How a weekend breakfast becomes a New-York-style brunch comes down to two factors: the time it is consumed and the addition of alcohol.
We have one Guy Beringer to thank for this hybrid meal. The English writer must have been suffering a monstrous hangover circa 1895 when the idea, and the catchy portmanteau, struck him. In his essay Brunch: A Plea, the patron saint of brunch, who would arise late in the morning, proposed a meal suited to those indisposed at breakfast time who didn’t want to be confronted with a meat-heavy repast upon taking their seat at the lunch table. He suggested a lighter meal be served around midday.
“Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,'' Beringer wrote. ''It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.''
New Yorkers tend to agree. In the Big Apple, brunch is observed unfailingly and with such universal devotion that The New York Times was prompted to opine on the matter in an article titled Brunch Is For Jerks. No one in New York listened and no one’s taking heed in Sydney, either. Restaurants, cafes and even pubs are offering boozy brunches all over the city – just the thing to brush off the sight of açai-bowl-scarfing joggers. Brunch is also, as demonstrated by such expert brunchers as the Sex and the City ladies, a time to discuss the city-dweller’s issues of the day – Tinder dates, real estate prices, and whether Marrickville really is the Brooklyn of Sydney. Stay out late, sleep in, then head out the door to one of Sydney’s brunch spots.
Korean-inspired weekend brunch? You’ll find it at Paper Bird. Start with a respectfully spicy Korean Bloody Mary, served in a chilli-rimmed highball, then move onto the Breakfast Negroni, for a bonus caffeine hit. Then ease into the main event with a crunchy morsel of the famed prawn toast and maybe a serve of warm shallot pancake topped with thinly sliced jamon. To try all of the must-order dishes, take along a friend or two. There’s the katsu sando (pork schnitzel on white bread with a side of kimchi potato crisps and a super tangy coleslaw), a not-so-classic butter-slathered Emmental and kimchi sourdough toastie, a mushroom and fried-egg topped potato bread with a mild chilli jam and a fried chicken worth coming back for if you feel you can’t fit it in. The inspired green tomato jangajji – fresh tomato, dashi, a touch of cream and chives – is the perfect complement to all of these dishes. To finish? Brunch dessert of course. Try the Japanese cheesecake.
Brunch talking point: speculation about how much your place would fetch on Airbnb.
46A Macleay St, Potts Point, (02) 9326 9399
Take a petit vacance on Sunday afternoon. Don your best Breton-striped top and nonchalant attitude and step into a Parisian bistro brunch. Between 10:30am and 3pm on weekends, Bistrot Gavroche, with its red-leather upholstered booths, dark-wood bar and Tiffany lamps, throws a brunch party, Gallic-style. There’s escargot, paté, freshly baked baguette, omelette and classic sweets such as tarte Tatin and crěpes Suzette and an impressive tower of profiteroles. To drink, there are glasses of NV Brut Rosé Dominique Portet or sparkling cocktails such as Cointreau Pomegranate Fizz: Cointreau, pomegranate juice and sparkling wine.
Brunch talking point: whether French women really eat croissants every day.
1/2 -10 Kensington Street, Chippendale; (02) 9281 6668
There’s something about the Hotel Centennial that makes you want to pull up a comfortable chair or park yourself on a banquette or sofa and stay awhile. Large as it is, there's an intimate feeling about the space and a quiet buzz that gives it an inviting and relaxed vibe. That said, the service is as smooth as the hotel’s standout omelettes. If you’re feeling slightly more reckless, don't miss the waffles. Light and slightly chewy with faintly crisp edges, this signature dish will keep you coming back. Savoury toppings include smoked trout and confit duck, while on the sweet side, roast figs with butterscotch sauce and vanilla cream are impossible to resist. While you may also be tempted by the Centennial breakfast with prosciutto and whipped feta, there are a few interesting diversions on the menu: the morning vegetable pickles are delightfully crunchy and lightly spiced, while the eggs cocotte are served with double-smoked bacon and imbued with Middle-Eastern flavours (chargrilled eggplant and za'atar). The drinks list also ticks all the right boxes: Campos coffee, all of the brunch cocktail classics (everything using marmalade, champagne, coffee and tomato juice), loose-leaf teas, a full wine list and Juice Lab concoctions.
Brunch talking point: whether or not it's acceptable to have a main and a dessert for brunch.
80 Oxford Street, Woollahra; (02) 9362 3838
Start things off at this Middle Eastern eatery with a Bloody Ayshe, Turkey’s answer to the Bloody Mary. It’s a heady mix of pickled red carrot shalgum, vodka and tomato juice. There’s plenty of variety on the menu but since you’re going to be here for a while, you may as well go for the Van Breakfast Feast, a true brunch banquet. A procession of more than 30 dishes will arrive at the table including freshly baked simit (a type of ring-shaped bread), house-made jams, Turkish scrambled eggs with paprika, onions and capsicum, sucuk sausage, seasonal fruits, Anatolian cheese and apple tea and Turkish coffee to finish.
Brunch talking point: the spectre of high-rise apartments ruining your water views.
79 Elliott Street, Balmain; (02) 9810 5466
Kensington Street Social
Chippendale hotspot Kensington Street Social came on the scene swinging, with a brunch menu to be reckoned with and some of Sydney’s first frosés. Make a cocktail selection – the icy pink Frosé, a curious Vegetini (a Vegemite-infused gin martini) or the ubiquitous espresso martini (a great compromise if you need to start the day with coffee). Drinks settled, turn your attention to the food. British chef Jason Atherton, who is in the midst of building his empire, sticks to the formula at his Sydney outpost: interesting, crowd-pleasing food in a buzzy, brasserie atmosphere. Choose from the usual suspects – bacon and egg brioche rolls, bircher muesli – or take the multi-course option, sharing tasty morsels such as broccolini with egg yolk jam, prawn toast ceviche, roast mushroom and taleggio flatbread and Breakfast Rice, with slow-cooked egg, shiitake mushroom, pork belly and bacon dashi.
