twlmhorizontal lr3

Food, Travel

Top 10 Cafes and Restaurants in Surry Hills


Here are our favourite Surry Hills Eateries (not necessarily in order)...

1. Nomad


Nomad restaurant is so hot right now, having recently been awarded a Chef's Hat in the Good Food Guide. Come here for an amazing wine list, modern cuisine and some 8 chefs on hand to please the constant packed out restaurant.

Nomad has the "wow" factor when it comes to a compelling menu, great service, impressive ambience and top notch wine list. I was fortunate to be able to get a last minute booking, being a diner for one... For those who like their meat, you won't be disappointed here. Yet the vegetarian selections are also compelling (think fried chickpeas and woodroasted beetroot).


Fresh seasonal produce is the emphasis in an ever changing menu with the Smoked Pork Empanadas with harissa hot sauce (above) an amazing dish. Other outstanding small plates include the Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Parfait with radish, Iranian plum and the BBQ Wagyu Tongue with mojo verde.


When you enter Nomad you are struck by the lack of obvious signage of the restaurant on the outside - I love nondescript entrances. This looked like a converted warehouse with a semi industrial ceiling - translating to a largish restaurant fitting 150 patrons. I perched myself at the open kitchen where I counted 8 chefs in action. The large woodoven was well primed to bring incredible smoky flavours. 


Looking around I was also impressed by the dark restaurant with glow of funky lighting, the cement floors, high celings, exposed brick and the large vats near the entrance signalling this is wine central. Alluring also is the interesting dining areas including a main section with tables, bar area and open kitchen with stools, and other small dining spaces.


After the empenadas I was impressed with this sweet potato and cheddar gratin with crispy top...


The Wood Roasted Pork with charred cabbage, sweet potato & cheddar gratin was a magnificent dish, although I was intially tempted by the BBQ Lamb Rump with moroccan eggplant salad, sheeps yoghurt.

The Wood Roasted Pork was the complete meal. The pork itself weas sumptuous, coming from the grill in front of me. Of course there was a slice of crackling to imbibe. The cabbage also resounded with smoky flavours and was slightly blackened. I managed to combine all this with the delectable gratin for an absolute triumph of a meal. Excellent with a Heathcote ShirazNo wonder I was feeling full, as this pork dish was large, designed to be shared by two people. With the entree, and the main enjoyed, I was done.


Nomad is a compelling restaurant that ticks all the boxes. The ambience has a romance, and it was no surprise to see a number of couples here enjoying the moment. Nomad is also a leader in hosting classic wine events. Woodoven bliss here. Highly recommended.

 2. Reuben Hills

Reuben Hills is a uber cafe in trendy Surry Hills that sings with a cacaphony of first class cuisine exuding a playful touch, a chic ambience and top notch coffee. We visired Reuben Hills as part of a sojourn in Surry Hills staying at the Cambridge Hotel nearby. Lining up for 40 minutes on a week day to get in for brunch may seem overbearing, but we soon discovered it was all well worth it. Impressive was the maitre'D giving us regular reports on how the table availablity was looking... Reuben Hills is an elongated and elegant space with exposed brick on a section of the wall and high ceilings.

Reuben Hills is a well oiled unit despite the constant business. Staff are engaging and efficient and ever helpful. Quick to take your order, then quick to see if you have further needs. The food and coffee comes out relatively quickly considering a packed house. Spot a celebrity here - apparently Toby Maguire visited Reuben Hills while promoting The Great Gatsby.


Reuben Hills is famous for several menu items, which is always a good sign. I was always going to order the Fried Chicken w chilli in a basket (comes with expletive on the menu, fair enough). This fried chicken is cooked several different ways to keep the crispy outside and juicy inside. The aoli and the chilli sauce are magnificent to accompany. Surely one of the best fried chickens around. For those into chilli the chillis on top were a winner - as I gnawed on a few for some extra kick.

Reuben Hills is also famous for the NOT reuben wagyu salt brisket, pickled slaw, manchego & horseradish cream on rye. Of course its in the mould or spirit of the Reuben sanwich, but with a twist (no corned beef, no Swiss cheese). We are talking wagyu salt brisket - which would have been dazzling just on its own - perfectly cooked prime beef partnered with the pickled slaw and kick of the manchego cheese and horseradish. The rye itself was a winner in terms of quality artisan bread. Its a hearty sandwich and I wondered why we ordered two fried chicken baskets and baked eggs in addition.

 We ordered another basket of the fried chicken it was that **** good.


Reuben Hills had already blown us away, and that was before their amazing coffee. I may seem in superlative overdrive but it was like that.

