02 July 2010

Sausages and Onion Gravy at the Oceanic Cafe - Surry Hills [CLOSED]

The Oceanic Cafe on Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills is living history, drop in for a rissole while you still can.

[CLOSED - 2014]

It's a freezing cold winter's day and I'm in Surry Hills on my way to Chinatown for a feed. I walk past the Oceanic Cafe, that ancient relic of the past with the sign out the front offering lambs fry for $5. I normally only stop in here out of a sense of nostalgia or irony. But on this freezing cold day I could really do with some old fashioned Aussie tucker.

The first time I dropped into the Oceanic Cafe a few years ago I was apprehensive: the place is usually empty so you have to wonder what sort of turnover they have on the food. But there's only a few things on the menu, it's actually quite clean, and people do eat here. I had the rissoles and walked out alive, and have done so a few more times since.

Oceanic Cafe is run by a wonderful old mother and daughter duo. The daughter takes the orders and runs the meals. She's as deaf as a post and is always shocked to see me walk in. Mother seems to hang back in the kitchen but today she came out and we discussed the weather. They seem very shy but lovely.

Apart from the occasional coat of paint, this place hasn't changed in decades. I read in an amazing blog post by foodie queen Not Quite Nigella that Oceanic Cafe has been open since the 1930s. The groovy table tops were added in the 1950s.

History oozes from the walls in this place, I find myself in a wee trance staring out the window. Passers-by stare back, "omg people actually eat in there?".

Retrofitted everything.

I usually get the rissoles but they have sold out today. So I go for sausages in onion gravy, surprisingly tasty. The chips are hand cut not manufactured, and who doesn't love peas? It's yesterday's bread and the chips are a bit cold but hey, it's $5. The nostalgia value is priceless: the food reminds me of counter lunches at the pub with my parents as a kid, all I need is a raspberry & lemonade with a plastic giraffe.

White Tip Top bread and marg comes out first. How can something so simple make me so happy?

A cup of instant for a $1. Lovely.

I try to get the old dears talking about the history of the place, but all they would say as that they have been open for a lifetime, and will be open for another lifetime.

Again, I implore you to check out Not Quite Nigella's amazing Oceanic Cafe post for some Oceanic Cafe history. Also check out some of the comments from Grab Your Fork's visit, very interesting stuff!

Oceanic Cafe is at 312 Elizabeth Street Surry Hills, it always seems to be open for lunch on weekdays, I've been there on a Saturday too.

This place isn't always going to be here, the ladies aren't getting any younger, drop in and swim in history while you still can. Yes it's dodgy but it won't kill you :-)

Oceanic Cafe on Urbanspoon


  1. Yay - some Aussie Street Food. I was wondering what you could write about - pies & beers perhaps!

    LOVE the decor...LOVING the tables with bench seats...

  2. You should drop in for some lambs fry Miss Mel :-)

  3. Ummm....mmmm....or perhaps just a cup of tea.

    This place seems a bit like what Betty's Soup Kitchen is trying to be...without the trendiness...

  4. This place is amazing isn't it? If only those walls could talk... it'll be a great loss if/when it finally closes.

  5. They promised me it would be open for another lifetime :-) Perhaps when the ladies move on somebody may restore or groovy-fy the place, we can only hope :-)

  6. love it, no rissoles Tho! Visit Visit Visit!!! And the sausages were yummy!

  7. Good on you anonymous, gotta support those lovely old dears :-)

  8. It was an operating cafe in 1916

  9. The City of Sydney Archives Digital Photograph Bank
    See: http://www3.photosau.com/cos1/scripts/home.asp

    Search with ---> Oceanic Cafe

    It will present you with photos of the Oceanic Cafe from 1969.

    What happened to the skyline?

    I wasn't able to link to this site, so you have to go to link above and search "Oceanic Cafe" to get there.

  10. Have you guys ever been to the legendary Olympia Milk Bar at Stanmore? Similar to the Oceanic, except run by a lone Greek man who would have to be nudging 90. The interior is virtually unchanged since the 1950s, it's a fascinating place. The milkshakes are great too, served in old school metal milkshake cups. Can't comment on the sandwiches though.

  11. If we were rich we'd restore the joint! I used to buy the odd Mars Bar there years ago but they started getting more and more out of date...

    These folks were brave enough to dine in : http://rainbowtatt.com/inner-westie/we-survived-the-olympia-milk-bar-in-stanmore

  12. This place has now closed for good :(

  13. I think the mother passed away about 2012-2015 and since then the doors have unfortunately closed.-I really miss that place

    1. We shared a cup of tea with the mother and daughter sometime prior to 2010. My friends grandfather operated the Oceanic prior to 1916 when he enlisted in the AIF for the First World War.
      The ladies' family had operated the Oceanic since 1932. Apparently they did a roaring trade during WW2 because recruits from all over NSW came to Sydney by train and the Oceanic, being located so close to Central Station wad a convenient stop.

    2. Nice tidbit. We tried to get them talking with no luck whatsoever. Oh we miss that place.


Thanks for your comment joy - please keep your musings happy - if you want to complain about a restaurant please do it on a restaurant review site (or your own blog) - we're all about celebrating cultural diversity and the great eats that come along with it :-)

Our ethics: We pay for all our own meals and travel (though sometimes Mum shouts us).