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Published July 26th 2011
A great café is about more than just a good cup of coffee. That helps, of course, but visiting a place should be about the overall experience it offers – the service, atmosphere, design and menu are all things that make a place enjoyable (or not, as the case may be). Here, in no particular order, is a list of my five favourite cafés that tick all the boxes.
It's true to say everything that's popular is not always good and everything that's good is not always popular. Bills, however, is successful for all the right reasons.
Pick a weekend, any weekend, and you're all but guaranteed to see a thin conga line of prospective breakfasters trailing from the café door, their faces glowing with anticipation. And with good reason.
Owner Bill Granger scores a rare trifecta with exceptional food, service and décor. Walk in the door and the waiters, with their almost ESP levels of alertness, will greet you, find you a table and produce a menu and glass of water with the practised grace of a magician pulling a bouquet of flowers from his sleeve. From there, it only gets better.
Bills sets the bar pretty high for what a great café should be, and I can only recommend you get in as soon as possible. If you can.
Bills can be found at 433 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst.
Beyond the dodgy hostels and kebab shops, past the dive bars and massage parlours of the red light district, there is a little hidden gem of a café that makes you forget, if only for a moment, you're in The Cross. Cafe Dov is a fantastic little place that's not only perennially busy, but deserves all the business it gets. And it's not just a case of having few rivals in the area; Dov would happily stand up with the best Newtown or Surry Hills has to offer.
They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (check their website for various opening times) and their menu ranges between well-made classic café dishes (grilled chicken breast sandwich on Turkish bread, for example) and things that show the Dov chefs' own flair and personality (baked ricotta with poached rhubarb is a delicious staple of their breakfast menu). It's what a café should be – reliable with the basics, but with something special that sets it apart from the crowd.
If you had to describe Surry Hills to someone from out of town, a trip to FourAteFive would probably do the job. It's a popular handout where you're likely to find trendy types discussing their latest music/writing/artistic plans, but it's also proof that being cool doesn't have to sacrifice quality. On a street like Crown, where the standard for cafés is pretty high, it's testament to FourAteFive's quality that it still manages to stand out.
It's easily one of my favourite places for coffee, particularly because theirs tend towards the stronger end of the spectrum, which suits me nicely. Their food is also excellent with a good range of breakfast and lunch options. At the weekend you're unlikely to find a seat unless you get in early, so it's a great place to stop midweek if you've got a spare morning or afternoon.
FourAteFive is located at 485 (get it?) Crown St, Surry Hills.
Ok, so another Surry Hills café. But it's not bias or coincidence at work here, it's just the area really does punch above its weight in the café stakes. As discussed here, Le Monde delivers the complete package – food, coffee, service are all fantastic.
For those in Surry Hills and in the market for a coffee, it can be tempting to stick to the area's main café drag and avoid taking any side streets. And you're unlikely to fare too badly – you could run into dozens of nice little cafés without ever leaving Crown Street (see above, for instance) – but in so doing you'd run the risk of never discovering some of the area's buried treasure. Le Monde is a place worth going out of your way for.
Le Monde can be found at 83 Foveaux St, Surry Hills.
You could forgive people for missing Luxe. It's parked next door to the famous Campos café, which drains much of the coffee traffic from the surrounding area. And, with its excellent baristas, Campos deserves all the crowds and accolades it gets. But in many ways it's a victim of its own success – they're always full and with the constant stream of people looking to get caffeinated, it's not the calmest place to sit and relax with friends.
That's where Luxe comes in. It's not to say that it isn't popular, because it is, but it trumps Campos in space and atmosphere. They also bake all their food on site and have a great range of sweet and savoury goodies for breakfast and lunch - tarts, muffins, croissants and all kinds of bread, plus they also do a mean coffee. It's a lovely place to sit and unwind after a spot of retail therapy on King Street.
Find Luxe at 195 Missenden Road, Newtown.
Comment below and let me know where to find your favourite café.
Gladesville has loads of great cafes so here are a few.1.Vespa for it's fantastic breakfast,coffee and dinner's,2.Cavalicious for the best coffe in the world because it has the best barista(Matt) and also it's delicious cakes and pastry's all made on the premises,3.La Pausa for fantastic breakfasts(great value) and great coffee,4.Slices deli cafe has fantastic food,coffee and a great range of small goods from the deli.Cheers Lisa
By lisam5 - reader Thursday, 28th of July @ 11:43 pm
Cafe Guilia, Chippendale - the best food and coffee I've tasted anywhere in the WORLD!
By xpunk - reader Friday, 29th of July @ 12:27 am
Avenue Road cafe mosman
By lucyv - reader Friday, 29th of July @ 07:46 am
The Zinc Macleay Street Potts Point
By suem4 - reader Friday, 29th of July @ 04:50 am
Kantine, Darlinghurst - best veg breakfast!
By Dave and Cass - reader Thursday, 28th of July @ 06:19 am
BeanRush at Whistler Street Manly - best campos coffee and lovely staff who know literally everyone by name. Open early am, great snacks, nice music.
By Anonymous Thursday, 28th of July @ 08:19 am
Revolver cafe in Annandale - great vibe/ very cool comfy feel decor and really lovely breakfasts with a twist. Try any special they are always great.
By hwill - reader Sunday, 14th of August @ 12:06 am
Cafe Johnston in Annandale - my local , very casual and great for kids with a provided toy box. Lovely guys that own it and best chocolate milkshakes according to my little boy.
By hwill - reader Sunday, 14th of August @ 12:12 am
Little marionette cafe on trafalgar st Annandale - a tiny cafe with the best coffee and pastries ( sausage rolls to die for). Very cool music , very hip vibe , friendly and popular.
By hwill - reader Sunday, 14th of August @ 10:43 pm
Have you got little kids? Try the tea gardens at Watson bay. You can have a coffee with your partner while also being able to watch your kids play in a little front garden that is fenced, they provide toys and it has a lovely view of the water.
By hwill - reader Thursday, 18th of August @ 12:29 pm
cafe DOV in Potts Point
By Anonymous Monday, 29th of August @ 05:54 am
Cafe Dov Potts Point
By Anonymous Monday, 26th of September @ 06:23 am
By Anonymous Saturday, 18th of August @ 11:33 pm
Aslan Coffee on 1 Council St, St Peters.
They have the best coffee and scrambled egg!!
By rebec - reader Wednesday, 13th of August @ 01:15 pm