The next dish was one of the best we've had - the SOFT Baked Eggs - w jamon OR Morcilla, spinach, ranchero & rye. We chose jamon as the meat of choice. Fair dinkum, this was the best baked eggs dish we've ever experienced - and we've had a few... It was about the flavours coming together in a symphony. Sometimes baked eggs dishes can be tasteless and uninspiring, like the one I'd had a few days before elsewhere. But this knocked our socks off with perfectly cooked bacon, eggs, spinach and right amount of seasoning. Baked egg dishes need some kick, and Reuben Hills gives it the right amount of heat.

Reuben Hills pours a serious coffee. Grab a Panama Esmeralda Mario Enero 2013 (Bergamot & peach tea notes) filter or Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Kochere (Orange blossom & Jasmine tea notes) espresso of the day. I ordered a latte and it hit the mark.These guys are a serious coffee destination, winning the Latorre & Dutch best boutique roaster of 2013. Public coffee cuppings are held weekly Friday 10 am with all welcome.

Reuben Hills has a chic fitout - check the exposed brick section of the wall and spiral staircase. Reuben Hills is a Roastery and its heavy artillery equipment can be seen as you gaze upwards from the maddening crowd. The sense of space is enhanced with a back section opened up and roller door open. 

Reuben Hills is the cafe that keeps on giving. Also famous are the shakes. Choose from combinations that satiate - Salted Caramel, Espresso & White Choc, Mexican Ibarra Choc Chilli, and Lychee, Lime & Coconut. After imbibing the salted caramel shake, it was imperative to order another. The shake was alluring without being sickly.

So many menu options catch the eye, for example the Franks n Beans w soft duck egg, tortilla crisps, chimmichurri, pork sausage and sour cream. Or Short rib burger w garlic ranch dressing & potato salad... Kudos for breakfast menu items being served all day.

Desserts also resonate including Doggs Breakfast ice cream sandwich w salted caramel or Milhoja ‘Thousand Layers’ layered flakey pastry & dulce de leche.

Reuben Hills is a compelling cafe in Sydney and trendy Surry Hills. I've concluded that much of the menu comes with a twist and a kick, which we love. The menu is imaginative and playful. I enjoy cafes where the coffee is amazing but the cuisine is excellent to match. These guys can bat and bowl. Service here is friendly hipster.

If I had to wait another 40 minutes on a Friday morning for my next visit I would. Highly recommended.

3. The Paramount Project


Open spaces, amazing coffee and fine cuisine in the foyer of transformed Paramount House, with the coming together of Reuben Hills Russell Beard and Mark Dundon of Seven Seeds. This is a serious coffee haven with beans sourced form around the world. 


It's the space that draws you in. Some architect has had a high moment with use of textures, artistic expression and the use of light. How artistic is this space! I entered a world of coffee, design, art and blossoms. The Paramount Project shares the large space with a couple of other businesses including a bike shop. The large open space filled with natural light is so appealing to bump up the early morning mood.


The rain was pouring down and the place to be was at the communal table imbibing a stunning coffee at Paramount Coffee Project. Not only was I asked what sort of coffee I wanted (I chose the Seven Seeds Ethiopan specialty coffee) but what sort of milk did I want. They had various forms of cow's milk to choose from. Let alone something like soy.


Everything about Paramount Coffee Project screams design and style. From the timber communal table to the fine blue cups. I can see the influence of Seven Seeds here in the chic design, being a frequenter of this cafe in Melbourne. Paramount Coffee Project is the place to meet. Next to me were a couple sorting out their relationship issues, for all and sundry to hear. Entertainment.


Like many top grade cafes the quality of the food is on a par with the quality of the specialty coffee. Choices abound from the popular Baked eggs with chorizo and cannelini beans, to Crab Po Boy, to my choice the delicious Elvis in Cuba.


Elvis in Cuba. I think the great man would approve. This breakfast ticked all the boxes with pork, kimchi, bacon, kewpie, swiss cheese, and onion rings. But no peanut butter. The title would make some cringe as calorie overdrive, but this was no reckless fry up but an elegant well composed breakfast. And pretty to boot.


As the rain kept falling and I didn't have an umbrella it was time to sample more specialty coffee. Quirky delights abound here including Caramel Popcorn Milkshakes and a Mini chocolate Magnum bathed in espresso. Coffee die hards love this place. Surely one of the best cafes in Sydney.

4. The Winery


The Winery is a hugely popular eclectic wine bar on Crown St, with quirky statues (Elvis related), a cool laneway and funky lighting that glows amid a dark ambience. I took a stool at the bar and indulged in Penfolds Grange at $99 a glass, a "must do". Bartenders were engaging and willing to chat about all things wine.


