Is One of These 10 Cafes in Surry Hills the Best Cafe in Sydney CBD?

by Kate Stewart

The great debate on whether Sydney or Melbourne is the better city will most likely outlive us all. But what about the Coffee? Do cafes in Surry Hills have better coffee than cafes in North Melbourne? Where is the best cafe in Sydney CBD?  

Sydney has the harbour, amazing beaches and fabulous weather. If you are from Melbourne, you will argue the city is more liveable and Melbourne cafes are unrivalled.  The laneways more vibrant, an amazing live music scene and culture, culture, culture. 

I am from Melbourne but I love Sydney. I spent so much time there when I was working in my previous corporate role.  I want to share some of my favourite coffee shops in Sydney. I’m beginning my discovery with Surry Hills cafes. Locating amazing places where you can get a delicious coffee or fabulous breakfast, brunch or even lunch.

Where to Find an Amazing Cafe in Surry Hills

Looking for the best cafes in Surry Hills really isn’t that easy. The area is home to a really strong cafe culture. It’s a fabulous area of the city, the beating heart of the trendy Eastern Suburbs. Surry Hills is home to classy cafes, fine dining, and a thriving after dark scene. In my mind, Surry Hills is one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Sydney.

Just for the variety alone, Surry Hills ranks as one of the top foodie destinations in Sydney. There's a delicious mix of world cuisines on offer in the area. From Middle Eastern to Japanese, and French to American barbecue. Lovers of Italian food are particularly well-served by many restaurants where you can find authentic wood-fired pizza and pasta dishes. The thriving café culture of Surry Hills has also made the area one of the most popular weekend brunch destinations in Sydney.

During the week Surry Hills is really an extension of the CBD, where office workers scurry around picking up takeaway lunch on their breaks. However, when the weekend rolls around, Surry Hills slows down dramatically. The locals then relax at a great cafe in Sydney city.

Haven Specialty Coffee

Haven Speciality Coffee and Stay tray

Haven Specialty Coffee is about tailoring. Each element of a coffee’s flavour can be carefully adjusted with minor changes to the individual elements. Including brewing, water ratio, temperature, grind, timing and the bean’s origin. It’s a really great cafe in Sydney CBD. Your always encouraged to try something new at Haven. It’s all about finding the perfect combination.

You can choose a nutty, chocolaty or fruity blend. The team at Haven will use your preferences to tailor a coffee to your taste, until you find exactly what you like.

The menu is Australian with an Asian twist. The signature Pork Belly Kimcheese Burger is next level good. There is also sweet potato falafels; beetroot-cured salmon with saffron-infused cous cous; and baked beans with maple-glazed bacon.

Reuben Hills

 Reuben Hills and Stay tray

Russell Beard opened his Reuben Hills cafe in Surry Hills in 2012. Russel’s goal was to make coffee approachable to anyone who was interested in learning.

Russell and Reuban Hills head roaster Nick Theodore have travelled all over the world developing relationships with coffee farmers. These partnerships allow them to constantly bring new beans to Sydney, but also to give back to the communities, developing infrastructure and educational programs overseas.

The menu is made up of dishes adapted from the regions where the beans are grown. It’s mostly South American, with a twist. My all time favourite dish is the fried chicken and the not Reuben sandwich. It’s wagyu brisket, pickled slaw, manchego and horseradish mayo on rye.

Paramount Coffee Project

Paramount Coffee Project and Stay tray

Paramount Coffee Project is built into the foyer space of Paramount House. It’s a collaboration between Paramount House, and amazing Australian Coffee Roasters Reuben Hills and Seven Seeds Coffee Roasters.

The cafe is striking, with high ceilings, polished concrete and timber benches.

Paramount Coffee Project rotates new beans and new roasters from around the world every four to six weeks. The food is as sophisticated as the building and the coffee. There’s Brickfield sourdough with avocado, fermented salsa and cashew butter; and pearl barley porridge with apple, mandarin, rhubarb and pistachio. For the less health-conscious, there is a fried chicken waffle with maple bacon gravy; and a Philly cheese sub with brisket and sauerkraut.


Neighbourhood Espresso and Stay tray

Excellent coffee is the main attraction at this cafe in Surry Hills. Since Neighbourhood opened in 2016, locals and visitors alike have been flocking to the place. They sit on benches, the footpath or snake up the street.

