5 cafe ideas for Sydney

August 2023: If you are searching for independent reviews, read on for 5 cafe ideas for Sydney!

Bills at Surry Hills

Sydney has its culinary institutions built around great, talented personalities and one of these venues is Bills at Surry Hills.

Bill Granger’s creative, generous approach to fresh food and dining has won fans the world over in London, Seoul, Sydney and Tokyo across 19 restaurants.

On this day I am visiting Bills with a long standing work buddy towards the end of winter. The restaurant is hopping and the staff are attentive. While there’s usually a wait for a table we are offered a perch on the footpath where we can enjoy the passing parade.

My buddy orders the mushroom fried rice. There’s the warmth of ginger, a bit of chilli, the smoothness of the rice, and the umami of the mushroom. Lime offers a citrus tang that offsets the coriander and a grated daikon relish.

Mushroom fried rice from Bills at Surry Hills.

Bills at Surry Hills has a fantastic menu. Lunch is a tough choice I am prepared to make and so I order the crab chilli and linguine- it’s an extremely flavoursome dish, with just a hint of chilli, and the unmistakeable freshness of the sea brought to the palate by freshly picked crab meat. The waitstaff reveal that Bills is making its own pasta in-house and that today’s dish features blue swimmer crab from Shark Bay in Western Australia. As I am originally from Western Australia this makes for a lunch that is entirely memorable in more ways than one.

Crab, chilli and linguini from Bills at Surry Hills, one of our 5 cafe ideas for Sydney.

“Who are you if you haven’t been to Bills?” my pal asks. More often than not there is no harm in asking.

Bills has a nice mixed crowd, great for the club that lunches, awesome for people of all ages. Bills takes walk ins for breakfast and lunch and a few online bookings for dinner.

If you are sufficiently well placed you may also order online to experience Bills.

Bills at Surry Hills. 355 Crown Street Surry Hills. 7am – 10pm. Phone (02) 9360 4762.

Nicely Occupied rating 5 stars.

Read on to find out more about 5 cafe ideas for Sydney.

G & Tea at The Star Sydney

Some might think that a good test for any establishment is how some of the evergreen dishes stand up to order. Today I have ordered a croissant filled with ham, cheese and tomato. The staff ask if I would like the croissant toasted, which is a nice service consideration. Once toasted the croissant is brought to table with a glass of iced water on a branded coaster and a large flat white coffee. There is also a quality table napkin and cutlery. The croissant is of a generous proportion, fresh and perfectly toasted. The kitchen has been generous with the fillings, high quality, perfectly fresh leg ham, cheddar and sufficient tomato to compliment the dish without making the croissant soggy in the least. 

The coffee seems to be of a medium to dark roast which provides a great, robust flavour without any bitterness. It is just the ticket before the sun is over the yard arm (before midday). With a glass of iced water as well I can peruse Australia’s top daily newspapers, generously supplied for customers, and enjoy the ambience and atmosphere while preparing to launch into the rest of the day. 

Another dish of note is the panini with mushroom, spinach and Meredith yoghurt. The panini is perfectly toasted so as to warm the content without rendering the panini soggy. There is a generous serving of the sautéed mushrooms which is complimented by the Meredith yoghurt and spinach to make for a satisfying meatless dining option. 

A great dish added to the G & Tea offering recently is a free range chicken Waldorf salad. This is a splendid iteration of this dish which is named for the Waldorf Hotel in New York City. The original recipe calls for walnut, celery and apple with a mayonnaise dressing. Here at G & Tea at The Star, the dish has been elevated by the addition of fresh, free range chicken and the sweetness of seedless green grape pieces. The chopped salad prepared with the sharpest of skills, not to mention knives, lightly dressed and beautifully garnished with ultra fresh heart of cos lettuce. This salad benefits from its judicious combination of walnut pieces, the freshest green apple and celery. The effect is not just satisfying and nutritious. I am left with an indelible impression that I have enjoyed not just a salad but a dining experience. It is a golden credit to G & Tea which underscores The Star’s reputation as a five star hotel.

There is so much to recommend about G&Tea at The Star Hotel Sydney, including the product offering, high standards of service and decor, some aspects of which I shall omit so you may enjoy the adventure of discovery. I never announce my reviews or accept free food or drink from those places subject of review so readers may be assured of the standard including amazing venues like G & Tea at The Star, Sydney. 

G & Tea at The Star Sydney. 20 – 80 Pyrmont Street Pyrmont. Trading Daily 8am – 8pm. High Tea Thursday – Sunday noon – 4pm.

Nicely Occupied rating     4 Stars.

Shila Kitchen

Shila Kitchen is a distinctive culinary treasure waiting to be discovered on the prestigious Darling Street strip at Balmain in Sydney. 

This cafe is a window on the exciting world of Persian cuisine. The establishment is busy from first thing in the morning which in itself is a ringing endorsement.

Persian cuisine draws on rich historical traditions steeped in the mysteries of time. It calls for the freshest available ingredients such as lime, the careful blending of meats with fruit and rice and the considered addition of precious ingredients such as saffron. Persian cuisine also evokes the mysteries of beautiful, far off lands filled with grand bazaars, ornately decorated palaces and welcoming cultural hubs. In a curious, adventuresome way, Shila Kitchen is a window into this mysterious grandeur while also being entirely accessible, hospitable and welcoming.

The Cabbage Dolma from Shila Kitchen is a generous serving of neatly trimmed and stacked leaves enveloping a substantial serve of a savoury filling and then braised in a traditional tomato sauce until the leaves are quite tender. Each Dolma is a combination of rice, split peas, and freshly chopped herbs. There are also soy flakes and spices that add to this taste sensation. It’s substantial enough to satiate any appetite. A gluten free option is available for the Cabbage Dolma.

Accompanying this is a Persian Koofteh. The Persian Koofteh is an exceptionally well-flavoured meatball. It ranges somewhere between the size of a standard rules cricket ball and an Australian rules softball. It consists of split peas, rice, minced beef and fresh herbs, simmered slowly in a traditional tomato sauce.

These are great foundations for a platter and may be shared quite easily. They may be served with some of the flavoursome cooking juices spooned over, reinforcing the infused flavours. To these we add some of Shila Kitchen’s vine leaves and a fresh salad made from ingredients from the fridge and pantry including fresh avocado, lime and coriander.

There’s also a cucumber and yoghurt dressing that would be a nice accompaniment for many of the dishes on the menu at Shila.

My dining companion chose some Turkish Delight delicately flavoured with rose water. The pieces of Turkish Delight can be purchased separately, the middle eastern sweet sliced into generous portions, served with a generous dusting of icing sugar: it’s rose water flavour quite transporting. 

There’s a delicatessen that sells a wide array of produce sold under the Shila label and more besides. Here you will find things like sublime chilli jam that’s a great accompaniment to many dishes and is just the ticket if you are looking for a great new condiment to elevate your morning ham and cheese toastie.

This is a culinary paradise for anyone planning to entertain a number of guests or find an exciting repast with a difference for a indoor or outdoor dining. This cuisine is excellent for sharing and is also perfect for families. 

Gluten free options are available. 

Shila Kitchen. 325 Darling Street Balmain. Trading daily 8am – 3pm. Lunch 11am – 3pm

Nicely Occupied rating     4 Stars.

Thanks for reading our independent reviews – 5 cafe ideas for Sydney. We appreciate your feedback so please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.

(Nicely Occupied Code 60000)


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