The Winery is a specialist Wine Bar with many exotic wines to be imbibed. They divide their wine list into simple heading like "French Whites" to help those who may not be able to interpret the long foreign names of the wines.We visited mid week at night and the place was pumping. Even late at night it was difficult to get a stool, let alone a table.


The good news is you can try a plethora of wines here by the glass. The thing to do is to try the Penfolds Grange for $99 a glass. When you think about it this is quite reasonable. There's no way I would buy a bottle (well maybe) but a glass is affordable to sample this amazing nectar.

I found the 1987 Penfolds Grange not light at all, but a heavy full bodied wine (surprise surprise) with many nuances. I savoured every last drop from this 27 year old vintage. Afterwards I was offered some other reds for tasting but I didn't want to spoil the afterglow from the Grange.


The Winery is a difficult place from which to take photos - almost totally dark but for the glow of a few lights (mostly fairy lights and candles), so photo courtesy of The Winery Facebook. The bar staff are engaging and keen to impart their wine knowledge. Being talked through my Penfolds Grange experience was memorable. I would come back here for more Penfolds Grange or some other exotic wine you don't normally get to appreciate, and to check out the food offerings.

5. Bar H


A mainstay of Surry Hills on Foster St, Bar H dining has captured the imagination of diners in its corner location, with its Japanese and Chinese influences. Bar H dining offers interesting almost exotic food.


The ambience is chic and sophisticated, yet not pretentious. We were pleasantly engaged by the maitre'd.Bar H Dining was opened in October 2010 by Chef Hamish Ingham and wife Sommelier Rebecca Lines. As the name suggests Bar H Dining is a wine bar style eatery, fun and vibrant with a relaxed feel about it. The concept is to offer the finest quality food, beverages and service in a relaxed and informal manner.


Bar H Dining is like a Japanese restaurant with a penchant for Chinese interpretations. Says the website - 

"We believe in using the finest sustainable, quality produce. Each week we talk to our suppliers and head to the markets to give you a menu based on the freshest produce available. Our food highlights Hamish’s long love affair with China, his newest love Japan and the indigenous ingredients native to this land." 

Come here for arguably Sydney's best bar snack, the Crisp saltbush and chilli. This featured featuring branches of saltbush deep fried and served with chilli aoli and lemon. So good.Other standouts include Japanese fried chicken, Wagyu rump, and Red-braised duck breast.


Desserts are also brilliant including this Custard Tart with yuzu citrus hit. Fit out is modern with the restaurant housed in a charming historical building with high ceilings. Bottles of wine and books adorn the walls. The restaurant is dark albeit for a few candles and funky lighting, enhanced by the dark fine furniture. Highly recommended.

6. Chur Burger


Chur Burger is one of the best burger joints in Australia hands down. It's loud and it's gourmet. And it's affordable. You could be forgiven this is more like a nightclub than a burger joint with beats pumping. Chur Burger is unique among burger houses and we love it.


Chur is the magic of fine chef Warren Turnbull who translated his dream for great burgers at affordable prices (all $10) and a killer ambience. Now there are several Chur Burger stores around Sydney, with Chur popular from day one. You still see line ups out the door and down the street (rain, hail or shine). When we visited on a Thursday night we took our chances and were relieved to only incur a 15-20 min wait.


Chur Burger is eclectic and quirky. You notice the neon signage, the philosophy written on the wall, and the quirky furniture that is not standard throughout. Staff are also eclectic yet engaging, under constant pressure to deliver large orders to groups in a timely manner without making mistakes. Order from the counter and sit back - even in a packed restaurant you don't have to wait long for your food. The crowd was of the younger variety, and seemed to include a few first dates from we could summise. The hipster meter was in overdrive.


All burgers are interesting and come with great buns. Our barometer for burgers is the beef burger. Chur delivers with Grilled beef, cheese, tomato jam, mustard mayo, pickle - a juicy tasty sensation. This is a large gourmet burger and we are perpetually amazed that it's only $10. The pickles were a highlight and particularly elongated.

The popular Pulled pork, Chur BBQ sauce, red slaw, fennel mayo is also a hit, as an alternative to traditional burgers. Grab a Coopers beer, as we did, and imbibe. Or roll out the vegetarian Spiced chickpea fritter, grated beetroot, honey labne, and check out the Marinated grilled chicken, hot sauce mayo, minted slaw.Chur also delivers on sides with huge serves of fries - including Sweet potato fries, garlic, lime or Chips, chilli salt. A meal in themselves. Chunky as...

