If Wes Anderson set up his dream café in Sydney’s Marrickville, it might look a little like Matinee. This all-day eatery, masterminded by industry veteran Charles Cameron and designed by acclaimed interiors firm Luchetti Krelle, features eye-popping interiors – think teal velvet chairs, Old Hollywood lighting, splashes of royal blue and burnt orange – that nod to Art Deco movie palaces. Matinee also pays subtle homage to the Greek-Australian milk bars that once dotted this part of the city with a combination of playfulness and nostalgia that’s echoed on the brunch menu. Go for the Persian rice pilaf, topped with goat’s curd and poached eggs; pork shoulder rubbed with coffee; and salted caramel milkshake crowned with popcorn.
Few eateries embody Nordic-meets-Japanese flair quite like Edition. When this much-loved café opened its first whitewashed space on a sunny corner in Darlinghurst back in 2015, it wowed Sydneysiders with flawless pour-overs and dishes such as the Noma-inspired Mushroom Pond, a concoction of mushroom broth, udon noodles and fresh herbs that helped give the city’s brunch scene the finesse of fine dining. Although the new Haymarket flagship has a moodier feel than the original (out with blond wood, in with concrete), its inventiveness and attention to detail have survived the transition. Dishes such as butter-poached prawns with apple and pearl, senbei (rice cracker), soufflé pancakes and gyokuro tea sourced from Japan are a case in point.
3. Devon Cafe
If you think an indulgent Saturday breakfast means bidding goodbye to your health goals, you haven’t been to Devon Cafe. Their North Sydney outpost draws office workers and North Shore locals with excellent, house-roasted coffee and dishes that are equal parts wholesome and imaginative, thanks to owner Zachary Tan’s time spent cooking at French fine diner Bistro Guillaume. Here, the poke bowl, which arrives topped with salmon caviar, wakame seaweed and finger lime ponzu is an antidote to wellness clichés. Elsewhere, the intriguingly named Two Chicks in Goa – a combination of baked eggs, yellow dhal and spring vegetables – cheekily re-imagines hippie food trends while showing off the emphasis on colour, flavour and seasonality that’s scored Devon its legion of fans.
4. Alem’s House
In Addis Ababa, breakfast is more likely to involve coffee laced with cloves and cinnamon and injera – the spongy, fermented sourdough that’s a staple across Ethiopia – than flat whites or avocado toast. Enter Alem’s House, a soulful eatery on Parramatta Road co-founded by Nicholas Gilmore, his wife Nethanet Assefa and her mother Alem, who’s also the café’s namesake. The charming space is less interested in brunch classics than it is in celebrating the rituals of one of Africa’s most culinary diverse nations. Here, you can start your weekend with pancakes made with teff – a nutrient-rich Ethiopian grain – or poached eggs with kinche, a buttery porridge made from cracked bulgur wheat. Alternatively, simply linger over freshly brewed cups of Ethiopian chai and roasted barley smoothies.
Look up “Italo-Australian elegance” in the dictionary and chances are you’ll find Caffè Bartolo. This institution-in-the-making, which is the handiwork of Jared Merlino – the Sydney restaurateur behind game-changing cocktail bars such as Kittyhawk and Lobo Plantation – pays tribute to Merlino’s great-grandfather Bartolo, who emigrated to Australia from Sicily in 1910. The Surry Hills’ restaurant, a handsome space featuring vintage Italian posters, marble-topped tables and rattan touches, comes into its own during weekend breakfast. Order the house-made brioche or omelette stuffed with fontina cheese, pull up a pavement table and watch the characters that populate Crown Street. An extra round of espresso is mandatory.
In Sydney, corner cafés often do double duty as locals’ living rooms. At Queenside, a sun-splashed café in the Dulwich Hill neighbourhood, owner Jim Papadakis – who used to work for legendary local roastery Campos – draws residents with a true passion for coffee (that’s rivalled by his love for chess). Here, lattes come courtesy of a series of guest roasters and Papadakis’ in-house blend, and brunch offerings are named after chess greats. Highlights include a Scandinavian-inspired porridge spun out of spiced rolled oats, quince and rhubarb, dedicated to grandmaster David Smerdon; and sweet potato sourdough with three-bean stew and chorizo, inspired by top player Salvatore Pepe.
Spaghetti carbonara for breakfast? At Barbetta, everyone’s favourite pasta dish gets a brunch-time makeover, thanks to crisped-to-perfection bacon, plenty of pecorino and scrambled free-range eggs. Fresh, unfussy comfort food rules the roost at this handsome Paddington diner, founded by Carmelo, Anthony and Joe Cipri, the Calabrian brothers behind Cipri Italian, a nearby temple to the cuisine of regional Italy. Ask for a seat at the gleaming, wood-panelled counter and order the Barbetta toastie (mushroom ragu on focaccia) or the eatery’s Italo-Australian take on avocado on toast, complete with herbaceous basil and velvety buffalo mozzarella.
8. The Lookout
With its glittering water and bobbing sailboats, Elizabeth Bay – a leafy pocket of Sydney that overlooks the eastern part of the harbour – is easily one of the city’s most postcard-perfect spots. True to its name, The Lookout, an alfresco eatery that unfolds on the 100-year-old Elizabeth Bay Marina is designed to optimise viewing pleasure. Here, the revolving menu is focused on exemplary coffee from homegrown roasters Mecca and simple, seasonal dishes – think zucchini and haloumi fritters and smoked trout hash. All the better for pulling up a table on the deck and basking in the sun with a newspaper.
A version of this story originally appeared in the March 2019 issue of Silverkris magazine