bills Bondi

Residential look: The new bills cafe in Bondi has food that's healthy and hedonistic.
Residential look: The new bills cafe in Bondi has food that's healthy and hedonistic. Photo: Michele Mossop

79 Hall St Bondi Beach, NSW 2026

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Opening hours Mon - Sun 7:00 AM – 10:00 PM
Features Accepts bookings, Bar, Breakfast-brunch, Business lunch, Family friendly, Gluten-free options, Green-eco focus, Groups, Late night, Licensed, Lunch specials, Long lunch, Outdoor seating, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Shireen Riley
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 8412 0700

Clive James, Barry Humphries, Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes. They're the "brilliant creatures" who left Australia for the wider world, recently celebrated in a terrific documentary by award-winning novelist Howard Jacobson. But hey, Jacobson, you missed one. You didn't include the author of those acclaimed works, Ricotta Hotcakes and Sweetcorn Fritters. You forgot to ask for the Bill.

If the world now regards Australian food as being bright, fresh and sunny, then it's partly due to Bill Granger. Since opening a little corner cafe in Darlinghurst 22 years ago, he's been serving up good-looking food that's market-fresh and fuss-free in at least 10 cook books, on the telly and at associated Bills restaurants and cafes in Japan, Hawaii and London (next stop, Seoul).

His genius is his lack of genius. The original lack of budget, space and equipment dictated the freshness, simplicity and low-tech, high-impact flavour combinations. It's always been the sort of food you imagine eating in Bondi. And now you can.

Korean fried chicken with iceberg lettuce, spring onion and chilli sesame.
Korean fried chicken with iceberg lettuce, spring onion and chilli sesame. Photo: Michele Mossop

Granger's latest baby has slipped in next door to Gelato Messina in Hall Street, which will turn this stretch into a conga line of snaking queues come summertime. It's a more considered, residential interior than other Bills cafes, with striking wooden chairs, piles of magazines, artfully placed retro lamps and marble-topped tables. The menu is, as you'd expect, both healthy and hedonistic – kale chips and sweet miso brown rice porridge; shrimp burgers and parmesan chicken schnitzel.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner have their own charms. Mornings are post-swim casual, full of young families and beach babes; the footpath littered with dogs and scooters. "We ran out of high-chairs," says one of the cheery floor-staff. The "Classics" – ricotta hotcakes, sweet corn fritters and those curdy, creamy, almost mousse-like scrambled eggs ($14.50) – mix with such new #fitspo darlings as almond milk chia seed pots with berries, pomegranate and coconut yoghurt ($9.50).

At lunch, Bills is at its most Bondi, full of snapper tiradito and tea-smoked trout, and effortless tans under Bassike shift dresses. There's an excellent wagyu burger ($26.50) with grilled swiss, club sauce, and a tumble of "impatient" (30 minute) pickles, a giant iceberg wedge on the side. There's a big, fluffy, egg-white omelette stuffed with slightly weird sugar-cured prawns ($21.50) that's perfectly acceptable, but basically, anyone who orders an egg-white omelette gets what they deserve.

Pistachio pavlova with passionfruit and yoghurt cream.
Pistachio pavlova with passionfruit and yoghurt cream. Photo: Michele Mossop

At dinner, the room goes dark and slinky, with cocktails taking over from chai lattes. The menu is that little bit more grown-up as well, ranging from a pretty if tricky-to-eat dish of crisp, finely shaved kohlrabi ($14.50) - all white sails on a pink sea of thin, pink taramasalata - to a meaty fillet of masala roast snapper with spiced tomatoes ($30) with a lovely tamarind sweet-and-sourness.

Granger has a good eye for balance and texture, freshening up the often one-dimensional Korean fried chicken ($14.50) with a load of herbs and lettuce leaves for wrapping.

There's balance, too, in the democratic, mostly Australian wine list, including an earthy, spicy 2012 Swinney Ingenue Tira Lina Tempranillo/Grenache/Cabernet from Frankland River ($63). The pav ($16.50) is classic Granger; a beautiful mess of crunch, squish and tang from pistachio meringue, passionfruit and yoghurt cream.

I haven't always been a fan of his other cafes over the years, but this one is a beauty, with top staff in the kitchen and on the floor, and plenty of smart, fresh food that's full of sunshine and style. Besides, if Bill Granger couldn't do the ultimate Bondi cafe, who could?

THE LOW-DOWN
Best bit:
 Bills does Bondi.
Worst bit: The weekend queues.
Go-to dish: Pistachio pavlova, passionfruit and yoghurt ice cream, $16.50.

Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.