The word "chur" means sensational in New Zealand speak. These burgers are chur! We agree!


Image courtesy of Chur Facebook page. Big bad and juicy!Chur Burger also has a plethora of indulgent milkshakes including the delectable salted caramel.

The history of Chur Burger is a story to follow. Says their website - 

"A not so Chur fire destroyed our Chur little burger bar in March of last year - but never fear - Chur urger is back with vengeance! Bigger, beefier and better than ever. Taking over the former Albion Street Kitchen with not only Chur burgers, but now some chups and drunks as well as desserts. Chur Burger is back, open for business, for dinner too. Did we mention we have beer now? Burgers and beers? Now who doesn’t love that? 
Chur burger was born from a simple vision… Warren Turnbull’s love for burgers. Nestled in the back streets of the bustling food-loving haven of Surry Hills, Chur Burger offers a great burger at a great price ($10 – Now that is Chuuuur). Using the tastiest of ingredients, keeping them simple, cooking each burger to order and served with a vanilla milkshake or boutique soft drink, this Chur Burger bar turned into a small frenzy. The locals loved it and it didn’t take long for the Sydney food critics and bloggers to locate the hidden burger joint and we were totally stoked to be named best burger in the Good Food section in the Sydney Morning Herald after trading for only 6 weeks - Chur SMH for the shout out! And now we are back. Designer (and fellow Kiwi bro) Scrap Wall, has created a very cool and laid back environment, as well as our switched on staff and some chill background beats, you can’t help but enjoy your experience at our bigger, better, beer filled Chur Burger bar."
Yes we will continue to line up for Chur Burger and feel its worth it. Highly recommended.

7. Longrain

Longrain always delivers in terms of fresh, Asian cuisine and killer ambience. The challenge was to match Greek wines with the hot Asian cuisine. The Sashimi of Kingfish, caramelised cashew nut nahm jim, trout roe, micro herbs with a ton of heat went surprisingly well with the 2013 Kir Yianni Petra.


The Kir Yianni Petra actually matched with all the Asian dishes we enjoyed at Longrain.


The World Loves Melbourne noted the solid number of diners at Longrain on a lazy weeknight...

Here we have Longrain in its element. How can you come to Longrain and not have some of the Eggnet. It was a flavour explosion of Filled eggnet, prawns, peanuts, caramelised coconut, cucumber relish. And superb with Greek wine. I found the Kir Yianni to be something like Sauvignon Blanc with straw characteristics.



The Prawn salad, mint, chilli, lime and roasted rice matched perfectly to the 2013 Kir Yianni Petra. This was the designed match for the evening, as the strong flavours of the salad matched with the Kir Yianni Petra - low in alcohol and higher in acid.


8. Zushi


 Zushi is a compelling Japanese restaurant in Surry Hills with chic ambience and top notch cuisine that delivers the traditional but with a modern twist. We visited as a family and loved the experience as one of our best for the year.


The menu is attractive and affordable and displays flair and inventiveness.

Chef Lee brings his 27 years experience to our kitchen and creates a mix of sushi and innovative Izakaya inspired dishes using carefully sourced local ingredients. Sharing is caring in the tradition of Asian dining, so we encourage a tapas style dining experience whether you are a group of two or twenty.


We were surprisingly offered a table after walking in off the street into a packed restaurant. A highlight is that staff collectively greet you upon entry. You are taken aback yet delighted - in the moment we responded ourselves with a muted greeting.

The Popcorn chicken was suitably crispy on the outside and tender within, and the portion was generous. The honey mayo was a perfect accompaniment. A definite winner for the kids and comments about "better than KFC".

The sushi rolls were outstanding and we ordered 2 types - fresh fillings and wonderful presentation. The tiger roll was our favourite - QLD banana prawn tempura,cucumber, prawn+avocado, honey mayo and sweet soy sauce.

The Ocean Rolls are also excellent - huon TAS salmon, cucumber, avo, seared salmon, honey mayo, sweetsoy, tobiko. Zushi is famous for its "inside out" rolls - with prime ingredients on the outside of the rolls instead of the rice.

Zushi has several attractive dining spaces including an upstairs area. We were near the front entrance and could see the masterful chefs at work in the kitchen.

The fit out is modern and the atmosphere casual but still with an air of some sophistication. The lighting was a tad dim lending itself to the romantic. The courtyard around the corner looked even more romantic with fairy lights.

Chefs look smart in their attire and the service was engaging and attentive.The kids were also keen for Teriyaki chicken - wok tossed chicken in teriyaki sauce which hit the spot. 


