Top ten places that prove Melbourne isn’t the only place to find culture in Australia.
Although known for a decent flat white and stunning beaches, Sydney is unfairly overlooked as a place to soak up some culture. Theatre, cinema, literature and art are better when combined with excellent coffee, and I’m here to tell you that Sydney delivers. Here’s my list of where to get a caffeine hit along with a little taste of culture.
Travel tip: Aussies love coffee, one of their favourite types to order is a ‘flat white’. Be sure to try it when you’re in Australia!
THE CAFE AT THE GALLERY, ART GALLERY NSW
Art Gallery Road, The Domain
Leading Australian chef, Matt Moran (ARIA, Chiswick) is behind the new cafe at Art Gallery NSW, which opened this July. The buzzing cafe serves options from baked goods to light meals such as toasted jaffles and vibrant salads. It’s open until late on Wednesday as part of the galleries Art After Hours, so you can grab a bite and take pleasure in the late-night talks, musical performances and a screening from the curated film series.
PARAMOUNT COFFEE PROJECT, GOLDEN AGE CINEMA & BAR
80 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills
The charming art-deco building, formerly Paramount Pictures, has been renovated into the strikingly modern Paramount Coffee Project. With its brewing bar and American-inspired menu, PCP would be worth a visit even if it weren’t affiliated with the elegant Golden Age Cinema & Bar. In the evenings head downstairs into the jazzy 1920s and linger over a cocktail and a few film-inspired snacks before the screening.
SAPPHO BOOKS, CAFE & WINE BAR
51 Glebe Point Road, Glebe
If you love a good coffee, and literature is your shtick, Sappho Books is a one-stop shop. This Glebe treasure chest is crammed with second-hand books and overrun with scholarly types. The cafe, with its vibrant street-art facade and sunny garden courtyard, is located at the rear of the rambling building. Sappho offers a selection of vegan-friendly dishes and Choco Canelle pastries, brews a decent Toby’s Estate, and converts into a wine and tapas bar after dark.
MCA CAFE AND SCULPTURE TERRACE
140 George Street, The Rocks
Not only is this modern cafe housed in one of Australia’s most innovative museums, its top-floor location allows for uninterrupted views of Sydney Harbour. After marvelling at modern art, aesthetes can sip a flat white while relishing the stunning vista. The surroundings are sleek yet casual, and on late-night Thursdays at MCA it would be uncivilised not to couple your meal with a glass of wine.
THE TEAHOUSE, WHITE RABBIT GALLERY
30 Balfour Street, Chippendale
Located in a restored 1920s knitting factory, White Rabbit Gallery is integral to the ever-evolving Chippendale creative precinct. Go there to enjoy the contemporary Chinese art collection in one of Sydney’s favourite galleries. Stay there for the handmade dumplings and its Chinese and Taiwanese teas.
THE THEATRE BAR, SYDNEY THEATRE COMPANY
Pier 4 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
The Theatre Bar’s simple decor and generous windows allow for the spectacular view to become a feature of the industrial-style space. The contemporary reimagining of the wharf was conceived by Alice Babidge, the STC’s resident costume and set designer. It offers an impeccable location for a sun-dappled breakfast, or, a pre-show snack in the evening. To enhance your theatrical experience, it has STC show-inspired specials. Don’t be surprised to see well-known thespians hanging about.
CORNERSTONE BAR, CARRIAGEWORKS
245 Wilson Street, Eveleigh
The renovated 19th-century carriage and blacksmith workshop is the hub of Sydney’s arts scene. The impressive multi-arts centre, known for its innovative industrial aesthetic, recently opened Cornerstone Bar & Food. The casual cafe serves up a mean brunch on weekends, and in the evening transforms into a lively bar with a focus on locally crafted beer.
SYDNEY DANCE LOUNGE, SYDNEY DANCE COMPANY
Pier 4/5 Hickson Road, Walsh Bay
This rustic gem is situated in the SDC of the Walsh Bay precinct. Why not be exceedingly cultured and take a beginner’s ballet class? After working up at appetite with a few arabesques, you can spoil yourself with a treat from the substantial cafe menu.
WINE AND ESPRESSO BAR, PALACE VERONA
17 Oxford Street, Paddington
Paddington’s Palace Verona is beloved of Sydney’s cinephiles. The four-screen cinema provides upmarket alternatives to your typical cinema snacks – try to resist the homemade Connoisseur choc-tops. The bar and seating area adds a level of refinement to pre-film entertainment; expect a cafe menu with panache, an extensive wine list and live jazz sessions on certain evenings.
VAUCLUSE HOUSE TEAROOMS
Wentworth Road, Vaucluse
Sydney’s historical 1830s sandstone mansion is a perfect setting for enhancing your cultural cachet. The pleasant surrounds of the estate are well suited to enjoying a peaceful coffee and lunch made with produce gathered from the picturesque gardens. If you’re feeling particularly extravagant, it does an exceptional high tea.
KITCHEN BY MIKE
85 Dunning Avenue, Rosebery
This bustling, canteen-style cafe is located in an urban warehouse space that shares a roof with Koskela, a designer-furniture and Australian-craft dealer. It comes as no surprise that the laid-back fare is first rate – Mike (McEnearney) is the former executive chef at Rockpool. He creates a daily menu based on what fresh produce is sourced from the markets – seasonality and simplicity are essential to the KBM philosophy. After a satisfying feed, browse the exquisite decorative objects in the adjoining design shop.