Coffee In Kings Cross: Journey Along the Caffeine Kilometre
Looking for a good coffee in Kings Cross? On a hunt for the very best coffee shops in Sydney? Just need somewhere to escape for a while with a nice warm cup? Kings Cross local John Borthwick has pulled together an entire mile of Kings Cross cafes that will keep you caffeinated for days.
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Darlinghurst Road, the old main drag of Sydney’s Kings Cross links two landmarks, the El Alamein fountain and the giant Coke sign. There’s coffee shops at each end, in-between and off to the side. Hell of a change from when this was the so-called “Golden Mile” of sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
If you geo-stretch the notion of “the Cross” a city block or two south past the Coke sign to Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, instead of the Golden Mile — which was, anyhow, more like the Tawdry Quarter — you’ve got a Caffeine Kilometre, where more than 20 espresso rigs foam and hiss, day and night. We investigate.
Appraising these life-support stations and their fixes is a mine-field of variables: ever-changing baristas, new blends, star-signs, the weather, whatever. One coffee snob’s cup of nectar today might be another’s dishwater tomorrow. So we’ve skipped the beauty parade. If a place is alive and kicking on this list, we reckon their coffee and vibes rate from more-than-good to almost-great.
For wannabe epicureans seeking a decaf grande, half-soy, half-low-fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry… etc (as comic pundit George Carlin put it), in Kings Cross that’s called a “Why Bother?”. And so we don’t.
Your coffee crawl begins at the sun-spangled fountain, slurps its way down Darlinghurst Road with a few diversions, meets the devil beneath the Coke sign at the king’s crossroads, and then sashays south on queen Victoria. May the thirst be with you.
Café de la Fontaine
Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death and sweet as love. Turkish proverb.
At the corner of Darlinghurst (“Darling-it-hurts”) Road and Macleay Street, right opposite the El Alamein, patisserie La Fontaine is about as French as you get in the Cross without having to order in it.
Indoor and sidewalk seating for about 30 eager customers. Croissants, eclairs and pain au chocolate, of course. Cast: flâneurs, Insta-chasers, confidants, an occasional rock poet. Cards only.
Where: 1A Darlinghurst Rd, Potts Point
When: 7am-5.30pm 7 days
I want someone to look at me the way I look at coffee. Anon
Room 10: as in “room for ten”? In the same narrow Llankelly laneway as Piña (in fact, directly opposite and with the same management team), this bonsai-sized, outdoors-only heart-starter institute does a roaring morning trade.
Lucky if you can find a seat (fortunate if you have time to eat), which is a stool anyhow, but cool. The food menu, almost longer than Room 10’s own kitchen is wide, and stars all-day breakfast, wraps, melts, salads, and more. Muscular, aptly-named Mecca coffee is the main magnet.
Where: 10 Llankelly Pl, Potts Point
When: 7am-3pm, 7 days
Decaf coffee only works if you throw it at people. Anon
At the northern end of the Llankelly Place pedestrian laneway, parallel to Macleay Street, the popular Piña café-restaurant grinds on from early until whenever. Limited indoor seating but ample outdoor tables from which you can check and be checked by the passing parade.
Eclectic menu, prompt service and roasted coffee that speaks with authority. Liquor licensed. Etiquette for solos: it’s hit-and-run coffee here rather than reading War and Peace or streaming a series.
Where: 4/29 Orwell St, Potts Point
Bloom Café Aperitivo
He was my cream and I was his coffee. And when you poured us together, it was something. Josephine Baker
This relaxed off-Broadway retreat 150 metres down from Darlinghurst Road fronts Roslyn, Ward and Kellett streets. More a respectable Potts Point identity than a KX suspect.
Bloom has a spacious nest of rooms plus a wide outdoor patio area. No hipsta baristas or sangfroid poseurs here, but a haven for conversation, sporadic live music and unhurried coffee-cake-brunch-lunch.
Where: 66-68 Kellett St, Potts Point
When: Wed-Sat 8am-10pm, Sunday 8am-3pm
Six o’clock I’m goin’ down/ Coffee’s hot and the toast is brown …/ Drunks come in, paper bag, Brandivino/ Dreams fly away/ As she pulls another cappuccino. Cold Chisel
A stayer, in Bayswater Road opposite the Cross’s last row of grand old dame Victorian terraces. Polyglot menu with a Mediterranean lilt, served from a serious kitchen.
Full breakfasts, daily specials, salads, etc. Plenty of al fresco seating with shade umbrellas. Uliveto (“olive grove”) diversity: babies and Boomers, ladies who lunch, fading spivs, poodles and greyhounds. The place buzzes on the weekend. Licensed.
Where: 33 Bayswater Rd, Potts Point
When: 7am-4pm, 7 days
Compared to Vienna, all other coffee is fluid poverty. Mark Twain
Front-row stalls at KX Ground Zero, the six-wheeled circus maximus where William, Victoria, Darlinghurst, Craigend and Kings Crossroads collide and splinter.
Café 169 Darlinghurst is a sunny, long, skinny thing with mock-Elizabethan murals, tessellated flooring, bentwood chairs and much tête-à-tête. Add an open-air patio with street-side vapours and a long black chaser. All-day menu including vego options. Licensed. Busy on weekends.
