You’re an out-of-towner that has landed in Sydney or freshly stepped off a cruise ship. You’ve done your research and already have our city’s historic district, The Rocks, on your radar. Labyrinthine streets and cobbled laneways lined with gorgeous old buildings, tourist-centric shops, restaurants and the weekend markets; all in the shadow of the looming Harbour Bridge.
Your room rate may already include breakfast, but if it doesn’t, where should you eat? There are many options, so allow me to make a few suggestions with a bunch of places I’ve tried and tasted in our city’s oldest precinct – places where to have breakfast in The Rocks.
Located at the end of cobbled Kendall Lane is The Fine Food Store, a place that not only offers “gourmet” groceries like bread, cheese and dry goods, but it has a decent breakfast menu. The likes of Belgian-style waffles, cured salmon on sourdough and homemade spicy beans are up for grabs; plus many more choices for any level of appetite.
The coffee is Sensory Lab. Our macchiato and piccolo latté were well made and visitors from Melbourne will feel immediately at home when they spot their beloved magic coffee on the menu. Yes, that’s right. The magic has made it to Sydney. Think double ristretto in a three-quarter cup. Or a double flat white in a smaller cup.
What did we eat? Well, the ricotta & avo on sourdough (8.5), for a start. You can opt for two slices for an additional $4. I can only assume the very light scraping of avocado was a reflection of the high cost of avocados at the time of our visitation. Some sweet cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta and lone basil leaf adorn the toast; plus a dressed salad garnish.
Shakshuka (12.5) is a dish I’m always happy tucking into during the morning hours. Eggs poached in a beautifully spiced tomato and chilli sauce. A nice, warm start to the day. Here they do away with the traditional shallow skillet and ladle the tomato into a deep bowl. Quite a lot of sauce, and quite runny, as well. The poached eggs are placed on the top with some coriander.
Baroque Pantry is a daytime concept brought to us by Baroque Bistro. There isn’t much that’s different to what you’d get at the bistro other than a few additional menu items, so don’t go expecting “pantry” items to take home with you. Unless, of course, you’re taking your food home with you.
We’re here for breakfast, so seating options are outside on the terrace in view of old buildings and the bridge, or inside on rose-coloured acrylic chairs and beneath lovely Tom Dixon pendants. The morning menu is quite small, featuring a bunch of house-made pastries and cooked breakfast items. Macaron fans can go mad on some interesting flavours as well.
Croque Monsieur is something I usually gravitate to when feeling a tad French, but why not make it better with a fried egg? Croque Madame (20) may be a little pricey (we are in The Rocks, after all), but it’s a decent enough specimen. Double smoked ham, béchamel, and Swiss gruyere grilled on sourdough. A salad takes up the other half of the plate.
Another eggy dish that’s worth trying is the egg cocotte (14). What makes up for its petite proportions is the flavour that’s packed into the tiny ramekin. Smoked speck, tomato, mushroom, garlic, hollandaise and a lone egg. Toasted and buttered sourdough is there for the dunking, as well.
Down on George Street opposite the MCA is the Bakers Oven Café. From the street the first thing you notice is a window displaying cakes and pastries, and looking in it appears to be more of a takeaway or diner. Internal stairs lead to a small dining room with tight booths and beyond is an open-air courtyard that spills onto Nurses Walk.
Not a great deal of originality has gone into the breakfast offerings, but there’s plenty to choose if you like your eggs. Bacon & eggs, omelettes, benedict and more. There are pancakes and a few lighter choices such as toast, croissants, bagels, fruit and muesli.
Eggs on sourdough (13) is served on a large retro oval plate with a slice of “grilled” tomato, a handful of buttered mushrooms and eggs how you want them. Very home-style.
The Bakers Oven big breakfast (19.5) is much the same deal, just with the addition of bacon, sausage and chips. No-fuss food that reminds me of the grub at Met 2 Cafeteria by Town Hall.
It may be on the other side of the Harbour Bridge viaduct, but Pier 8 Café on Walsh Bay is a worthy contender and within reach of a Rocks breakfast. The location would have to be the best of the lot; housed in one of the refurbished wharves, overlooking overwater apartments, a marina, and just a walk from the Sydney Theatre Company and Pier One hotel.
