The rise of the café bookstore has created a way to combine all the best parts of an afternoon off. These delightful cafés provide you with the perfect setting to have your next lunch or coffee date. Over the past few weeks I’ve taken the time to discover some of Sydney’s best cafés for bookworms. To help break it down, I’ve come up with criteria to make it easier to decide where you’d like to eat on your next literary adventure.

  • Best Feature
  • Atmosphere
  • Range of books

Ampersand Café Bookstore

Ampersand has found the perfect balance between a successful café and a unique and cosy bookstore. It café has won many awards, including the National Award for best Coffee/Tea House in 2012. The multiple levels and rooms allow you to find your own space among the literature to shy away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street. It also has an outdoor seating area if you’d rather bask in the sun. I was able to try out four of their most popular dishes.

coffee and books



food display cabinet
The café offers a selection of fresh food from the display cabinet that changes daily.

Ampersandian (Baked free-range eggs, kale, red kidney beans, beetroot relish, black quinoa, yogurt tahini with sourdough toast.) – $18.90

My mother is a huge fan of baked eggs, and as soon as I saw this dish on the menu it made me think of her. The Ampersandian is definitely a healthy way to start the day. Kale and quinoa? Those two ingredients alone are already a recipe for a hipster’s morning delight.

Mediterranean (Poached eggs, slow-roasted tomato, baby spinach, grilled haloumi cheese on schicciata with basil pesto and served with lemon and balsamic dressing) – $15.90

The Mediterranean was my personal favourite. The haloumi provided a rich saltiness to contrast the poached eggs and the acidity of the roasted tomatoes. The pesto added an unexpected burst of flavour that tied it all together.

Porridge (Sticky Black rice, coconut milk, sago and maple sweet potato)– $14.90

I can honestly say this is the most interesting porridge I’ve ever tasted. Even though I loved the idea of it, I have to say I was a little apprehensive before trying it. All of the ingredients I have eaten before, but the combination was a new one. But I was pleasantly surprised. I’m still a little unsure of the sweet potato and probably would have preferred banana. But other than that it was really tasty. The texture of the sticky rice was perfect. It wasn’t sweet, but the coconut milk and brown sugar helped balance it.

eggs benedict
Eggs Benedict (Poached eggs, crispy bacon and hollandaise sauce)- $15.90

As my good friend Milly would say, you can’t go past a good eggs benny. This one was just as good as the next, and as much as I love ham, bacon and hollandaise is a pretty tasty treat.

Best Feature: The tables are set up among the bookshelves giving it’s customers the real café bookstore experience.
Atmosphere: There’s not too much noise that you can’t read or work, but enough that you don’t feel alone.
Range of books: Immense!


Café 1812 at Berkelouw’s Bookshop

Café 1812 is located on the second level of the Berkelouw bookstore in Paddington, which provides a great view onto Oxford Street below. Regardless of it’s modern appearance, the bookstore has a lot of history. The first Berkelouw was opened in Rotterdam in Holland in 1812 when books were often sold within cafés. The story of the first Berkelouw is displayed on the wall. The second hand section on the top floor adds to Berkelouw’s historic charm. It has an old fashioned style with ladders and shelves stationed next to huge wooden bookshelves.

Berkelouw Bookstore

Smashed Avocado
Smashed avocado with feta cheese and soya bread – $12

The smashed avocado is a simple idea but not simple in taste. Who can resist any dish with avocado? Definitely the way to my heart at least.

Cauliflower Salad
Cauliflower florets, snowpeas, quinoa, red sorrel, eggplant croutons and tomato coulis – $17

Gluten Free Corn Fritters
Gluten free corn fritters with avocado salsa, rocket and tomato – $17

The flavour and textures in this dish were balanced really well. It was crunchy and sweet corn, the creamy avocado, acidic tomato and subtle spice of the rocket created a complete and satisfying dish. Perfect for the celiac vegetarian!

1812 Cheeseburger
1812 Cheeseburger (Kewpie mayo, caramelised onion, old English cheddar, dill pickle, maple glazed bacon and crunchy fries.) – $16.50

That cheeseburger! That will go straight to the top of my list of guilty pleasures. The combination of ingredients almost makes it border on a little over the top. But hey, that’s not always a bad thing. Side note: if you don’t own kewpie mayonnaise, do yourself a favour and buy yourself some because it’s amazing.

