Weekend brunch is a Sydney institution, preferably at an outdoor table, where you can enjoy coffee in the sunshine while reading the newspapers or catching up with friends. The choice of where to have brunch and what to eat is seemingly endless, but here we’ve refined the list down to a few premium brunch places with the food, the attitude and the setting that can only be found in Australia’s Emerald City.
A tranquil and secluded garden setting near Sydney Harbour, a fascinating insight into Sydney’s colonial beginnings and delicious food, what could be better on a sunny Sydney day? Vaucluse House Tearooms are situated in an Art Deco building with a broad outdoor terrace in the gardens of historic Vaucluse House, originally home to the pioneering Wentworth family and now managed by Sydney Living Museums. The elegant Tearooms provide a scrumptious brunch, based on ingredients from the estate’s heritage kitchen garden. Try zucchini flowers stuffed with spanner crab and lemon ricotta, baked eggs from the estate’s own chicken coop served with chorizo, homemade spiced beans and tortillas or a range of sweet treats including daily muffins, cakes and pastries. The Tearooms are licensed, so a glass of Champagne or a cool Ale can be served with your meal, or a Pimm’s cocktail enjoyed before or after.
The Bathers' Pavilion Restaurant | Courtesy The Bathers Pavilion
Owned by celebrated Australian chef Serge Dansereau, The Bathers Pavilion offers an idyllic Sydney dining experience with sparkling views over Middle Harbour and out to the Heads. There are many ways to enjoy eating or drinking within the old beach changing pavilion, which opened in 1929, including a café, bar, private dining rooms, an à la carte restaurant and a beach kiosk. The menu covers feature paintings of Balmoral by artist Kerry Lester, who has been exhibited in the Archibald Prize, Australia’s high profile and hotly contested art award, 11 times. Dansereau’s approach to food is uniquely Australian and rests on special relationships with small producers and growers. The wine list includes many excellent small vineyards, and the café serves up a menu of fresh, Mediterranean style dishes, stunning harbour views and even the occasional sighting of whales or dolphins close to shore.
In 1993, a 24-year-old art college drop-out called Bill Granger opened a café in Darlinghurst, anonymously named Bills. Word soon spread, and Bills became famed for the best scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes in town, served at the now much-copied communal table. Sydney’s love affair with brunch was born. A self-taught cook, Granger has since opened a second Bills in another Sydney suburb, Surry Hills plus four restaurants in Japan, Granger & Co in Notting Hill, London, and Bills in Waikiki. His five television series have been viewed in 30 countries and he has published 11 best-selling cookbooks. Yes, those famous ricotta hotcakes with banana and honeycomb butter are still on the menu at both Bills venues in Sydney, ready to be enjoyed with a Bills blend coffee or a white peach Bellini.
Glass Brasserie, located in the Sydney Hilton is definitively a luxe Sydney dining experience, with food by celebrity chef and restaurateur Luke Mangan and swish interiors by esteemed New York designer, Tony Chi. The 240-seat restaurant provides Hilton Hotel guests and Sydney-siders with an exceptional dining experience in the heart of the city, offering simplicity, quality and consistency in all aspects of food, wine and service. The restaurant features a 13-metre floor to ceiling glass wall, which frames a view of the historic Queen Victoria Building. A lazy weekend breakfast or brunch here is a Sydney legend, with a choice of an exquisite à la carte menu or bountiful buffet.
The expression ‘fresh as a daisy’ couldn’t be more apt as description for Daisy’s Milkbar, a fresh take on the typical Australian milkbar found in every country town in the 1950s. From its pretty in pink front door and gingham-skirted window, to booth-seating in Gelato hues of pink, blue and yellow and its hip and helpful young staff sporting a variety of tattoos, Daisy’s adds dash and sparkle to the inner-western suburb of Petersham. Traditional milkbar fare including milkshakes, banana splits and sundaes are all on the menu here, but with a modern twist. The milkshakes come in flavors such as Oreo Cookie and Milo, the banana splits are a heavenly melange of best quality Serendipity ice-cream with salted caramel sauce, honey macadamias and caramel brittle, while the sundaes feature chocolate, vanilla bean and strawberry jam ice-cream with a hot walnut brownie, hot choc fudge sauce, toasted flaked almonds and, of course, a cherry on top. More typical brunch fare includes French brioche toast with ricotta, maple syrup and rhubarb or zucchini and corn fritters. There’s a cute ‘lemonade stand’ in the corner with complementary cordial and fruit water, and lolly bags filled with old-fashioned sweeties to take home.
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Not simply a café, The Grounds of Alexandria is more of an urban wonderland. Consisting of a coffee roaster and research facility, bakery, organic vegetable gardens, fresh produce markets on weekends and holidays, an Italian provedore, a florist, live music performances, arts and crafts activities and a petting pen of pampered urban farm animals, The Grounds is nothing but not varied. A dedication to quality and passion for produce is evident in every aspect of The Grounds, from the finest coffee and exquisite bakery delights, to the abundant garden overflowing with fresh organic produce used daily in the seasonally-driven menu. The menu is rustic, wholesome and bursting with the fresh picked flavor of The Grounds home-grown produce, supplemented with the finest available ingredients from producers further afield.
Surfer-dude culture and culinary cred meet in a relaxed beach-side vibe at multi-award-winning Three Blue Ducks at Sydney’s Bronte Beach. While this is a place for serious fine dining by night, weekend brunch time is a laid-back affair. Enjoy a bowl of fresh fruit and Bircher muesli, or something heartier like the much-loved scrambled eggs with black sausage, and a freshly squeezed juice. Out the back, there is an amazing perma-culture garden. All pastries and baked goods are made in-house, all tea and coffee is organic, free trade and forest friendly and the chefs aim to use only organic ingredients. Even the cleaning chemicals used are environmentally friendly, biodegradable and non-toxic.
Sydney’s vibrant multi-cultural mix ensures a multitude of ethnic dining experiences, so why not head for the inner-city suburb of Balmain for a spectacular Turkish feast for Sunday brunch? Inspired by the sumptuous breakfasts and seasonal cheeses of the city of Van in Eastern Turkey, Efendy’s lavish Sunday brunch feast includes some 30 different delicacies set out on long timber boards and is designed for sharing. There’s cold meze, cheeses, fruits such as grapes and melon, dishes of pomegranate molasses and home-made walnut, rose and cherry jams, plus hot dishes such as menemen eggs, borek and sujuk sausage. Mop up the juices with a choice of freshly baked pide, simit or pogaca breads. Housed in a restored Victorian building, with interiors blending classical design and Turkish art, Efendy also has a beautiful pebbled courtyard for outdoor dining.