Take a leisurely stroll through Surry Hills and you’ll find Time Out’s “Locally Famous” Sydney institution, Bourke Street Bakery. As you approach, you’ll notice a quiet buzz around the busy corner shop. Low tables and benches stacked against the walls and along the footpath are occupied by an eclectic mix of people.
The croissants, stacked alluringly in the window, are worth the walk alone. Flaky, light and buttery, they leave a satisfying mess on the plate and table when torn. Chase it down with a hot cup of strong flat white.
If you’re a sweet tooth the glistening range of tarts, butter cakes and muffins will instantly jolt the hangover blues; ginger brulee tarts with a rough burnt top is a must. Oh, don’t forget to take home some organic sourdoughs (fig and cranberry or potato and rosemary are my picks).
Phone: (02) 9699 1011
Bourke Street Bakery image © Thang Ngo
Chur Burger is the perfect place for out of town visitors looking for a tasty beef burger and casual atmosphere. A friendly staff member greets punters at the door and points you to a table where the simple A4 menus are found.
The beef burger is tall and pretty with plenty of colour. The squishy brioche bun contains a delicious combination of tastes and textures: grilled beef, cheese, rich red tomato jam, light mustard mayo and pickle cut length-wise that’s not too sour and still crunchy. The pulled pork burger is a substantial feed with a generous amount of pork, runny bbq sauce, ‘red slaw’ and fennel mayo. Crispy chips with chilli salt are a must – the chilli isn’t overwhelming, it’s the heavy salt that gives it a more-ish zing.
Where: 48 Albion Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Phone: (02) 9212 3602
Chur Burger image © Chur Burger
Feeling adventurous? Take a stroll down the Silk Road via Surry Hills! Uyghur gets extremely cold, so the food is dominated by lots of meat: lamb, beef, camel, goat and relatively easy to grow vegetables like carrots, onion, eggplant and cucumber. The relatively plain ingredients get their kick from strong spices like pepper, garlic and chilli (especially powder).
There are only a handful of Uyghur eateries in Australia and this is one of the better ones. It’s a humble corner restaurant with friendly staff and picture menus to make ordering easy. Stir fried handmade noodles with lamb is their specialty. It’s a pretty burst of colours; red and greens contrasting with sturdy thick noodles, with a bold taste thanks to capsicum, shallots and cumin. Fried beef and fried bread is protein on a plate and arrives looking like steak and potato wedges – this plate is highly spiced ensuring you’ll remember it for a long time.
Phone: 0406 002 461
Sydney Uyghur Cuisine Restaurant image © Thang Ngo
You're spoiled for choice when it comes to the first meal of the day because Surry Hills is home to what can only be described as Sydney's "breakfast institutions". Bill Granger's wildly successful cafe, bills, might be within strolling distance from your hotel, people travel far and wide for a taste of his famous ricotta hotcakes, creamy scrambled eggs and sweetcorn fritters.
The fact that bills has expanded beyond Sydney and into Japan and the UK is testament to the cafe's popularity. Attracting a diverse range of patrons - from girly champagne breakfasters to ravenous post-gymgoers, long-term patrons and excited first-timers - it's always busy at bills and likely you might need to queue for a table on the weekend. But let it be known: you'd be hard pressed to find someone who didn't think it worth the wait.
Phone: (02) 9360 4762
bills image © Anson Smart
Coffee aficionados will have found their mecca in Reuben Hills, with beans roasted on site and coffee nothing short of exemplary. The vibe is relaxed and casual and the food hearty and comforting. They've nailed the South American and Mexican fare with burgers, fried chicken and tacos that have the critics, bloggers and instagrammers raving. Be sure to order the salted caramel shake or Doggs Breakfast - that's ice cream sandwich with salted caramel if you need a translation.
Phone: (02) 9211 5556
It's always buzzing at Four Ate Five and it's not difficult to see why. This place is cool in that really friendly, no-frills, everyone's welcome kind of way. Breakfast, lunch or that convenient amalgamation of the two we call brunch - Four Ate Five has it worked out. Sweet lovers will weep with joy at their French Toast stuffed with banana and served with marscapone, rhubarb and maple syrup. Moroccan baked eggs are a perennial favourite and come topped with almonds and labne. The pulled pork sandwich is popular with a capital P; and coffee is single-origin and fair trade. The place is small so try to get there early to avoid the inevitable queue.
Phone: (02) 9360 4762
Four Ate Five image © Four Ate Five
For those partial to a trendy Japanese joint, Toko is arguably the best you'll find. It's the definition of slick, wouldn't be out of place in London or New York and certainly pulls a crowd. It might attract a glamorous set at times but staff never let it go to their head, with service unfailingly friendly andnd helpful. Toko will please everyone - the client you're schmoozing; a first date; friendship group -hey, even your folks! You'd almost need to visit a few times to be able to experience all the standout dishes at Toko, it's that good. I'd recommend going for the tasting menu (minimum 2 people) so you can experience all the signature dishes.
Phone: (02) 9357 6100
Image © Toko Restaurant & Bar
Some might say the young Rockabillies behind Porteño have the Midas Touch. Their Spanish meets South American offering Bodega is something of a stalwart in Surry Hills and has been a resounding hit with critics and patrons alike, earning itself a coveted Chef's Hat in the Good Food Guide 2014 Awards. This place is the most exciting thing in the Sydney food scene right now. Staff are clad in 50's Rockabilly gear and ooze cool. But the best bit is they're as nice as they are attractive. The food is noteworthy: an Argentinian-inspired fare that, like Bodega, is designed to share (though you'll have a hard time wanting to).
Phone: (02) 8399 1440
Porteño Restaurant image © Porteño Restaurant