In 2018 and 2019, we asked Sydney locals to share what they love most about their own neighbourhoods: everything from where they eat to where they grab coffee, and where they hang out. Now it's more important than ever to support local businesses where you can, just make sure you're prepared for a safe and fun time.
Over the coming weeks, we're revisiting our Sydney Local guides. Check out what Surry Hills experts had to say. And send us an email if we missed your favourite spot.
Where to go for breakfast, brunch or coffee
“Best coffee, service and food in Potts Point by a mile! Tu and Yo, who own it, are lovely. A great cosy cafe on leafy Victoria Street to get a fantastic breakfast. The menu is also adventurous and varied. Obsessed!” says Claire on our online survey.
Tuyo regularly draws top marks for making guests feel relaxed and welcome, as well as for its cold-brew coffee and espresso. This is not your run-of-the-coffee-mill cafe.
“Interesting breakfast options and good coffee,” says sarah_mcshane on Instagram.
Find rustic menu items that change from week to week. Joseph Hyde takes special care of the time-poor, too, with speedy service that never skimps on hospitality or quality. The laneway cafe is also dog-friendly, always a selling point in such a dog-devoted area. Don’t forget to order the simple but amazing scrambled eggs.
“Best coffee and food, and they remember all regulars’ names and orders!” says hi_iamsara on Instagram.
Room Ten co-owner and general manager Andrew Hardjasudarma leads his team by example – friendly and always on the ball. All the coffee is great, but if a flat white’s your fix, Room Ten’s is a stand-out. Although there are often weekend queues, locals will tell you it’s worth the wait.
“Sense of community, artistic ambience, night-time cafe. Artists events, photography slide shows, theatre and acoustic music. Cultural hub. Great cakes and snacks,” says Pamela on our online survey.
“The best coffee in the Cross, and the most interesting array of people. Never a dull moment! An institution,” says Diane on our online survey.
“Old-school local with true character. A rare find,” says Sophie on our online survey.
Piccolo Bar is a true institution. It’s the oldest coffee bar in Sydney’s Kings Cross – and one of the oldest in Sydney. Established in 1952, Piccolo Bar underwent a brief closure and change of ownership in 2017. These days, it’s still a place for both preserving and making memories. Particularly memorable is the rotating array of cakes. And the fact that you can enjoy them from early in the morning until late at night.
“Amazing service with affordable prices. Incredible modern Asian food in Sydney. They use eco-friendly containers, which are good for our Earth,” says Julius on our online survey.
“The food is delicious and very affordable. The tiramisu is also to die for!” says Alicia on our online survey.
Open for lunch and dinner, The Bowls has a carefully edited menu of Japanese-style ‘bowls’. And while it’s unusual to find tiramisu on an otherwise Asian menu, we had a number of the casual eatery’s fans insist its single dessert option is absolutely unmissable.
Where to go from lunch to late night
“Jangling Jacks has a great rock’n’roll ambience, with rock posters and framed records on the walls, and has played excellent music every time I've been in. And the staff have always been warm and engaging (while also mixing up a great Manhattan),” says Mike Douglas on Facebook.
“Jangling Jacks is a true locals bar, where owners Erin and Jonny welcome patrons into this stylish but unpretentious cocktail den, where the drinks are mixed by a down-to-earth team led by the world-class ‘Scottish Wonder’ Rachael Merritt. The food and wine menus change seasonally, but the fantastic playlist seldom passes 1990 ... which is just the way the regulars like it,” says Fel on our online survey.
With leather-lined booths, moody lighting and meals on offer for those looking for more than just bar food, Jangling Jack’s is a speakeasy-style bar that delights in the detail.
“A great range of cocktails inspired by the bohemian history of the area, all made with locally sourced ingredients and spirits. An intimate and quiet space run by a small team of really lovely people,” says Ian on our online survey.
Stepping into this former stripclub turned cocktail den is like stepping back in time to 1930s Sydney – the heyday of Dulcie Deamer. Dulcie – a freethinking writer and thespian – embodied the bohemian spirit of the Cross. Today, the basement bar that bears her name still reflects that time and that spirit. Think historic maps, antique furniture, photographs of Sydney (there was no Harbour Bridge then!), luxurious fabrics and portraits of Dulcie. We think she’d approve of her namesake’s all-Aussie wine and spirits list, too.
“It's got a great vibe and delicious food,” says zelaya265 on Instagram.
“Apollo for a great vibe and delicious long Greek lunches,” says msalisonfl on Instagram.
