An insider’s guide to the best places to eat brunch waterside and enjoy top-notch food in The Shire.
When the weather is warm or the city slickers have had enough of the hustle and bustle, they pack their bags and head down south. What’s becoming more of a trend is a weekend away in Cronulla Beach, and it’s obvious by the inability to find a car park from 9am on Saturdays and Sundays. Granted that it’s not what some people would call “a weekend away”, we can see its attraction – picturesque beaches, famed oceans pools, and most importantly, an emerging food scene. Whether you’re walking on the esplanade with a hot brew and pastry in hand, brunching with the girls over waterfront views, cozying up for date night at an authentic family-owned Italian restaurant, or splurging on a fine dining experience, the food is sure to impress and keep you coming back for more.
Situated pretty much on the esplanade, Next Door is an iconic location for breakfast waterside. You may have to wait 30 minutes for a table, but it will be worth it when you’re dining alfresco, gazing out onto North Cronulla Beach. Head Chef Luke Arnull says, “We only serve what we’d love to make our friends”, which guarantees the food is good and the service is welcoming. The all-day brunch menu is a clear highlight featuring the classic avocado toast on sourdough with Persian feta, vine-ripened tomatoes, pomegranate, basil oil and wild rocket, jalapeno corn fritters with poached eggs, beetroot labneh, pita, chili chutney and guacamole, or if craving something sweet, Pepe Saya buttermilk pancakes with caramelized banana, Canadian maple syrup, and vanilla mascarpone.
A brunch spot that never fails to impress is Blackwood Pantry. With a seasonally rotating menu, there’s always something new to look forward to. Whether it be strawberries on toast in the summer sunshine, or warm Turkish eggs to beat the winter chill. A guaranteed number of ‘activewear mums’ means you’re bound to see at least one cute dog prancing around outside. They also have extensive menu options for vegan/vegetarians, with the ‘felafel balls’ being a standout for vegos and carnivores alike.
If you’re a coffee snob and need a guaranteed good hit, HAM is your go-to. From espresso to flat white, cold brew and filter, they’ve got it all. As you wait in line, try not to drool as you pick your snack from the glass cabinet. From freshly made bacon and egg rolls, homemade quiches and sweet pastries, there’s always something to take with your morning coffee. A sit-down breakfast on the weekends can leave you waiting 45 minutes for a table and honestly, the takeaway menu is so good, we’d recommend grabbing something to go and walking down to the beach. What would we order? Call us boring but the ham and cheese croissant is the best we’ve ever had. The croissants are oversized and glossy with a film of butter leaving them extra delicious once they leave the toaster. With freshly cut ham off the bone, cheese, and the perfect amount of warmth and toastiness, these ham and cheese croissants are no joke. Oh, and if there’s a Portuguese tart – don’t leave without one.
Owned and operated by the same team behind HAM, it’s no surprise this cafe is on our list. This Japanese-inspired cafe is hidden inside a bike shop as the perfect disguise for its deliciousness. For breakfast, chow down on the egg yariman roll with parmesan shallot scrambled eggs, avocado, crispy bacon and sriracha mayonnaise served on a fresh milk bun or the okonomiyaki waffle topped with sweet potato hummus, onion jam, crispy pancetta, a soft poached egg and harissa macadamia mayo. All the dishes feature signature Japanese flavours and ingredients, including the lunch menu with highlights including spicy salmon avocado sushi, served with edamame and miso soup, miso-glazed cha shu pork ramen and to die for fluffy bao buns with katsu chicken. For something a little different, we’d opt for RUSHI.
Famous for putting Cronulla on the foodie map, Alphabet Street serves up some of the best modern Asian cuisines in Sydney. Every mouthful is an explosion of flavour and it’s very rare for this restaurant not to be a flavour of Cronulla locals. If you’re heading in with friends, we suggest going all out and ordering the banquet menu for just $65pp. You’ll get a selection of dishes designed to share including betel leaf with prawn, coconut and lime, chicken roti, crispy fish with three flavour sauce, massaman beef, and more. For $75pp, let the chefs feed you and take you on a culinary journey with all of the Alphabet signatures. And the restaurant is equally as well known for its apple martini with vanilla vodka, fresh apple and lemon.
If you’re after no-frills Italian, Little Italy is the place to go. This family-operated restaurant is run by Italians which gives you a good indication it’s authentic. The place is bustling every night with families getting their pizza and pasta fix, and it’s very rare a family visits only once. Begin with freshly made bruschetta, as you would in Italy, and move onto a selection of antipasti including arancini, meatballs and carpaccio. It’s an impossible mission to choose from the 16 kinds of pasta on the menu, all handmade daily by Chef Antonio. Our top picks would be the gnocchi bolognese with slow-cooked beef & pork bolognese sauce, as well as the fettuccine al pesto with fresh basil, roasted pine-nuts, garlic and parmesan. There’s no bad pick on the pizza menu when they’re all kissed by fire and smoke inside the woodfire oven. Oldies but goodies would be the classic margarita with fresh tomato, mozzarella and fresh bazil, and the prosciutto with tomato, mozzarella, rocket and shaved parmesan.
Situated just meters up from the esplanade across from North Cronulla Beach, Giro Osteria is serving up the best pasta in Cronulla. Step inside the small restaurant and feel as though you’ve been magically transported to Italy, without the need for a boarding pass. The red and white check table cloths and friendly Italian hospitality are comforting and the hanging deli meats and aromatics from the kitchen solidify the restaurant’s authenticity. The menu is designed to be shared in the true spirit of Italian cuisine. Begin with freshly sliced spicy sopressa and stracciatella with a side sourdough and smashed cherry tomatoes. For mains, we suggest always getting whatever the specials are – they’re specials for a reason. Menu staples would be the fluffy house-made gnocchi with burnt butter, sage and gorgonzola, pasta con ragu and linguine of prawns, zucchini and chili. Our recommendation is to not leave Cronulla without a visit to Giro.
Taking Japanese fusion to new heights is Henry’s. With an alfresco dining situation for when the Cronulla sun is at its peak, as well as modern interiors for cozying up inside, it’s the perfect spot for lunch and dinner. At the helm of the kitchen is Head Chef Allan Mikami, a Brazil-native with Japanese parents boasting a unique ability to combine the flavours of Japan and South America. Dig into everything from crispy flathead tacos with habanero mayo, yellowfin tuna sashimi with ponzu and cucumber remoulade and the unmissable Alaskan king crab soldiers with foie gras and sorrel. Find out more here
The Pines is Cronulla’s newest addition just footsteps from North Cronulla Beach. The restaurant takes its inspiration from The Hamptons, celebrating the beauty of the local coastline with an open-air inspired dining room. As for the menu, expect fresh, seasonal local produce sourced from some of Australia’s most celebrated producers. Enjoy signature dishes such as Rump Cap from Rangers Valley (the world’s most respected premium marbled beef producers) as well as sustainably sourced Humpty Doo Barramundi. There’s also freshly shucked oysters, seared scallops, classic macaroni and cheese with lobster, and even a selection of gourmet pizzas. Find out more here
Loving the coastal restaurant roundups? Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Bondi here