Surry Hills is Sydney’s little Melbourne and Melbourne IS exceptional cafe culture. So, it’s only fitting Surry is sprawling with quirky cafes, great coffee and menus leaving a foodie’s heart content. There’s a new establishment opening its doors every week, so here is a guide to help you navigate the leafy-lined suburb’s bustling café scene and, most importantly, save your caffeine hit for a superior brew on the street.
Weekends bring queues to Bills, but the drawcard differs for everyone. Whether it’s the sweet corn fritters, ricotta hotcakes and bloody marys before 11am or the waygu beef burger, prawn linguine and crisp, refined wine list after, there’s one constant, undeniable fact; Bills is an institution amongst Sydney’s dining scene and one everyone wants to enjoy, time and time again. Classic, high end dining.
359 Crown Street, Surry Hills
A breakfast destination for those throwing their fancy shoes on, Devon Café has stomped all over the traditional Aussie brunch and rebuilt it with a classy touch. And it’s no surprise when the chef behind it is Zachary Tan (ex-Bistrot Guillaume) who has given the breakfast and lunch menu a restaurant feel with Asian influence. Breakfast with the Sakuma’s is a Devon staple of miso grilled king salmon, smoked eel croquette, 63-degree egg, radish petit salad, kewpi mayonnaise and furikake. The coffee is a unique house blend, and the fit-out one worthy of a special occasion.
76 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills
The complete antithesis of Reuben Hills, Bondi Wholefoods is your healthy Surry escape. The name says it all and the popular café joint has courageously taken Bondi’s clean eating scene outside the postcode. An abundant smoothie range makes it a perfect stop off between meals, which are gluten free, dairy free and always organic. At lunch pop in for a simple salad bowl or something slightly more exotic for breakfast. We’re talking shakshuka and green hummus and eggs. For the love of Dr. Suess, don’t knock it until you try it.
517 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills
Four Ate Five is a ‘no fuss’ café, with the fit out and crowd equally mismatched here. But it’s always bustling. Between the local artwork hanging on the walls and decorated wait staff (from tattoos to outfit choices) are share tables bringing diners together over a love of coffee and good food. The menu is simple but modern and young, much like the atmosphere.From the smoked salmon bagel to the quinoa muesli with coconut yoghurt and nut crumble, there are breakfast options to please all. It’s pretty hard to go past ‘The 485’ of boiled egg, hummus, chilli paste, red cabbage, Israeli pickles, radish and a seasoned pretzel or bagel. A lunch pit stop here doesn’t disappoint either, with hearty pulled pork sandwiches and brown rice bowls.
485 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Trying to behave, but craving a treat? YOUENI is the comforting, reliable friend you can call on and spend a guilt-free afternoon with. The café does wholefoods right according to those with a sweet tooth, dedicating a significant share of its menu to desirable desserts. The all-day menu is completely gluten-free with the café drawing on ethical, local produce and fair trade coffee. YOUENI’s raw vegan cheesecakes are standout, with the berry buckwheat pancake even topped with vegan lemon cheesecake, rhubarb, almonds and coconut yoghurt.
352 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Don’t let Gnome’s size deceive you. The tiny café nestled on a corner of Crown Street is a favourite among locals for good reason. Boasting a hearty menu, the café’s mini egg benny roll is renowned while the fancier options lie in breakfast bowls and bircher. As the afternoon sun fades, coffee is replaced with good vino and the bagels with meatballs - remaining an unassuming, character-filled retreat for diners.
536 Crown Street, Surry Hills
You’d presume a latte only gets better when three coffee connoisseurs unite, and now there’s no need to speculate. Look no further than Paramount Coffee Project, a collaboration between Jin Ng (Paramount House), Mark Dundon (Seven Seeds) and Russell Beard (Reuben Hills) which aims to showcase coffee differently, in all its styles. A constant rotation of local and globally sourced beans grace the menu, alongside dishes with global influence from bibi to buttermilk fried chicken waffles. In a nod to Aussies, there’s avo on toast with fermented salsa, vegemite sesame and cashew butter. Coffee is the main attraction, but the minimalist fit out (think timber, white tiles and polished concrete) in the art deco building may lure you in for hours.
Paramount House, 80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
Food for the soul goes no further than Gratia, but it extends far beyond their plate. Latin for gratitude, Gratia’s name carries essence in the cafe’s culture and all proceeds beyond operating costs go to charity. It doesn’t feel like a charitable meal, but one of restaurant quality instead. The refined menu features modern, eclectic pairings from baked eggs and bagels to gluten free salads featuring brown rice, kim chi and pickled cucumbers. It’s not cheap, but you know where your money’s going (and you can feel pretty, damn good about it).
372 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Italian for ‘vegetable garden’, Orto lives up to its name with a menu built upon fresh produce presented in such an elegant manner – an instagrammer’s dream. They do brunch differently here with exotic, fresh combinations from smoked salmon bruschetta to sardines on toast. The fit out exudes the same natural feel as the menu, with floor to ceiling windows letting natural light hit exposed brick walls. Outside diners can eat alongside the herb patch out the front, and brunch can quickly turn boozy with cocktails and wine completing a well-rounded Surry Hills menu.
38 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills
Reuben Hills has the cafe triple threat; coffee, food, fit out. It doesn’t just do all three well, but with quality at its heart and a global vision in mind. Owner Russell Beard and head roaster Nick Theodore travel all over the world to source coffee beans, which are roasted in house. The coffee extends to Reuben Hills’ dishes, and the menu is inspired by countries the pair sourced beans. Think Central and South America, and a little bit of Africa. Breakfast goes all day, making the chic, brutalist fit out the perfect Sunday stop-off. Nothing soaks up a few too many Saturday night drinks like the NOT Reuben sandwich or Really Fucking Great Fried Chicken. The name doesn’t do it justice either.
61 Albion Street, Surry Hills