Greek is the word at this chic-yet-comfortable Mediterranean restaurant. Its modern twist on Greece’s traditional cuisine means smoky share plates and mains cooked over wood and charcoal. The wine list leans uniquely Greece-ward.
“As a vegan, I struggle to find a Thai restaurant I can trust when they say they can provide vegan alternatives. At Thai Rock, I know for certain, as the owner's daughter is vegan, and they have worked tirelessly on providing a full vegan menu that still has authentic flavours. The food is delicious, and my non-vegan friends are also impressed with the tastiness of the vegan options. All of the staff are incredibly friendly and accommodating, they always have a smile on their face and greet you like a member of the family. They have an incredible bar, too, their gin selection is outstanding. There’s a good mix of seating options and giant Connect Four and Jenga, too! We always aim to go somewhere else for dinner, but all of the above keeps drawing us back to Thai Rock!” says Angela on our online survey.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Angela! And Angela wasn’t alone. When we put the call out, many of Thai Rock’s customers were keen to throw their support behind this well-loved favourite.
“Best location to people watch with a delicious glass of wine,” says fafandbo on Instagram.
“I love Dear Sainte Éloise for its wine list and understated date-night vibes,” says Lauren on our online survey.
Though your journey begins at the bar, Dear Sainte Éloise ultimately takes you on a world tour by the glass. Sip a Riesling from the famed German region of Mosel. Take a side trip to Stellenbosch, South Africa, for a Clairette Blanche. Or stay closer to home with a Pinot from the Adelaide Hills. When you’re up for a challenge, ask for the Mystery White or Mystery Red. If you can name the grape and the country of origin, your drink’s on the house.
“Bistro Rex for great food and service every time – those salted caramels are :),” says aprilinsydney_ on Instagram.
“Food, service, drinks and atmosphere. It has everything you need in one place,” says Jacob on our online survey.
When you’re feeling like a bit of French flair, this Sydney reimagining of a Parisian bistro delivers that certain je ne sais quoi.
“Fratelli Paradiso is an institution – from breakfast through to dinner, it’s the best place to eat,” says laurareiphoto on Instagram.
At Fratelli Paradiso, you know what you’re getting – and that it’ll be good. Pull up a stool, feast your eyes on the blackboard and settle in to feast on the Italian classics.
Where to go for shopping and specialty goods
“The friendly staff always make time for you, and they will put together beautiful bunches to your tastes and budget. Plus, their shopfront displays are eye-catching and creative,” says Alana on our online survey.
Poho Flowers has just the petal pick-me-up when you, your bestie, your home or your office need a boost. Whether you pop into the shop or buy online, you know you’ll end up with something fresh, fragrant and fabulously distinctive.
“Beautiful clothes for women – all designed and manufactured in Australia,” says Maxine on our online survey.
“Personalised and considered service offering beautiful clothing. The fabrics are unique and interesting, with a focus on detail and quality without being fussy. I can find a great wardrobe staple or a really special piece. A true local gem!” says Jo on our online survey.
Many love the click-and-cart convenience of Baz Inc’s website, but touchy-feely, try-it-on shoppers are pretty excited about the addition of the brand’s très-chic shopfront. Shopping for Baz’s seasonal styles and staples has never been so easy – elegance without the effort!
“The cheeses are amazing, she does the world’s best cheese toastie and she is fabulous,” says Nicole on our online survey.
When your cheese board is crying out for cow’s milk, goat’s milk, or sheep’s milk cheese (or one that has all three!), Penny’s answers the call. This woman knows her curds, from the best Aussie styles to international legends. She makes a killer toastie, too (if you’re lucky enough to get one before they sell out for the day).
“They always have unusual, affordable and eclectic clothing,” says tritianyg_ on Instagram.
Wayside Chapel has become a brand name in itself. When you shop at its op shop, you can feel good finding your favourite brands and designers and helping a great cause. Contributing your own well-loved stuff at one of the 2 Potts Point donation bins makes a big difference to Wayside’s programs and services, too. Check what’s okay before you drop it in the bin.
“Saturday markets, especially the corn fritter stand and flower stand,” says Kaitlin on our online survey.
That reusable shopping bag comes in handy at the Kings Cross Organic Food Market. Hopping every weekend, it’s the place to stock up for the week on your favourite fresh, certified-organic produce. Before you head home with your goodies, don’t forget to stop by Yo Brazilian Pastel. It was highly recommended by Potts Point locals. For the uninitiated, a pastel is a crisp, deep-fried savoury pastry filled with such goodness as beef mince, chicken and cheese.