The Neighbourhood space is no more than a striking timber counter hosting a couple of baristas, a coffee machine and a few daily pastries. Beans are roasted by the team with aid from the experts and roasting machines at Artificer. The pastries are delicious chocolate-dipped croissants from Sydney pastry royalty Penny Fours and Woah Nelly .

Don’t even get me started on how good there are. 

Single O Cafe and Sideshow

Single O and Stay tray

Formerly Single Origin Coffee Roasters, Single O was one of the pioneers in Sydney’s coffee movement when it opened in 2003. In April 2019, Single O opened Sydney's first self-serve batch brew bar. It looks a bit like what you’d see at a craft beer brewery and means the cafe can serve four different brews at any one time.

At this tiny café you can get a great coffee, a thoughtful seasonal feed and all the details about your brew in one sitting.

Suzie Q Coffee & Records

Suzie Q Coffee and Records

Its not every day that you see a cafe stock a tightly curated selection of rare and unusual vinyl for sale. The team at Suzie Q Coffee and Records also know their coffee. It’s a balanced and mellow blend from Duke Coffee Roasters in Melbourne.

The small menu is inspired by classic songs including Breakfast at Ephiphanie’s which consists of poached egg, creamed corn, house pickles, toast and smoked cheddar or potted ocean trout. There’s also Chelsea Morning which is roast rhubarb, pear, blackberies, natural yoghurt, granola. If its not my all time favourite cafe in Surry Hills, its very close to it. 

Sample Coffee Surry Hills

Sample Coffee and Stay tray

As the name suggests, Sample Coffee offers a tantalising selection of single origins, typically consisting of at least one amazing blend and a rotating showcase of coffee sourced from one other specialty roaster. A selection of outsourced pastries and a grand list of brew methods make up the rest of the menu.

Sample Coffee is quite small. Two espresso machines sit atop a bench constructed from massive slabs of red timber, while a set of doors merge the space with the footpath outside.

Veneziano Coffee

Veneziano Coffee Roaster and Stay tray

Originally from Melbourne where they opened in 2000. Veneziano Coffee has chosen an industrial space for its Surry Hills cafe, which opened in April 2018.

Specialty coffee is the hero here. The espresso bar’s menu features a rotating list of beans and tasting notes for guidance on selecting the right blend, whether you take your coffee white, black or filtered.

Veneziano beans are sourced from Africa and Central and South America. They serve a seasonal blend, Bond St, and a rotating selection of coffee’s with exceptional taste and characteristics. If you’re not a coffee expert just tell the friendly barista what your normal order is and the team will make some fabulous recommendation.

At Veneziano Coffee, they like to keep the focus on coffee. The food menu is small, but chosen to be enjoyed alongside a fresh brew. There are pastries from Infinity Bakery and Organic Bread Bar, and doughnuts every Wednesday from Short Stop.

There are also coffee-related educational events for the community, including tastings, coffee classes, and talks by growers and roasters. Customers also have a chance to bring in their single-brew machines to learn how to make better coffees. Something I definitely need to try out.

Joe Black

Joe Black Cafe and Stay tray

Joe Black is the work of Ben Sweeten who used  to run Proud Mary in Melbourne. Ben was keen to bring elements of Melbourne’s coffee culture to Sydney and take Sydneysiders’ espresso experience to the next level.

With Five Senses and single origins on offer, this place will broaden your espresso horizons. The short but sweet menu covers all bases, from granola and poached eggs to pikelets dressed up with fruit, a smearing of jam and ricotta.

Shift Eatery

Shift Eatery and Stay tray

Shift Eatery aims to make it easy for people to consume fewer or no animal products. At Shift Eatery you can enjoy an all-day menu and buy goods in-store. In the deli you’ll find a large range of products including chocolate, ice-cream, spreads, cheese and milk.

The menu includes a range of toasties, sandwiches and bowls. The Chicken Club, The Reuben (created with house-made corned “beef”) and the Brekky Bun made with meaty pulled jackfruit, vegan egg and sweet chipotle mayo are all my favourite dishes to have at Shift Eatery.

Coffee is from Byron Bay roasters Marvel Street, and a big range of non-dairy milks is available, including creamy macadamia. There is also Melbourne’s Mork hot chocolate and teas from Tea Craft to go with vegan doughnuts, tarts and cakes supplied by Sydney-based sweet creators Treat Dreams and Houghnuts.

Cafes in Surry Hills