It’s a funny thing about cafes in the northern end of Sydney’s CBD. Very often you can't tell if you’re actually entering a cafe or just wandering into the lobby of an office building. And so it is with Back Row West, a sleek new spot on the sixth floor of the AON Building.

“They created a whole new space for us,” owner Bobby Volcevski tells Broadsheet (Volcevski is also behind The Gardens franchise and Merchants of Ultimo in the Broadway shopping centre). The name is a nod to the area’s maritime history, when this part of Kent Street was referred to as Back Row West

The cafe is bright and light, decked out in caramel-coloured wood panelling and a very Game of Thrones-esque chain-mail wall. There are huge windows at the back with a great view over heritage buildings behind, and some sunny seating outside along Kent Street. There’s even a mini boardroom set up in one corner with a round table and AV equipment that can be booked for free. Dance music (at an appropriate daytime volume) plays from unseen speakers and the staff is friendly and attentive.

Chef Andrew Duncan, formerly of city favourite Bowery Lane, is in the kitchen. The menu is short; there are less than a dozen options each for breakfast and lunch. Mornings lean towards healthy dishes; acai or avocado smoothie bowls; orange-blossom porridge; protein hotcakes; and (of course) smashed avo on sourdough. For lunch, the American cheeseburger is pink in the middle, served on a soft milk bun and oozing tangy pickles and Marie Rose sauce. Other options include a tuna poke bowl, gnocchi, lamb ragu and crisp-skin salmon.

Breads are from Sonoma or the organic Infinity Bakery and are reliably excellent, especially a crunchy potato roll filled with five-spice lamb, haloumi and kohlrabi.

“Coffee is really our thing,” Volcevski says, and he’s right – it’s really good. There’s also a huge juice bar with fresh fruit overflowing onto the counter, or you can go for a heartier smoothie made with organic plant protein, bee pollen, activated buckwheat and cacao butter.

If you’re looking for something stronger, the wine and cocktail list looks good, too; there’s a Brisk Cucumber (apple, cucumber and vodka). Back Row West is open late on Thursday and Friday nights with a DJ pumping out the tunes and the Brisk Cucumbers flowing.

Back Row West
201 Kent Street, Sydney

Mon to Wed 6.30am–4pm
Thu to Fri 6.30am–9pm (02) 9252 4925