Pork ribs were another highlight -twice cooked pork ribs,Japanese bbq sauce, julienned beetroot, shallots...This was one of the best pork dishes we enjoyed for the year. 


9. Bourke St Bakery


Bourke St Bakery Lucy 

Bourke St Bakery is an iconic bakery and cafe institution in Sydney with perennial queues out the door. Sydneysiders can't get enough of this fare, baked fresh and with captivating gourmet allure.

As you can see from the photo above this place hums - with now several cafes in the stable across Sydney. Lucy and James visited during a conference held nearby - and would love this to be our daily staple.

The Chocolate and rasberry muffins are outstanding, as are the toasted sandwiches which are massive. Namely Chicken, Pickled Celery, Emmental Cheese, Crispy Pancetta & Lemon Tarragon Mayo on White Sourdough... So goooood! Worth lining up for... And the humble Toasted Ham and cheese croissant is turned into something amazing...

Bourke St Bakery Lucy2 

Says their website -

"Paul Allam and David McGuinness began Bourke Street Bakery in the winter of 2004. Both were baker / chefs who shared a love of good food.
Through the seasons 
Bourke Street Bakery has grown into a Sydney institution for people who have the same love affair. Bourke Street Bakery makes everything by hand with the best possible ingredients.
A combination of great produce, artisanal skill and hard work creates the honest, soulful, delectable bites that Bourke Street Bakery has become famous for".

Bourke St Bakery can be described as small and busy - more likely to get a table outside than inside. Or grab and go.

Bourke St Bakery 2 

Bourke St deliver on taste - never boring - but fresh and gourmet. Check out the Brioche Beef Burger – Roast Beef, Cheese, Tomato, Beetroot, Dill Pickles & BBQ Sauce...

Bourke St Bakery surry-hills-dawn 

Bourke St Bakery serves up pies with an extra dimension to the normal cuisine of most bakeries. How about Pork & Fennel Sausage Roll? Or Beef Brisket, Red Wine & Mushroom Pie?

Bourke St Bakery also delivers on its fresh juices, the Iced Belgian chocolate and Lemonade... So refreshing...

Bourke St Bakery sourdough

And the array of Pastries and Breads is stunning... I counted about 16 types of Sourdough alone. Bourke St Bakery also offer catering, cooking classes and functions services. Check out their website. 

10. Devon Cafe 


Devon Cafe in Surry Hills has to be one of the best cafes in Australia. The pedigree is unmistakable - as the sous chef from iconic Bistro Guillaume Zacharay Tan and Jacqui Ektoros from former Guillaime at Bennelong have partnered to create the Devon Café.


 Devon Cafeticks all the boxes. A chic, if unpretentious cafe on Devonshire St in Surry Hills is a tad nondescript. This is near the hurly burly of Central Station and is a humble precinct on a narrow street. Come here for top notch coffee served in vibrant red cups. Devon Cafe featured Industry Beans from Melbourne during our visit, a familiar coffee blend for us!

Ambience is pleasant with large windows, sizeable communal table, quirky blackboards and great use of timber. Intimate, stylish and exciting menu options. Table service was impressive, with a steady traffic of take away coffee and quick counter food also popular.


Devon Cafe pleases also with its weekday specials. Customers can look forward to stunning variations in th emenu and the talented chefs can display their craft. Slow roasted lamb for goodness' sake - where cafe meets fine dining.

Devon Cafe served me the best breakfast I've had all year - the Breakfast with the Sakuma's. Japanese influences were to the fore with Miso grilled king salmon, smoke eel croquette, 63 degree egg, radish petit salad and kewpi mayonaisse.

The balance of flavours was spectacular. Each element was to be celebrated. The generous portion of king salmon had miso nuances and subtle spices on top, and the eel croquette had delightful smoky flavours to match the clean hit of salmon. The runny 63 degree egg danced with the cacophony of texture and flavour. It just all worked brilliantly. Then the piquant salad was a triumph (for someone who doesn't rush to the salad bar).


Also appealing were othe menu options such as Little Lost Bread French toast, the Breakfast of Champions with Spanish blood sausage, and the Two Chicks in Basque with baked eggs.Menu items are imaginative and fun. This is not predictable breakfast fare but breaks the mould.


 We think this is how a cafe should be and can be... A plethora of imaginative food offerings, catering for small snacks and larger meals, and service and coffee of the highest order.


Devon by Night is an amazing development where the cafe opens later to provide stunning meals - Thursday to Saturday 6pm to 10pm. This features casual dinner options with Asian influences. Think lobster rolls and fried ice cream bao. Highly recommended.