March 17, 2023
12 mins Read
Hopping between the cafes in Bowral is one of the best things to do in the Southern Highlands. It’s right up there with getting out into nature, exploring its vineyards and trawling for antiques.
The centre of Bowral is easily walkable and you’ll find everything you’re looking for here from specialty coffee to artisan pastries, a brunch of champions, lunch paired with local cool-climate wine, afternoon tea or all of the above.
Described as ‘that lovely little café in Bowral’ for a reason, The Press Shop is located in what was once an old bespoke letterpress studio. The darling entranceway, though updated, has remained the same, offering visitors a taste of the Highlands heritage on the main street of Bowral.
Brunch at this Bowral restaurant conjures up an image of brightness and conviviality even on a grey day. There are bare floorboards, duck-egg-blue décor, hanging pendant lights and happy staff scribbling up lists of inspired specials that keep their customers and local producers proudly front of mind.
Delicious menu options might include breakfast potato gnocchi with chorizo, salsa verde and fried egg and the Taluca Park pork sandwich on a milk bun with hot sauce aioli, lettuce, tomato and pork scratchings.
There is nothing run-of-the-mill about The Mill Cafe, the rustic, industrial-chic reimagined industrial building that was built in 1885 as a timber mill, and later housed a car mechanic and hardware store.
The cafe is part of the multipurpose space known as The Mill designed by Tziallas Architects and carved up into inspired places for pop-ups. It includes everything from stores, start-ups and eateries to shared workspaces.
The 100-seater cafe, which takes up 390 square metres of floor space in the community hub, features a raked roof and original timber trusses and an exposed brick wall with a colourful mural of a cockatoo. It’s here that you are guaranteed to rub shoulders with fellow foodies looking to enjoy the very best local food and produce.
The cafe, which is recommended as a place to stop on the Southern ‘Pielands’ Trail, is a top spot for a savoury pastry or healthful Buddha bowl bristling with salad and fresh herbs, falafel, roasted pumpkin and avocado. Order the 12-hour slow-cooked American ribs with citrus slaw, ranch dressing and shoestring fries.
Just down the street from The Press Shop is the buzzy Green Lane shopping and dining precinct, home to all manner of culinary, retail and horticultural delights including Bowral cafe Plantation – a light, bright and plant-filled space serving Double Roasters coffee, fresh pastries and an all-day menu.
It’s located next door to its sister venue, Harry’s On Green Lane, considered one of the best restaurants and bars in Bowral.
The eclectic interior features a covetable floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that is worth a browse. Harry’s is open daily for lunch (and on Fridays and Saturdays for dinner, too).
Dirty Janes on Green Lane is another Bowral cafe that is an institution. While most people stop at Dirty Janes for its vintage emporium and antique market, they linger longer to refuel here after fossicking for quality finds.
In addition to its second-hand gems, Dirty Janes has an in-house tea salon, Your Vintage Occasion, that is the go-to place to head for high tea in Bowral. According to Brits, Bowral feels a little bit like an English village in character – it became the summer playground of Sydney’s gentry in the 19th century, after all – so channel the spirit of eccentric aristocracy as you sip on brews from the Highlands Tea Company in fine bone-china cups and nibble on pinwheel sandwiches.
Scones are the headline attraction here, served with generous dollops of jam and cream and delivered in a range of flavours: from classic to rose to white chocolate and cinnamon. Book ahead on weekends.
The Hungry Monkey started out in Kiama in 2015 and has since been given a license to grill in Berry, Bowral and Thirroul. There’s even a Hungry Monkey food truck that allows the brand to expand its offerings and cater to weddings and events in and around the Southern Highlands.
The specialty coffee is White Horse and it’s locally roasted and always freshly ground. The Hungry Monkey brand delivers beyond breakfast, brunch and lunch options with special dinners designed to support live music. Everything here is homemade from the pickled onion to the salsa verde and tomato relish.
Ask for all of the above to be added to your big-arse brekkie burger. The energy here is great. And the smiley, super-friendly bearded waiters are as much of an attraction as the boutique burgers.
South Hill Kitchen is located a few doors down from Flour Water Salt on Bowral’s main drag of Bong Bong Street. It’s all about beautifully presented food made with fresh ingredients from its own organic market garden, located down the way in Moss Vale, or from local suppliers like Maugers Farm in Kangaloon for meat.
Try a breakfast roll with bacon and free-range eggs on sourdough or a Reuben sandwich to write home about with corned beef, Swiss cheese, house sauerkraut and market garden pickles.
Pair your meal with Allpress coffee or a glass of local wine.
South Hill Kitchen also makes its own baked treats daily and its Portuguese tarts and almond croissants are a cult hit – so get in early.
Head to RAW & WILD Market & Cafe on Bowral’s main street to rummage up a health-conscious breakfast, lunch or afternoon snack.
The eco-conscious eatery leads onto an outdoor terrace at the back of a whole-food store and even its more decadent menu items are guaranteed to be made with the cleanest of ingredients.
Pick from an all-day breakfast menu that includes ricotta pancakes with cinnamon poached pear, berry compote and pistachio and coconut crumble or a lunch menu featuring the likes of potato and leek fritters and Mittagong train tunnel risotto.
There’s a kids’ menu too, afternoon grazing options and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.
Rummage in the vintage section of Dirty Janes until you find a tweed coat or a fancy hat so you fit in with the immaculately dressed locals drinking coffee at the award-winning Rush Roasting Co.
Enjoy a silky smooth latte or espresso at the sister branch of the Moss Vale cafe run by Rush Roasting Co., which started roasting in 1998 long before artisan coffee was a given in the Southern Highlands. The staff are well trained when it comes to the different types of beans so they can help you find your perfect cup. The team also offer barista training courses and sell a range of coffee-related products, too.
