Sweet on Sydney's Surry Hills

Sparkle Cupcakery in Sydney's Surry Hills. Picture: Supplied

Like many foodie business travellers short on time, I usually consider myself lucky if I can grab a macaron or two at Adriano Zumbo or Laduree or a box of Krispy Kremes at the airport.

But if you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Sydney with a morning or afternoon spare and a smart phone in hand, it's worth checking out some of the cafes generating a buzz on social media, particularly in the growing foodie hubs of Newtown, Redfern and Surry Hills.

The hearty breakfast menu at Reuben Hills in Surry Hills is inspired by its owners' coffee-buying trips through Central and South America. The cafe sources much of its sustainable coffee from Ethiopia and Kenya; on my visit the house espresso was an Ethiopian blend from farms in Kochere and Shakiso.

Breakfast dishes include brioche with dulce de leche, or spice things up with my pick of the menu: the hearty charquican - Chilean beef stew with soft fried egg, tomato rice and fermented pebre (a kind of salsa). With an explosive mix of textures and flavours, it's probably the best breakfast I've had this year.

A quick stroll from Reuben Hills is the Paramount Coffee Project, opened in October by Reuben Hills' owner Russell Beard and friends to bring together the best local and international coffee minds.

The light-filled, gallery-styled space with glossy white tiles prompted Time Out Sydney magazine to ask if it was the most beautiful cafe Sydney had ever seen.

PCP is in the heritage-listed Paramount Pictures building, also home to the Golden Age Cinema and Bar.

Known for its waffles, PCP also has a secret menu, which patrons can learn about at its Facebook page.

Recently a popular dessert named "diabetes" made from a cronut, peanut butter ice-cream, dulce de leche and drenched in espresso landed the cafe in hot water, with people in the diabetes community expressing outrage on the cafe's Facebook page.

An apology followed and "diabetes" disappeared, to later reappear as "candy mountain".

No stroll through Surry Hills would be complete without a visit to Bourke Street Bakery, a tiny place with a big reputation matched only by the queues for its hearty pies, flaky pastries and tempting cakes.

There's precious little space inside for seating, with many sharing benches outside or, as I did, a park bench across the street where I tucked into a chicken, sweet potato, pea and lime pickle pie for $5.30.

Sweet treats include blackberry jam lamingtons (check the website for which days they are made), lemon curd tarts and ricotta slice.

The popular bakery, operating since 2004, now has outlets in other suburbs including Potts Point, Marrickville and Alexandria.

Assuming you haven't eaten your fill at Bourke Street, make more room for a sugar rush at Sparkle Cupcakery.

There you will be greeted by a drool-worthy cabinet chock-full of delicious cupcakes as close to the famous Sprinkles cupcakes in Los Angeles as I've seen Down Under.

Sparkle cakes are baked with free-range eggs, creamy butter, Heilala vanilla and Belgian chocolate. Individual cupcakes cost $4.80 and flavours include black velvet, lemon squeeze, salted caramel and the classic vanilla pure sparkle.

Artisan gelato has taken hold of Sydney, with Gelato Messina drawing hordes well into the night at its stores in Surry Hills, The Star, Darlinghurst and Bondi.

This gelato is so popular there's now a store in Melbourne and more expansion plans for Sydney.

Gelato Messina has been making delicious ice treats from scratch with fresh ingredients since 2002. There are more than 40 flavours made fresh daily, including fat-free and dairy-free sorbets.

The gelato is inspired by the owners' Sicilian heritage and, according to its website, their loyal "and slightly mad customers", who demand "quality, a diverse range of flavours, and continually evolving concoctions".

At $3 a scoop, $6 a double and $7 a triple, a trip to Gelato Messina is affordable luxury.

Gelato Messina also teases its 47,000 Instagram followers daily with photos of pastries, cakes and other sweet treats from the creative department at its Darlinghurst branch. Just try to resist the Shake 'n' Fry, a fresh cinnamon doughnut filled with raspberry jam, topped with vanilla custard soft serve and served with a salted caramel popcorn milkshake.

If you're feeling guilty about over-consumption, don't. Although taxis are plentiful day and night, it's an easy walk from Surry Hills back into the CBD.


Reuben Hills, reubenhills.com.au. ·Paramount Coffee Project, facebook.com/ theparamountcoffeeproject.

Bourke St Bakery, bourkestreetbakery.com.au.

Sparkle Cupcakery, sparklecupcakery.com.au.

Gelato Messina, gelatomessina.com.

Eveleigh Farmers Markets at Carriageworks, eveleighmarket.com.au.

Sue Yeap visited Sydney as a guest of Destination NSW.

Right side of the tracks

Across the tracks, Redfern's neighbour Eveleigh is another once-overlooked suburb benefiting from a creative and food resurgence. The old railyards dating back to the 1880s have been transformed into the heritage-listed Carriageworks, which since 2007 has hosted art exhibitions, dance and music events such as the exclusive appearances of the Pet Shop Boys as part of Vivid Sydney. While most tourists know about popular weekend markets at Paddington and The Rocks, a local favourite for foodies is the Eveleigh Farmers' Market held every Saturday from 8am to 1pm. It features 70 stalls offering the best of NSW's farmers and artisan food producers. Keep an eye out for celebrity chef Kylie Kwong, whose Billy Kwong restaurant has a stall offering dishes including its classic steamed pork buns.