Cafes on the lower north shore often come with lots of greenery, space for dogs, generous dishes and in many cases, Sydney Harbour views. Less crowded and less frazzled than the Eastern Suburbs and the Inner West, this area gives you room to breathe and stretch your legs. Whether you tuck into mushrooms and burrata on the water at Kirribilli Wharf or into colourful plates at Balmoral, leave time afterwards to kick back in a park or explore a bit of the Harbour you haven't visited before. In partnership with luxury property company Aqualand and its new Blue at Lavender Bay development, here's your guide to ten of the lower north shore's finest cafes.
THE LANEWAY CAFE, CAMMERAY
Eight years ago, brothers James and Will Christopher (Ms Miller, The Public) took over a garage in a back laneway of Cammeray and turned it into a cafe. A peaceful escape from Miller Street's hustle and bustle, The Laneway Cafe offers shelter both inside and outside (there's a hidden courtyard). As at Sotto On West (see below), you'll probably find a dog or two at a neighbouring table, so feel free to bring your own pooch. The brekkie menu has standouts like the Good Morning Burger with bacon, egg, avo, hash brown, tomato, cheese, paprika and aioli, while the lunch menu covers salads, pastas, burgers and fresh ciabatta rolls.
CELSIUS COFFEE CO, KIRRIBILLI
Cafes don't get any closer to the water than Celsius on Kirribilli Wharf, right next to where the ferry docks. Claim a seat next to the window and you'll feel like you're bobbing on the Harbour. The coffee comes from ONA with two house blends, so whether you're a nutty type, or if you like your coffee a bit fruity, there's an option for you. Dishes on the local produce-driven menu include tasty treats like the sautéed oyster and shiitake mushrooms served with local burrata cheese and chimichurri, and the Super Greens Breakfast with kale, asparagus, lime avocado and poached eggs.
BIRDWOOD, LANE COVE
This neatly-designed cafe with a lovely, leafy view is from the team behind Marrickville's Double Roasters. Like The Laneway Cafe in Cammeray, this hidden cafe is up a laneway and away from Lane Cove's hectic main drag. If you like variety, you'll be impressed by their brew menu. On top of the famous Flight Path house blend, there's always a few single origins to choose from. For a tasty breakfast fix, go for the three-cheese croque monsieur with ham from local butcher, Black Forest.
AVENUE ROAD, MOSMAN
Another project by the Double Roasters crew. The coffee is great, but there's a bigger emphasis on food. Pretty much every time you visit you'll find a new temptation on the menu, be it chocolate, marscapone and banana muffins, or coconut waffles with coffee-infused gelato. With design features as comfort-focused as the food, the cafe features an assortment of quirky lamp shades, a teaspoon collection to measure up against your grandma's and chairs you can settle into all arvo long.
SPROUT WHOLEFOOD, NAREMBURN
Just walking into Sprout Wholefood makes you feel like you've done something good for your body. All the healthy things are here — cashew cream, quinoa, kale, black sesame seeds — and they're all transformed into tasty, tasty bowls and burgers. For coffee, there's Gabriel, but if you're off the caffeine, go for their Golden Milk turmeric latte with cinnamon, honey, black pepper and coconut oil, or one of their smoothies (Choco Bliss with cacao, mesquite, banana and almond milk).
Facebook / 67 Union. St Deli
67 UNION ST. DELI, MCMAHONS POINT
Think lots of white paint, flowers, succulents, colourful throws and suspended teapots, 67 Union St is bright, fresh and beautifully designed. Sit inside around a communal table, or outside on a cushion-covered milk crate, and take your pick from the short, healthy menu. The cafe also offers up a tasty list of baked goods to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Instagram / @what_sarah_saw
SOTTO ON WEST, NORTH SYDNEY
Opt to eat outdoors if you can score a seat on Sotto on West's lovely, shady deck. Otherwise, sit inside and check out the funky lighting — upside-down cups and saucers turned into lamp shades. Either in or out, you may be sharing the space with dogs — they're just as welcome as you are. The dogspotting is next level, the Allpress coffee is decent and the dishes are generous and imaginative. Recent creations include berry-coconut muffins with ginger, cacao nibs and turmeric, and roasted pumpkin salad with heirloom tomatoes, walnuts and chargrilled corn.
Rob Domjen Photography
THE BOATHOUSE, BALMORAL
Even if you've never been to The Boathouse, you've probably seen it on Instagram. Balmoral is just one branch of The Boathouse tree, with sister cafes at Palm Beach, Shelly Beach and Whale Beach, and as at the others, here you can expect epic water views, piles of flowers, massive pot plants and dishes born for social media. The lunch menu is big on seafood, so expect to struggle looking past the cold seafood platter and a bottle of Bollinger.
THE ROOTS ESPRESSO, NORTH SYDNEY
Coffee nerds, this one's for you. Step into this stripped-back coffee laboratory, and go for a standard flat white or cappuccino, or experiment with a pour-over or siphon coffee. Order at the counter, and sip your coffee of choice surrounded by lots of concrete, pylons and glass vessels filled with brews. Start your day the healthy way with the grain and chia bircher with rhubarb, seasonal fruits, nuts and sesame snaps, and at lunch, get stuck into a sanga like the roast pork with crackling, fennel, slaw and apple sauce.
BAY TEN ESPRESSO, LAVENDER BAY
Hidden beneath the Harbour Bridge's northern approach, the best way to arrive at Bay Ten Espresso is by bike. Not only is that ride over the Bridge stunning, but you'll also want to bike over since the cafe shares its 10-metre high warehouse space with The Body Mechanic, a bunch of elite athletes who can give you a physio session while you wait for your coffee. Beans come from White Horse, with batch brews and cold drips sitting alongside your standard coffees. As for food? Simple, classic and fresh.
Surround yourself with everything the lower north shore has to offer at Aqualand's Blue at Lavender Bay development. The best restaurants, cafes, bars and activities are all on your doorstep.