Brunch talking point: how you knew Chippendale before it was cool.
3 Kensington Street, Chippendale; (02) 8277 8533
SEE ALSO: The Best Places for Breakfast in Sydney
The pasta that makes up the bulk of Acme’s nighttime menu pays little heed to Italian tradition and instead silky al dente macaroni, linguine and strozzapreti is matched with Asian flavours such as enoki, sesame and smoked eel. Chef Mitch Orr is taking the same approach to brunch, serving up dishes that take inspiration from China, the Philippines and Korea. Acme’s brunch takes place between 11am and 2:30pm during which time diners can feast on dishes such as ube waffles with fried chicken, Filipino sausage and egg sandwiches and grilled banana sticky rice. Standouts on the drinks menu are Milk Tea - tea-infused vodka and Calpis; Brunch Spritz with sparkling rose, umeshu, blood plum and shiso and the Morning Glory Spritz, a bracing combination of Scotch, grapefruit, anise and mint.
Brunch talking point: the death of Kings Cross nightlife thanks to lockout laws.
60 Bayswater Road, Rushcutters Bay; 0435 940 884
Hop off the train and walk straight into brunch heaven at Newtown’s Cuckoo Callay. The all-day weekend brunch menu is extensive: choose from sweet raspberry granola with vanilla bean panna cotta or get heavy with the signature Reuben sandwich or Mah-Sriracha – 12-hour beef brisket on sourdough with house-made barbecue sauce, chargrilled broccolini, sriracha hollandaise and a poached egg. “Cuckootails” include the Frozé rosé slushie and the AM Mimosa with sparkling wine, fresh orange juice, lemon and mint.
Brunch talking point: how Newtown isn’t how it used to be.
Newtown railway station; 324A King Street, Newtown; (02) 9557 7006
Despite its ridiculous and un-brunch-like start-time of 7am, Panama House’s brunch redeems itself with a tasty Latin spin on the theme that stretches on to 3pm. Try Huevos Rancheros, scrambled eggs with black beans, pico de gallo and sour cream on a corn tortilla, or a bowl of brunch goodness – avocado, soft boiled egg, haloumi, hazelnut and black sesame dukkah, kale and quinoa. Accompany the food with a Pisco Sour or two.
Brunch talking point: whether hot yoga is too hot.
251 Bondi Road, Bondi; (02) 9130 6875
This Redfern favourite keeps things original. Not for Three Williams the standard big breakfast or pancakes. Here, the kitchen turns out Golden Gaytime French Toast, an unbelievably fun way to start the weekend with brioche French toast, house-made vanilla ice-cream rolled in biscuit crumbs, chocolate crisps and toffee sauce – you can even add bacon if you’re so inclined. Also worthy of a mention are the Narnies, made with freshly-baked flatbread. We’re into the Peking duck version but could be swayed by the Eggplant Narnie with pickled cabbage, kimchi slaw and roasted peanuts. To drink there’s Pimped Soda – homemade sodas spiked with gin or vodka, plenty of wine and beer and, of course, a topnotch Bloody Mary.
Brunch talking point: Sydney property prices, the insanity of.
613a Elizabeth Street, Redfern; (02) 9698 1111
Despite having been open half the night feeding the city’s chefs and wait-staff after knock-off time, the Marigold is bright and sparkling by morning and the staff are ready to wheel around trolley after trolley of tasty Cantonese morsels for your brunching pleasure. Marigold is famous for its dumplings, handmade noodles and egg custard tarts. Tea is the traditional accompaniment here, but you can flag down a waiter and partake of anything you like from French champagne to beer.
Brunch talking point: devising the ideal brunch hashtag.
Citymark Building, 683-689 George Street, Haymarket; (02) 9281 3388
Not So Boozy Options
If your weekend plans (or hangover) have got you in search of something a little more wholesome, here are some of our favourite not so boozy options for a late brunch.
At this small Manly café, Scandinavian staples fuse with Aussie beach classics, spawning a menu rich in seeds, rye and cured fish. Pair your eggs with cod roe and crispbread, herbed herring and rye or cured salmon and horseradish. Or head straight for the toast Skagen, a local legend with prawns, dill, lemon and mayonnaise piled high on sourdough.
Brunch talking point: How Manly is so much more chill than Bondi.
5B Market Pl, Manly, (02) 9976 5099
Tucked behind a reinvigorated stretch of Paddington’s Oxford Street, Barbetta evokes a classic Milanese diner as it skilfully blends Italian flavours with brunch staples. In lieu of a bacon and egg roll, you’ll find the brioche Ripieno – a buttery bun loaded with a poached egg, Italian sausage, beef ragu and provolone. Finish with a lemon ricotta-filled doughnut – you’re in Italy after all.
Brunch talking point: Are there more dogs or babies in Paddo?
2 Elizabeth St, Paddington, (02) 9331 0088
Poached eggs floating in a slow-cooked tomato sauce. Pastries filled with eggplant, boiled egg, hummus and coriander. While the names of the Tel Aviv-inspired breakfast dishes from this series of five inner-city cafés might not sound familiar (shakshuka, sabih, ziva), their soul-warming heartiness transcends language.
Brunch talking point: Skipping lunch because those Shakshuka eggs were so filling.
Various inner city locations, see website for details.