Breakfast is always said to be the most important meal of the day, but most of us scoff down our toast or muesli in the morning rush. Sydney's luxury hotels offer a lesson in enjoying breakfast at its fullest, and most indulgent, potential.
So which hotel has the best eggs Benedict? The nicest dining room? The best of everything? Here are five meals worth waking up for. Bring an empty stomach and a bib.
While observing celebrities is a sport in itself at The Observatory Hotel (Kylie Minogue, Pink and Sir Richard Branson have all stayed there), its Galileo Restaurant is worth more than just mere observation.
Cast aside thoughts of packed crowds around bains-marie. Entering the Galileo dining room is like entering another era, bypassing old maps of the world and bookshelves by way of the Agatha Christie Orient Express-style Globe front bar. Galileo is Parisian salon chic white tablecloths, old-school fashion sketches on the walls, and comfy chaise lounges.
Discretely tucked in the corner is the continental buffet a sumptuous, if rather limited, range of French pastries, seasonal fruits, homemade granola, Bircher muesli, cheeses, breads, teas, Vittoria coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.
But the real deal is the full breakfast. Kudos to the kitchen for doing something different with dishes like grilled Scottish kippers with an oozy poached egg on top; or the signature Observatory Blackstone Eggs (poached eggs on a homemade croissant pudding of mushrooms and potatoes, served with pancetta and a buttery hollandaise sauce).
Best for: An innovative, first-class à la carte menu and equally commendable service.
Prices: Continental breakfast $36; Galileo full breakfast, including an à la carte hot dish $45; Bubbly breakfast (with Champagne) $65.
Address: 89/111-113 Kent Street, Sydney.
More info: www.observatoryhotel.com.au
Go back even further in time and dine like a king or queen in ye olde-worlde grandeur of the Dining Room at Sir Stamford, the grand dame of Macquarie Street. This legendary boutique hotel sits partly in a heritage-listed building, and boasts one of Australia's largest private collections of fine art, plus 18th-century Louis XV and Georgian antiques.
For all its artefacts, the hotel's feel is more of a guest house, it's that intimate. The same can be said of the Dining Room, where an appropriately refined continental or a la carte breakfast awaits.
If you choose the former, you're in for buttery French pastries, doughy breads with a range of sweet and savoury condiments including honeycomb and jams, and an impressive display of fruits.
But again, the hot stuff stands out. Fluffy pancakes, crispy hash browns and gently poached eggs are the biggest winners.
Best for: Eggs Benedict with arguably one of Sydney's best hollandaise sauces. Follow it up with a morning walk around the Botanic Gardens, Sydney Opera House and Circular Quay.
Prices: Continental breakfast $30; Full buffet breakfast $40.
Address: 93 Macquarie Street, Sydney.
More info: www.stamford.com.au/sscq
Yes, Sir: A fresh breakfast at Sir Stamford.
Image: Sir Stamford at Circular Quay.
In the glamour stakes, celebrity chef Luke Mangan's Glass Brasserie at the Hilton wins hands down. It doesn't take much to feel a million bucks in this shimmery glass menagerie of towering wine vaults and 13m-high floor-to-ceiling glass windows, contrasting the grand sandstone view of the Queen Victoria Building.
Like its surrounds, Glass' gourmet offerings are a mix of the hearty and the contemporary. One example is the new signature breakfast dish crafted by The Hilton's new executive chef, Carl Middleton; a sublime fresh beechwood house-smoked salmon with English potato scones, pan-roasted asparagus, free-range scrambled eggs and baby watercress. Big green tick for best à la carte brekkie.
Signature dish: House-smoked salmon with free-range eggs at Glass.
Image: Hilton Sydney.
That would be more than worth your visit alone, but the buffet is for the real conspicuous consumer. Chocolate croissants, cinnamon scrolls and jam doughnuts threaten the waistline, but a balance can be struck with a wheatgrass or beetroot shot, a yoghurt with fruit compote, or a fresh fruit juice.
From the hot food, the pancakes and golden waffles are "Oh my God", while the eggs Benedict, cooked up on request at a chef's cooking station, have a fluffy hollandaise sauce to rival Sir Stamford's. A Chinese section of congee, fried rice and dim sum adds to a magnificent smorgasbord. However, ready-made French toast isn't quite as good, simply because French toast is best served fresh.
Best for: An incredible signature dish, fresh and premium produce, healthy offerings, and a fine-dining start to the day.
Prices: Continental buffet $35; Full Australian breakfast $42, à la carte menu $7 to $24.
Address: 488 George Street, Sydney.
More info: www.hiltonsydney.com.au
Welcome to heaven, otherwise known as the buffet breakfast at The InterContinental Sydney. Ensconced in the corner of the heritage-listed Treasury Building, Café Opera is all class. Given a modern revamp in late 2011, this elegant room now has lavish banquettes, Saturn-like rings suspended from the ceiling, and a curiously sensual sculpture of big white lips puckering up for a kiss. Or another jam doughnut ...
Gob-smacked: The elegant Café Opera.
Image: InterContinental Sydney.
The hot buffet wins top marks for variety and quality. Eager chefs are at the ready to cook your omelette as desired, carve you the freshest ham off the bone, and serve up eggs any which way but runny. My Eggs Florentine are served steaming hot, while the egg-white omelette comes fresh off the fry pan. A Cumberland sausage adds a hit of all-English flavour.
The cold offerings include an impressive range of smoked salmon, meats, salads and garnishes well worth a nosh.
For dessert, chocolate and strawberry gelato on hot waffles is a must, while lighter options like prune and vanilla Yalla yoghurt or Yakult fermented milk are a welcome alternative.
Best for: Endless espresso coffee, premium ingredients in the hot and cold buffet, and friendly wait staff. After breakfast, walk down to the Museum of Contemporary Art or hotfoot to the Sydney Opera House steps.
Prices: Continental Breakfast: Up to $23 plus beverages; Full Buffet Breakfast $38.
More info: www.ichotelsgroup.com
Last but definitely not least, the Westin Sydney is a truly unique experience. The Mosaic Restaurant sits in one of the biggest atriums you'll ever see, the airy GPO Building linking the heritage facade with the modern section you're sitting in. Light streams through the skylights, also revealing the building's clock tower looming like a shrine. It's my favourite breakfast room of the lot.
"Wow" location aside the buffet is packed with pancakes, eggs, turkey sausages, omelettes, gelato, and the biggest variety of pastries I've seen yet. The almond croissant is an easy charmer with a gooey almond mousse at the centre, like a cream egg of nutty goodness.
But Mosaic sets itself apart with its "SuperFoods" labels on healthy foods, so you can feel really great about boosting your vitamin intake while pigging out. Carrot and ginger shots in ice water are moreish, as are the ready made blueberry and banana smoothies. A stand devoted just to gluten-free nibbles is another green tick.
Pick up a newspaper on your way in, hit the DIY coffee machine and turn your phone off for maximum enjoyment.
Best for: The health-conscious, the pastry addicted (and averse), and big groups looking for a special morning venue.
Prices: Buffet breakfast $42; à la carte $8 to $28.
Address: 1 Martin Place, Sydney.
More info: www.starwoodhotels.com/westin
Many eggs were fried, poached and scrambled in the process, but I've come to a decision about the best Sydney hotel breakfast. The Hilton and Observatory are the best for à la carte, but the all-round winner has got to be the InterContinental for its unlimited barista coffee, premium foods across the smorgasbord, and a charming environment manned by posh-but-unpretentious staff.
What's your favourite hotel breakfast in Sydney? Share your morning glories with us below. Bon appétit!