A true Sydneysider knows there is life outside Surry Hills!

Bar Contessa | Balmain

Thanks to the team at Bar Contessa for inviting us to try their all day breakfast menu and admire the newly refurbished space. And admire we did! Stepping across the threshold, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve been transported to the urban cool of NYC. An exposed brick wall runs across one side of the space complimented by a low slung leather chesterfield. The couch provides comfy seating to admire the huge graffiti inspired mural stretched across the opposite wall.  Exposed lighting completes the backdrop owner and self-confessed foodie Marco Adoncello has strived to create.

By mid- morning on Easter Saturday, the cafe is already buzzing. Families, couples and even the lone dog enjoy the all day breakfast menu, while others have moved onto lunch – no doubt lured by the famous meatballs rooted in Marco’s Italian background. Apart from the decor, what strikes you upon first entering is the warmth of the staff. Marco is joking with the regulars whilst playing barista for the day. A hands on veteran of the industry with 20 years under his belt, he can be seen hosting, tending to the phones, serving up a  mean coffee or cooking on any given day. Our waitress Jasmin is friendly and helpful when it comes to ordering.The cafe has been a fixture in the Balmain scene since it opened 20 years ago. Marco acquired the cafe when the opportunity arose 9 years ago and hasn’t looked back.

Casting your eyes over the menu, Marco’s passion for food is evident. The menu caters equally well to those after a healthy start to the day (try Rosa’s Breakfast Bruschetta, the fruit salad or granola) or those looking for something heartier (Brekky Burrito, Contessa Fry Up or the Ultimate Bacon & Egg Roll) Over the page and we see the lunch menu which includes tried and true signatures like the Spicy Italian Meatball Melt, the B.R.A.T (bacon, rocket, smashed avocado, Roma tomato) and salads.

After umming and ahhing we settle on the bacon and egg roll, scrambled eggs with mushrooms on the side and the famed Breakfast Bruschetta named after Marco’s wife Rosa. The coffees arrive first and the blend is strong and full bodied. The beans are supplied by Jack Hanna of Jack and the Bean, (most recently known for the Grounds of Alexandria) after an 18 month search for the perfect blend. Marco explains he wanted something that afforded a touch of exclusivity – the nearest place serving up the same blend is in Newtown – as well as a palette pleaser. And the locals certainly agree with his choice. While he’s not fussed about ‘counting the beans’ (see what I did there!) he  admits the blend has seen him sell an extra 14kg of extra coffee per week.

This sweet babyccino should satisfy even the most discerning coffee connoisseurs!


The food arrives as we’re discussing the coffee and suddenly it becomes hard to concentrate on anything else apart from the burger sitting in front of me! The Ultimate Bacon & Egg Roll $(14.50) really is just that. Hickory smoked bacon, fried free range eggs, caramalised onion, provolone cheese, house made tomato relish and mayo all on a brioche bun. Let me tell you, this may actually be one of the best bacon & egg rolls I’ve had. Ever. The bun is fresh, there’s just the right amount of mayo and relish, the onions are cooked to perfection, and the hickory bacon is ah-ma-zing. This is definitely an indulgent breakfast, however lucky for me, we’ve also ordered the healthy Bruschetta ($13.50), so that should balance it out, right?!

The bruschetta has lovely fresh Roma tomatoes on a base of smashed avocado, topped off with a poached egg with basil, rocket and balsamic reduction. It’s really tasty and fresh and something I could make a regular. The balsamic, rocket and basil are like a flavour explosion, with just the right amount on the plate so nothing is soggy. Our favourite bit? The dish was indulgent enough to not feel like a ‘healthy’ choice!

The Hawkesbury free range scrambled eggs with mushrooms on the side provides another glimpse into Marco’s food ethos. The dish comes with a slice each of the soy and linseed and organic sourdough sourced direct from Luxe Bakery Cafe in Newtown, which also supplies the cafe’s various sweet treats. Marco has an obsession with sourcing all the best and freshest ingredients for his customers, and this really shows in the menu. The eggs are perfectly cooked, the toast is divine and the meaty mushrooms, although on the side are not an after thought like you get at some cafes. Extra points for not lathering the sourdough in butter but rather, serving it on the side.