Best Feature: The view looking down onto Oxford Street and the second hand section on the top level. It makes you feel a little bit like you’ve stepped on set on a Harry Potter film.
Atmosphere: Calm and relaxed. Bordering on meditative.
Range of books: The books at Berkelouw are a little more spread out, making the venue seem a little less full than the packed bookshelves at Ampersand. But there’s a wide selection of books to read while there or available for purchase.


The Book Kitchen

The Book Kitchen is located in Surry Hills and was the ideal place to get a break from work and stop by for a lunch break. It has a relaxed atmosphere with a modern, industrial-style interior. The Book Kitchen has a more modest selection of books, but it still feels like the type of place you could easily sit around for hours reading, studying or catching up on work. Just keep those tea pots coming!

The Book Kitchen

Books at The Book Kitchen

The Book Kitchen

The Book Kitchen Bicher Museli
Bircher Museli with seasonal fruits – $13

All the food at The Book Kitchen was generous, fresh and decadent. Especially this bircher museli. The whipped cream stirred through definitely made it one-of-a-kind. To me, it tasted a little more like a dessert than a breakfast, but if that’s what you’re in the mood for then you can’t go past it. When you order museli though, that’s what you expect to get, and this dish could have done with a little less cream and a few more oats.

Avocado Sourdough
Avocado Sourdough (Avocado, poached egg, persian feta, rocket and lemon oil on sourdough toast) – $18.50

poached salmon salad
Poached Salmon Salad (Avocado, soba buckwheat noodles, wakame, herbs, chilli, soy mirin dressing and candied ginger) – $19

The salmon salad was definitely the winner for me. The worst thing about ordering a salad is when they’re stingy with the star ingredient. But this definitely wasn’t the case here. It was a super generous serving for one person and almost enough salmon for every bite. Candied ginger is not something I’ve had before and the different layers of texture and flavours, made it a really exciting meal. I couldn’t get enough.

Best Feature: The industrial style interior and the windows that wrap around the venue letting in plenty of sunlight. It’s also licensed which is always a bonus.
Atmosphere: Pretty chilled, much like Berkelouw. A real escape from the more busy areas of Surry Hills and Crown Street.
Range of Books: For a venue named, “The Book Kitchen”, the range of books was quite modest. But the dining table that has been converted by customers into a large desk still makes reading and working while you dine part of the norm.


Sappho Books, Café and Wine Bar

A café by day, wine bar by night, and a bookstore all times in between. Sappho knows how to keep their customers happy all hours of the day. The interior in jam-packed floor to ceiling with books of just about every kind. I sampled two dishes at Sappho.
sappho books, cafe and wine bar

salmon, avocado and tomato
Smoked Salmon Bruschetta: Chives and lemon cream cheese on sourdough with avocado, tomato and basil – $13

Capers, smoked salmon and cream cheese is a classic combination and they nailed it in this bruschetta. It was clear that a lot of care was taken in putting it together. The addition of avocado is always a good one. Like I said, avocado is an easy way to impress me.


Eggs Benedict: Poached free-range eggs with hollandaise and baby spinach served on a toasted soft roll – $14

sappho books

Best Feature:
The sunny courtyard and the tapas and wine bar featured once the sun goes down!
There’s a real community feel at Sappho. Filled with locals, business people and students from the nearby Sydney University. Everyone seems to be pretty happy to have some time out in the sun too.
Range of books:
There doesn’t seem to be much space left for anything else inside Sappho. The books have taken over.

Ampersand Café Bookstore

78 Oxford Street, Paddington NSW
Phone: (02) 9380 6617

Ampersand Cafe & Bookstore, Paddington on Urbanspoon

Café 1812 at Berkelouw’s Bookshop
19 Oxford Street, Paddington NSW
Phone: (02) 9360 3200

Berkelouw Cafe - Berkelouw Books Paddington on Urbanspoon

The Book Kitchen
255 Devonshire Street, Surry Hills NSW
Phone: 0420 239 469

The Book Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Sappho Books, Café and Wine Bar
51 Glebe Point Road, Glebe NSW
Phone: (02) 9552 4498

Sappho Books Cafe & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon


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