Coffee and art collide at Nick’s in Bowral a light-filled cafe that landed in Bowral in 2020 and quickly went on to become a place for the community to gather. You’ll see evidence of this in the queues congregating here on Saturday mornings for carefully made coffees and a chat.
Grab a seat on the bench outside this slip of a place and watch the hubbub of Bong Bong Street go by or bunker down inside to admire coffee-related ‘Nick’-knacks and art. The cafe has free wi-fi so expect to share the communal countertops with a few digital nomads.
While the cafe started out as more of a gallery, it’s become a full-blown institution for coffee thanks to the fact one of its main baristas worked at Canberra cafe ONA run by Sasa Sestic, crowned World’s Best Barista. A coffee here will keep you wired for the day.
Looking for a plant-based cafe in Bowral? The countertops at Bare Bites Bowls and Brew are heaving with homemade treats that cater to boho types in Bowral and range from raw to sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan.
The plant-based eatery keeps vegans caffeinated with a range of organic wellness lattes and breakfast and brunch options that include muesli bowls, bagels and smashed avo on toasted charcoal bread.
Join the crowds who spill outside in summer and take up a seat on the benches in front of the rustic shopfront to enjoy cold-pressed immunity-boosting juices.
Cafe Rocca is an institution in Bowral. Located a few doors down from sister venue Leila’s at the Grand, the cafe is always crowded with locals.
Head here for Black Mountain coffee made using beans roasted by Seven Miles and breakfast staples such as smashed avo on toast or shakshuka.
The cafe, which has been going strong for almost three decades, is also open for lunch selling crowd-pleasing favourites such as za’atar pizzetta, king prawn pasta and toasted sangas. Check the specials for dishes that lean into the owners’ Lebanese heritage.
OK, so we’re cheating by including The Boston, which is a five-minute drive down the road in Mittagong, but it’s 100 per cent worth going beyond Bowral for.
The Boston is housed in a stone-and-ivy-clad building that dates to 1880. It has a pretty courtyard out the back and an interior that marries a folksy heritage feel – think unfinished wood and exposed brickwork – with clean, contemporary lines. Open Tuesday to Saturday, it does a good line of specialty coffee and delicious hearty dishes.
Think house-made smoked baked beans, a warming roast tomato, red lentil and chorizo soup or oven-roasted mushroom toast with kale, eschalot salad and almond. If you’re lucky there will still be a fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon doughnut (filled with raspberry jam, lemon curd or custard) waiting for you to take with you for the remainder of your road trip.
Overtake the locals with teacup poodles in their handbags to get a spot on the verandah for a proper le petit dejeuner (breakfast) at Le Bistro Gourmand.
This pet-friendly place is the sister venue to patisserie Les Gourmandises and The Bowral Brasserie, which also deserve dedicated detours. On weekdays, you’ll find the sky-blue cafe buzzing with former city slickers who now work from their country home and queue up on the daily for fresh-baked croissants and coffee.
Charismatic French owners Gerald and Mia Melieres have travelled the world and were a welcome addition to Bowral’s cafe culture. The focus at this bijou café is on local produce and, if you’re not that hungry, simple, expertly made pastries (sourced from Les Gourmandises).
Practise the French you learned on the Duo Lingo app and order ouef en cocotte de Paris. Ask the friendly waiters to package up a few croque monsieurs to go with your bottle of plonk from Thirsty Cellars Bowral.
This is one of Bowral’s favourite patisseries with not one but three different outlets in the Southern Highlands. The cafe’s mantra is ‘Life’s Short Eat Dessert First’ and we’d recommend digging deep and embarking on a pastry crawl between the patisseries. The three outlets are located in Mittagong, Bowral and Berrima.
The Gumnut Patisserie won Best Neenish Tart in the Wotif Uniquely Aussie Awards. So of course we’d recommend getting to grips with the dessert made with a pastry base and a filling comprising of gelatine-set cream. Expect sweet treats tailored to different seasons such as tulip time, Easter and Christmas.
Much like Berrima’s famous Berkelouw Book Barn (10 minutes’ drive west of Bowral), La Palette in Moss Vale (15 minutes south) is a bit of a destination spot – and a little more under the radar at that.
This French-inspired, paddock-to-plate cafe and cellar door is part of Mount Ashby Estate, a winery that occupies a former dairy farm. It’s rustic charm personified with the Holstein cattle grazing the surrounding fields.
It sits adjacent to the Sally Beresford collection of antiques and objet d’art that doubles as a showroom for beautiful French farmhouse tables. The store is based in a historic (circa 1918) Produce Store that has been relocated from Bowral.
Set yourself up in La Palette at one of these grand provincial tables – preferably near the open fireplace if it’s a cool day, or outside on the lawn if it’s sunny. It’s a top spot to tuck into homemade soup with crusty bread, a cheese or charcuterie plate or something a little more decadent like twice-cooked gruyère soufflé with fine herbs and salad and an apple tarte tatin with ice-cream to finish.
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My wife and I spent a week in Bowral in 19 and every morning we could we ate at The Allumer Cafe. Great experience, good food, friendly crew.
Your emails really open up your mind , and makes you want to go and visit these places. I thank you for that , and my wife and I have already visited some of the places
Thank you for all the in-depth descriptions of places to visit and dine
“Kookabar” has the best breakfast in the Southern Highlands.
And that’s just the start…
Hi Guys, I believe Cafe Rocca comes ahead of a lot of others. I agree it’s a legend Cafe with a stable family business which locals love.