We polish off our food, and while our tastebuds are screaming more (especially when I see the cakes) our tummies are groaning in protest.

We’ll just have to come back again after Easter, when the cafe opens for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights! The urban NYC backdrop will really come into its own then, as Marco will be serving up American inspired comfort food like the already famous Cheeseburger, Chilli Dogs, Chicken Quesadillas, and New York Strip Steak. The move is a smart one, given that while Balmain is home to a myriad of cuisines, American isn’t really one of them.

Marco, a  local himself, believes that people shouldn’t have to wander too far to get good food, great coffee and a buzzy atmosphere.“I’ve spent many many years, in Balmain and watched our customers and Balmain traffic closely, so yeah, I’d like to think I know what the market wants and needs…” Adoncello said genuinely

We couldn’t agree more!


‘s Review 

Overall: Hangover heaven. The coffee will wake you right up and the all day breakfast menu is a godsend! Wish they open another restaurant in my suburb.

Price: Very affordable.

Taste: Divine! The healthy option tastes naughty! They definitely know what they are doing!

Decor: Love it! As I said to Selina, this is how I would decorate a cafe!

‘s Review 

Overall: Great atmosphere, a cafe dedicated to delivering fresh ingredients and great coffee. Nice options for kids and the health conscious

Price: Reasonable. Great portion sizes, takeaway sweets and toasties great option if you’re in a hurry

Taste: Fresh, great flavour combo’s and tried and true menu items as well as modern additions.

Decor: Very cool, urban vibe.

Bar Contessa on Urbanspoon


  1. That bacon and egg roll would have been perfect after the night I had..om nom nom !

  2. Ha! Assuming you had a big one? You should check out the Cotessa Fry Up. Hangover heaven :)

  3. This place looks fantastic! I love the coffee with marshmallow eyes – frankly that’s enough to make me go!

    A timely review as I’ll be in Balmain next weekend and I think Bar Contessa needs to be on my list of places to visit.

    • Ah yes! Definitely try this lovely place out. The coffee is great! Strong enough to fix any headache (note: I am not a doctor) We didn’t try any cakes though :( If you do please report back on your thoughts!

      • I can now attest that orange cake is beyond lovely! A must have!!

        • Ahhhhh I’m so jealous! I was eyeing those cakes out all morning while there, but could not fit anything else in :) Must re-visit

  4. Seeing this review doesn’t surprise me at all! Italian’s are the experts when it comes to food, and why should you be any different. If you’re thinking about franchising, i’ll be waiting for you here in The Netherlands! I’m proud of you cuz! Cheers Frank!

    • Italians certainly do know their food!

  5. Awesome food the renovation looks great. We always make sure we visit bar contessa when we visit from qld. My daughters love Marcos baby chino

    Jennings family

    • Isn’t the babycinno just adorable! They definitely go that extra mile to make their customers happy.

  6. Turned up here for Sunday brunch on Selina’s recommendation. Loved it. I took the healthy path and got the breakfast bruschetta (such is my loathing for avodaco that I ordered mine sans). Was a great, guilt-free option. Jonathan couldn’t resist the lure of the Ultimate Bacon & Egg roll (nor could I resist the lure of taking a bite out of it); have to say it lives up to its name. I’ll be having one as a reward when I’ve lost all the weight I’m going to lose by eating only the breakfast bruschetta for the next few visits. Oh yes, there will be more visits.

    Really nice decor and easy-to-get to location, too.

    • I’m so glad we introduced you to the awesomeness that is Bar Contessa! Great picks too – I’m STILL dreaming about that burger!

  7. hello all day breakfast! that bruschetta with avocado & poached eggs looks amazing.

    • It’s amazing! I’ve gone back a few times since, and while the roll looks amazing, this has become my staple!

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