I don’t know if they’re actually called ‘destination’ cafes, but it’s how I think of them. Places that are so good for one reason or another, you would travel to just for a meal. It might be the food, it might be the atmosphere, it might even be the clientele, but these are all spots that I’d drive for a good hour or more to stake my place and be part of the show.
Open M – F 11 – 15 | Sa and Su 10 – 15
It’s unexplainably xxy (a 10-15% ‘surcharge’ added on weekends), ridiculously backwards (a mysterious 1/2 hour closing between 11.30 and 12 on weekends) and there’s an insultingly boring breakfast menu (eggs bene and flore, muffins, muesli, yawns), BUT… you get to dine on the sandstone verandah while the kids frolic delightedly on the manicured grass out front, with the Harbour glistening behind them and the sails of the Opera House framing the scene nicely. I’ll take it!
Open M – F 7- 15 | Sa and Su 7 – 16
21 Fountain Street
T 0418 214 425
Billed as a ‘wholefoods canteen’ this is a manic, crazy kind of dining experience, but worth the slight angst for the pure hipster dining. It’s got every buzzword going for it: organic, locally-sourced, clean eating, superfood, seasonal – all the good stuff. I find it hard not to make fun of the hipster experience, but the fact is that I love it even while I’m teasing it. Just like at The Grounds, I can’t get enough of the wooden trays filled with herbs growing right there on my table; the cutesy menu (changed daily, natch) names like “foxy spring porridge” and “morning jumble”; nor the industrial-meets-backyard-shed interior design. There is nothing more fabulous than a place that tries so hard not to try so hard.
Open all week 9-16 for breakfast and lunch | also F from 19 for dinner
147 Enmore Road
T 9516 1334
Bear with me as I stay with the raw food movement for a minute. I like Sadhana Kitchen because it’s totally Newtown/Enmore/Erko – which is to say that unlike the Alexandrias, Waterloos and latter-day Redferns, it’s hip without the ster. Or ster without the hip. Either way, you can smell the authenticity as quickly as you smell the Prana Pad Thai. I love the idea of experimenting with new foods when I’m dining out and Sadhana reminds me why you need to try new things as regularly as possible.
4. Rushcutters Bay Kiosk
M – F 8.30 – 16.30 | Sa – Sun 8 – 17.30
New Beach Rd
T 9331 3119
This is one family-friendly cafe – there’s a cool fenced playground full of inventive play equipment and packed with interesting sculptures. There’s plenty of shade for the entirely outdoor tables (skip this one if it’s wet!) and the views are fabulous. The food is kiosk, so don’t get too excited, but the fact that they offer half-sandwiches for kids is definitely something to yay about. A child’s menu that offers something more than chicken nuggets – yippee!! The kiosk is the perfect lunch stop over on the Circular Quay to Rose Bay walk, which is a divine 3 hours of glorious harbour and envious houses viewing. Jump on a ferry at Rose Bay back to Circular Quay.
Open M – F 7– 16 | Sa and Su 7.30 – 16
Building 7A, 2 Huntley Street
T 9699 225
Earlier in the year I wrote a detailed review of this mega-cafe-slash-bakery-slash-playground-slash-venue-slash-markets for Sydney Kids Food + Travel, so do visit there to get the low down. The only issue I have with this gorgeous place is that the parking is a nightmare – bit of an issue when it’s supposed to be a destination cafe! Mind you, it’s in such a cool area that you can visit Sydney Park for a play and lunchtime picnic, leave the car, stroll down Huntley (long stroll, take pram) and have afternoon tea at The Grounds. Sorted!
Open all week 7.30 – 16
Governor Phillip Park
T 9974 5440
The coffee is as perfect as the views at this Palm Beach favourite and the food tastes as good as it looks. In fact, everything looks divine at the Boat House – from beautifully presented food to the beautifully presented people. Lanterns sway in soft sea breezes, boats creak pleasantly and gulls soar. You can shop for foodie groceries and floral art and listen to the kids clattering up and down the old boardwalk. It’s the kind of place where both ‘patina’ and ‘trust fund’ are everyday words. Enjoy breakfast at The Boat House, have a swim and a meander around the glam Palmie (or take the ferry to down-to-earth Ettalong) and then head down the road to Whale Beach to The Boathouse’s sister cafe Moby Dicks for lunch. The Boathouse crew have also opened at Balmoral Beach and are soon to open at the old Le Kiosk at Shelly Beach in Manly. This is kind of a bittersweet thing for me because we had our wedding reception at the gorgeous Le Kiosk and I hope they don’t spoil its carefree, unpretentious charm.
Open all week in summer 8.30 – 16.30 | closed M in winter
8 Marine Parade
Watson’s Bay is one of my happy places and this cute little cafe – down opposite the Watson Bay Baths – is a lovely little breakfast spot. The menu is plain, but the service is the warm and friendly and the atmosphere is beachy-casual without the usual wank factor you seem to get at most popular beach cafes these days. Take the early ferry from Circular Quay to avoid the weekend crowds, linger over breakfast and then jump into the baths for a cool down. Head along the beach, past Doyles and up beyond the lighthouse to get a feel for this quaint, timeless suburb and escape the crowds. Along with 1000 other day trippers, you will not want to leave the charm of Watson’s Bay.
M – F 7 – 18 | Sa – Su 7 – 17
633 Bourke Street
T 9699 1011
These days there are eight Bourke Street Bakeries, but I’ve only ever sunk my teeth into a melting croissant at the original one on Bourke Street. I love it there and not just because the pastries take you to heaven. Bourke Street Bakery stands on classic old-school Surry Hills terrain, with unrenovated terrraces still found amongst the glitter. You can eat at one of the ramshackle footpath chairs and tables, but the best thing to do is grab an almond praline croissant, a lamb + harissa sausage roll and a slice of raspberry + pear butter cake, and head out for a walk. Up Devonshire Street, down Crown Street and in and out of the little back streets and creative stores that make Surry Hills such a special place to live and frolic. Kids will love the walk as much as you do, but keep them close as the footpaths can be tiny and the cars unexpectedly many. Finish up the blissful fat and sugar fest with an indulgent Choc peanut fudge or apple pie gelato at Messina at 389 Crown Street.
M – F 9 – 16 | Sa – Su 9 – 17
Cnr Kareena Rd + President Ave
T 9540 2018
The camellia gardens location is what makes this cafe a destination in its own right. It’s a beautiful spot with winding paths that lead to secluded spots that make you feel like the world has left for the day. The gardens overlook Yowie Bay and are a great introduction to The Shire – a part of Sydney that is definitely worth exploring. The teahouse sits in the middle of the gardens and serves a gorgeous (and very reasonably priced) high tea as well as breakfast and lunch. You can also order some takeaway to eat at the many picnic tables scattered throughout the gardens.
M – F 7 – 23 | Sa – Su 7 – 17
12 – 16 Challis Ave
T 9357 1744
Still the place to see and be seen, Fratelli Paradiso is on my destination list because you’ve gotta do it at least once. The food is glorious, with a lovely Italian-accent and fresh, buzzing flavour combinations, but it’s not the only reason why you come to this glamourous Potts Point institution. The atmosphere is curious, but the beautiful people seem to feel relaxed enough here to let it all hang out a bit so the place sparkles with possibilities. Lots of those sparkles seem to rub off on all who dine here, so you leave feeling a little more glam than when you arrived.
What do you look for in a super-good cafe?