The café makes good use of the building by retaining the industrial structural elements and keeping an open-plan layout. Coffee is well made and uses local roaster Campos and the varied breakfast menu is displayed on laminated cards on a ladder. Order and pay at the counter, take a number and take your pick with the seating.
Fresh-baked muffins, pastries and ready-to-go panini adorn the counter, but we went for a couple of the cooked items. Chorizo & scrambled egg on Turkish (8) sounded ideal for the other half, except the scrambled eggs and chorizo on toast that was expected is actually served up as a toasted sandwich. Very firm, omelette-like egg with spinach and sliced chorizo, with a rather sweet relish/bbq sauce that didn’t quite make the written description.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect when ordering the breakfast bake (8), but mention of crispy bacon, gruyere, cherry tomato and spinach sounded good enough. What arrives is a tart, of sorts, that’s very firm and frittata-like; topped with ricotta and either grilled or sandwich-pressed. Not sure where the crispy bacon came in but I think there were a few pieces of regular bacon wedged in the egg somewhere.
Located in the quiet back lane named Nurses Walk, The Vintage Café lays at the rear of the Harbour Rocks Hotel; a row of refurbished colonial terraces that were built on the site of Sydney’s first hospital. Cosy dining rooms, sandstone walls and an open-air deck to sit and enjoy some Portuguese, Spanish and Mediterranean fare in the evenings.
Not much of the Mediterranean flavours filter into the small breakfast menu, and those that love their eggs are well looked after. Not a fan of eggs? Well, you may have to settle on some pancakes, a sandwich or salad.
The blackboard menu tempted me with pancakes (12.9); and while I think it was geared to be a dessert item, the mention of bacon immediately made it a breakfast dish, for me. Sans the ice cream, with a sliced whole banana, maple syrup and generous side plate of bacon. The single pancake is quite thick, fluffy and a perfect sponge for the syrup.
The hot clay vegetarian breakfast (18.9) went down a treat. Served in a terracotta ramekin, it’s a stodgy affair of baked beans, spinach, asparagus, onion, a little chilli and poached eggs. I went the whole hog and added chorizo for an extra dollar.
Thanks to its quiet location, the café has a rather late opening time of 10.30am. Great for those that enjoy a sleep-in, but not an option for those of us that are up with the sparrows.
Thanks to the Cahill Expressway cutting The Rocks in two, Brew café feels a tad segregated from the main part of The Rocks; tucked in the shadow of the CBD’s towers and neighbouring hotels. Weekdays here are busy with office workers grabbing their morning coffee or taking meetings at one of the tightly placed tables.
Still, the breakfast menu is one of the better ones in The Rocks precinct. Eggs, muesli, fruit, porridge, bruschetta – there’s a decent selection that caters to any appetite.
The Mediterranean beans (16.5) is a deliciously hearty bowl of slow-cooked fava beans in a herbed tomato sauce. Half a grilled chorizo, a poached egg and toasted sourdough join in on the fun. Thumbs up here.
It seems there’s a daily breakfast special offered each day on the blackboard; in this case it was scrambled eggs (15) with chorizo, mushrooms and toast. Plus a coffee. A bit of a bargain for these parts.
The only downside – they’re only open Monday to Friday. Something tells me that this strip of Harrington Street is rather quiet on the weekend; when offices are closed and hotels guests have other areas to explore.
At the top of George Street in the shadow of the Harbour Bridge viaduct is the Swagman’s Post Courtyard Café. During the week it’s a relatively quiet place that’s popular with local workers taking meetings in the leafy rear courtyard, and on weekends the pace steps up a notch thanks to the weekend market that sprawls past its front door.
Perfect for early risers, the café opens at 7.30am and offers an all-day breakfast. Muffins, croissants, fruit salad, muesli, eggs, it’s all there.
French toast (16.9) comes as an impressive pile of soft and slightly doughy bread triangles topped with grilled banana and a light-handed drizzle of maple syrup. The promised “candied” bacon is nothing more than regular bacon that’s a mix of crispy and soft. A decent enough meal for the price.
Those that like their breakfasts big may be chuffed at the mountain of food you get in the Swagman’s breakfast (19.9). Eggs, sausage, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, toast and a hash brown. The hash brown may be enormous but it brings disappointment thanks to being completely raw once you get past the deliciously crispy exterior. There’s nothing fun about raw spuds!