packed with sausage mince. Of course if you fear new things there’s no shame in the simple joys of a bacon butty with tomato sauce on thick slices of buttered white bread. Once-a-week brunch means the crowds descend every Sundays but these guys cook eggs and take names at double time so the waitlist turns over quickly. Kick off with a coffee and then back it up with some breakfast booze by spiking your daily juice with vodka. Or just order a Reschs and let a lager do the legwork. It’s your call at this outstanding Sydney brunch spot.
Best for... a post-swim feast
Once you’ve wet your gills at Bronte Beach, slope up the hill to Three Blue Ducks for the coconut and lime rice pudding brightened with fresh strawberries, stewed rhubarb, amaranth and soaked chia seeds crunched up with a Brazil nut crumble. It’s a meal fit for a health conscious king. Don't roll with sweet breakfasts? Order the hot-smoked salmon. Flakes of oily pink fish scattered across a bed of just-wilted kale arrives with two poached eggs dusted in a fennel seed and hazelnut dukkah on top. A slick of herby labne, a squeeze of lemon juice and a swipe of chilli provides all the condiment backup you’ll need. Order a coffee. They do good work with beans from Single Origin Roasters. Order two – you won’t be sorry. Prime position is out on the breezy footpath where you can watch the parade of coastal folk and their perky pooches while demolishing a tiny, two-bite lemon meringue tart. Prefer to take shelter from the morning rays? The café is split over two rooms – one is a timber-lined bar and the other a more casual café complete with octopus mural – and tables are in high demand so make it a midweek visit or prepare to brave the weekend crowds.
Best for... a cheeky mid-week breakfast meeting
All hail the breakfast plate – the plate-sized buffet for one. This is one of those ‘ticks all the boxes’ scenarios. The corner café on a leafy pocket in the back streets of Marrickville serves up a breakfast menu of familiar twists on old favourites. Add braised lentils to eggs fried in olive oil, or go straight for a bacon and egg roll with wilted greens and chilli marmalade aioli. That breakfast plate involves thick slices of juicy ham, tomatoes quartered and dressed with two types of sesames, ricotta, a lobe of avocado, a perfect poached egg and a couple of pieces of buttered toast. Pair that with a hot pink special of beetroot, pear and ginger juice and a ristretto and that’s the day. If that hasn’t put a stopper on the nascent hunger pangs, consider a cookie. They move hundreds of these chewy, chocolaty, salty calorie rafts on a Saturday. On that, it’s probably the worst day to try and eat here – the queues can eat way into the morning. Make a move to turn up here as they swing open the doors or just bunk off work for the morning to guarantee a taste of the good times.
Best for... breakfast in the west
Foraging for treats at the foot of the gargantuan Westfield and government buildings that dominate the skyline around central Parramatta may not seem like a fruitful endeavour, but behind the station you’ll find a colourful café doing the best breakfast in the west. It’s not much more than a brightly painted corridor with seats spilling out onto the footpath, but they manage to fit friendly staff, great coffee and speakers playing Rodrigo y Gabriela inside. Tired of the traditional morning line-up? Shake things up with a round of baked ricotta with a poached egg, babaganoush, field mushrooms, cooked cherry tomatoes still clinging to the vine and a golden baked block of polenta, all under a lean-to of crackers spiced with za’atar. Bring your friends-with-dietary-requirements along for a bowl of sweet, nutritious brown and red rice with quinoa, poached rhubarb, fresh blueberries and strawberries, walnuts, pistachio and mint. It’s dairy and gluten-free, and more importantly, delicious. Their coffee comes care of Smith’s Fine Tea and Specialty Coffee, their sister café and roaster a few blocks over, plus they brew a seriously excellent masala chai if you have time for a pot. Need a tall glass of refreshment? They pour a sweet, floral rose hip and hibiscus tea over ice with lemon wedges and fresh mint. Bring on the summer.