Where: 169 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst
The first cup is for the guest, the second for enjoyment, and the third for the sword. Old Arab saying
Coolest address in Sydney? At Number One Kings Cross Road, Frankie’s occupies an elevated, street-front podium. House canteen for the adjacent Elan and Altair condos.
Indoor and outdoor seating, the best (the only?) jaffles for miles, plus other brunchy stuff. Efficient and tranquil. Agenda: read the paper, plan your day or a country invasion, plot world peace.
Where: Shop 3/1 Kings Cross Rd, Darlinghurst
When: Mon-Fri: 6am-3pm Weekends 7am-11am
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons. T.S Eliot
Facing Darlo Road from the ground floor of the Kirkton Hotel, Jamie’s is spacious, calm and well-lit, if not over-lit. Full-frame kitchen and menu. A clientele of hotel guests, blow-ins and local apartment habitués.
A conversation-friendly, linger-longer place where a budding de Beauvoir or J.K Rowling might find time and space to crank out a chapter. Ambience: politeness, shelter from the storm and trends.
Where: 229 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst
When: 7.30am-3pm, seven days
Coffee in England is just toasted milk. Christopher Fry
Morning, glorious here with a double shot of redemption. St John’s Anglican Church (1858) watches from across the street and blesses your daily grinds. Darlinghurst Road and Tewkesbury Avenue meet on this corner. Result, a macciato-bred neologism, Dar-bury.
Formerly a laundry, now reborn as an intimate coffee nookery. The limited indoor/outdoor seating includes curb-side milk-crates and four sunny tables with shade brollies. Pastries, snacks, liquor licence and always friendly service. Little Marionette coffee is the kick-starter blend.
Where: 1/249 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst
When: Mon-Thu – 7am-2:30pm, Fri-7am-10pm, Sat Sun 8am-2:30pm
Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee? Albert Camus
Established 1993. “Cards accepted. Cash preferred” says the sign. Two/three blokes and four heroic women each morning make this veteran institution fly. Early-opener, heart-starter hours and then — all over by 1 p.m.
A loyal clientele of caffeinds and their attendant canines populates the morning footpath and its ten or so tables. Breakfast, fresh croissants and top coffee. Café society on the run, almost a second family for some.
Where: Shop 2/304 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
When: 5am-1pm daily
One more cup of coffee for the road/ One more cup of coffee ‘fore I go/ to the valley below. Bob Dylan
Founded in 1980, “The Trop” has doubled in size, changed hands, outlived the legendary Bar Coluzzi across the road, given birth to the Trop Fest film festival, changed hands again and kept right on watering the horses. Licensed. Good pasta and salads, cakes and great soup.
Illy coffee, changing faces, consistent baristas. A hang-out for meetings, reading, deals, lovers, eccentrics, conspiracy theorists and such — room for all.
Grab a bacon and egg roll, the classic Aussie takeaway breakfast.
Where: 227 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
When: 5.30am-9pm daily
Wanna hear a joke? Decaf. Anon
Victoria Street’s best-known secret. Hole-in-the-wall pit-stop of champions. Oz and Korean breakfasts and light meals. Little Italy coffee. Year-round street table seating but with hot-water bottles and blankets in winter.
Clientele: the dawn patrol, night hawks still rolling home and caffeine tragics, plus fans of the endlessly warm owner-cook-coffee boss. Opens red-eye early, closes by siesta time.
Where: 320b Victoria St, Darlinghurst.
When: 5am-4pm, daily
Drink coffee! Do stupid things faster with more energy. Anon
Bake Bar artisan sourdough bakery (next door to Already Awesome) occupies a hallowed spot, the site of old Bar Coluzzi, begetter of post-War Sydney’s espresso culture and Darlinghurst caffeine resurgence.
As the name suggests, plenty of bakery in this bar, notably bagels, filled rolls and sandwiches. Hot spot for breakfasters-on-the-run and a weekend coffee klatch of boxers, strays and all-comers. Early-bird hours, closes mid-arvo.
Where: Shop 3/320-324B Victoria St, Darlinghurst (Bake Bar has several other locations across the city)
When: 6am-2pm daily
I don’t know what I’d do without coffee. I’m guessing 25 to life. Anon
Way south on Victoria Street. An extreme outlier of the Cross (you’re deep in Darlinghurst postcode now), Little Bishop is the off-site ER for St Vincent’s Hospital workers ploughing through another day-shift. Not much bigger than a conspiracy of phone booths but it pumps out just what the doc, nurse or anyone ordered.
Skip the drip coffees, this is straight-to-the-vein barista craft. Mostly SRO with a few bench seats. Breakfast snacks to go, a fast-moving queue and then it’s everyone back to the battlefront.
Where: 269 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
When: Mon-Fri: 6am-4pm, Sat. 6.30am-1pm
Map of our favourite Kings Cross Coffee Shops and Cafes
Whether you like to discover great house roasted coffee or prefer a cold drip you will find something grand among this lot so click the map and save it to your phone for your next visit to Kings Cross.
We are looking for the best coffee shops in other parts of Sydney, so share your favourite coffee shop in the comments and we will try to check it out