Most Beautiful Cafes in Sydney

Updated October 22nd, 2021


Not so long ago, a DIY paint job and some cheap second-hand furniture was enough to open a cafe.

How things have changed.

Cafes have arguably overtaken restaurants as the focal point for Sydney’s collective design talent. Today’s designers work with marble, brass, hardwood, imported tiles and six-figure budgets.

With so many talented architects and interior designers on the scene, it takes a lot to stand out. Many cafes just slip into the derivative pool of polished timber furniture, white subway tiles and hanging Edison bulbs.

Or did, back in 2015. The current “it” look involves marble, lots of pastels, brass light fittings, mismatched ceramics and maybe a neon sign. Some of our choices include these elements – trends have to start somewhere – but on the whole these interiors are strikingly unique.

  • There is no other cafe in Sydney like Edition Coffee Roasters. With a menu that creatively mixes cuisines and an innovative coffee offering, it should be no surprise that Amber Road's design is just as unique – most of the seats lie in a window-side concrete channel below the floor, and everything is black and grey, polished concrete, and dark timber. The only colour comes from the sun, which pours through the wide windows every morning.

  • It’s weird to think this cafe – now meticulously decorated with vintage knick-knacks, leather and dark woods – was once just an anonymous concrete bunker in the centre of the CBD. Thanks to a fitout from Acme & Co, the transformation is so thematic and detailed it’s like being in a cafe theme park.

  • Featuring a Keeley Baird (from Something More Design) fit-out and a mural by artist Andrew Dennis. Enter for dramatic floral installations, pendant light and pink and blue velvet upholstery.

  • The menu at Valentina’s takes inspiration from America’s iconic roadside diners. The fit-out on the other hand, suggests something far more elegant. Curves dominate Lucia Braham and Matt Woods’ design, with hand-rendered, chalky-white curved walls, an elegantly rounded timber counter, and curved edges on the tables and chairs.

  • This handsome cafe is also styled after an American diner. Except here, the owners tackled the fit-out themselves – painting the pressed-tin ceiling yellow, adding banquet seating and chipping back the plaster on the brick walls. One of their dad’s tiled the high communal table in the centre of the space.

  • Architect George Livissianis is known for creating knockout venues. His resume includes Potts Point stunners Cho Cho San and The Apollo, and at Sammy Junior – he’s done it again. The elegant space is designed to feel like a European coffee house, featuring a pistachio palette that’s offset by green banquettes and a terrazzo marble bar.

  • The Meacham Nockles design is a tapestry of colours and textures: green-marble tables, others with glossy burgundy tops, teal wicker-backed chairs, coffee-coloured lounges covered in cushions with vintage prints, bespoke floor tiling and colourful foliage.

  • This sleek Rosebery cafe and shop sells croissant-waffle hybrids and hard-to-find products overseas. The kitchen, run by Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, turns out matcha-infused pastries and more. Moon and Back also has a sister cafe in Kyoto.

  • The upstairs space of this motorbike workshop and open kitchen is the standout. Designed by co-owner Helena Genaus, it’s an open hall with high ceilings, generously spaced furniture and a rare lounge where you’ll feel comfortable even if you haven’t ordered anything for more than an hour.

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  • You’re going to the Boathouse for the views. Whether it’s the Balmoral, Shelly Beach or Palm Beach, every one of the cafe’s seats spills out onto the sand or sea. The interiors play off this, without being a pastiche in any way, by keeping it open, light and minimally decorated (outside of a healthy population of plants). The fit-out comes courtesy of former owners, Pip Robb and Andrew Goldsmith. Robb is an interior designer, while Goldsmith is a landscaper.

  • When you’re in a space as architecturally striking as the Paramount Hotel foyer, you don’t need to do much. Architect Alana Cooke recognised that, and took a spartan approach to the design. The sparse table spacing, concrete bar, and the massive black and white alpine mural all work with the building’s cavernous space. And the floor-to-ceiling windows keep the room from feeling industrial or cold.

  • This Double Bay cafe has a crisp and minimal design courtesy of designers Smith and Carmody, based on natural light and the contrast between its concrete floors and sculptural timber ceiling, making it suitable for a pastry and cuppa or a few courses of produce-driven dining.

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  • This design (by Swear Words) is one of the simplest in this guide, but that's what makes it great. The refreshingly light-handed approach splits the space between a long black-granite bar and a single tiered timber bench fronted by a set of matching stools and backed by long windows.

  • This minimalist design from Melbourne-based agency Design Office focuses your eyes on the product and process of the coffee bar, this one has an all-white bench showing off more caffeine gadgetry than any other cafe in Sydney. Opposite that there are two arched windows and a set of light-timber benches with furniture that matches the colours of the cafe’s famous iced coffees.

  • Cut from the same design style as Industry Beans and Skittle Lane, this Jake Brainerd-designed fitout emphasises the open counter which proudly shows off the coffee-making process. The seating is just a timber block, the walls are white and sheer, and the only styling is around the simple materials used.