bills Double Bay review

New venture: bills Double Bay is Bill Granger's fourth Sydney cafe.
New venture: bills Double Bay is Bill Granger's fourth Sydney cafe. Photo: Edwina Pickles

16 Cross St Double Bay, NSW 2028

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Opening hours 7am-10pm daily
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 8412 1144

Double Bay needs a bills cafe as surely as the sun needs to rise in the morning. And the sun is streaming through the tall windows as if to prove it, glancing off those golden scrambled eggs and turning everything blonde, ecru and caramel.

So, when to go – breakfast, lunch or dinner? Breakfast, of course, because it's bills, and that's what bills does. But also, lunch, because it's Double Bay, where everyone goes to lunch. And dinner is also on the cards, because there are cocktails, lobster and steak, because the dining room is cosy and comfortable, and because Neil Perry's Margaret hasn't yet opened just around the corner.

Breakfast at bills Wait for a table on a Saturday: 45 minutes. Babies are crying, couples are tucking in to honeycomb pancakes and toasted coconut bread, and it's far too early for the serving staff (yes, there's table service) to be so cheery.

Grilled-and-sliced black angus rib eye topped with tomato butter with a good handful of watercress.
Grilled-and-sliced black angus rib eye topped with tomato butter with a good handful of watercress. Photo: Edwina Pickles

I slide into a booth, the table banded with metal, the pepper grinder heavy in the hand. It feels good. I even like group head chef Hannah Wilmott's vegan granola ($18), because the nuts and seeds are super crunchy, and the coconut yoghurt and blueberry and hibiscus compote aren't overly sweet. 

Wait, what about the scrambled eggs? They're textbook; golden cowpats of goodness ($16.50) that cut into creamy, trembling wedges – although my sourdough toast isn't hot enough to melt the cold butter. But the breakfast tea is made of real leaves and properly boiling water, as it should be and rarely is.

Lunch at bills Wait for a table on a weekday: 15 minutes. More sun, more people waiting outside for their phones to text that their table is ready. The tan leather banquettes and booths are purposely angled for maximum people-watching, and there's an old-Vienna accent to the menu, with its chicken and veal schnitzels and its lovely, green-and-gold chicken soup ($15/$25).

Vegan granola with coconut yoghurt, blueberry and hibiscus compote.
Vegan granola with coconut yoghurt, blueberry and hibiscus compote.  Photo: Edwina Pickles

The broth is studded with peas, leeks, poached chicken, and rice-shaped risoni pasta taking the place of the traditional noodle. It's very bills – fresh, bright, sweet, green and clean.

Less Viennese and more Double Bay is a selection of salad bowls, deep enough to force your elbows up in the air when using your cutlery, and burgers. A spicy prawn burger ($32) is like a Thai fishcake in a sesame seed bun, its lemongrass and kaffir lime relish playing off a crazy amount of mayo.

Dinner at bills Wait for a table: None, bookings are taken. But it's dark. This doesn't feel like bills. Where's the sunshine? Although bills in Surry Hills and Bondi have been open for dinner for a couple of years now, it's still a slightly strange concept that Mr Eggs-For-Breakfast also does fish curries and gimlet cocktails after nightfall.

Prawn burger with lemongrass dressing.
Prawn burger with lemongrass dressing. Photo: Edwina Pickles

There are big ticket ($140) mains such as eastern rock lobster and Black Onyx bistecca for two, but be warned, Bill Granger turns everything into a salad. He's like the worst mother ever – eat your greens, or you won't get your honeycomb soft-serve ice-cream.

Order the grilled-and-sliced 280g black angus rib eye ($45) topped with tomato butter and it comes under a good handful of watercress; fries on the side.

Order a Thai coconut curry with seafood ($33) and it's loaded with Asian herbs and cucumber, with a separate bowl of nutty, textural brown rice. I order a juicy, meaty 2019 La Petite Vanguard grenache from McLaren Vale in self defence against all the greenery.

Chicken soup with peas and rice.
Chicken soup with peas and rice. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Granger is now London-based, and wasn't here in person for the planning, building and test-cooking of his fourth Sydney cafe. 

But his spirit is here, in the high-detail interior and uncompromising finish from Sydney design studio Meacham Nockles, in the sunny dispositions of the young staff, and in the whole glorious DNA of what it means to be bills.

In truth, this is a restaurant, but it's run with the sunny attitude of a cafe, even at the other end of the day.

The low-down

Bills Double Bay

Drinks Bespoke cocktails, a handful of beers, and a limited but accommodating French and Australian wine list with house wines from Delinquente Wines.

Vegetarian Heaps, especially at lunch.

Pro tip You can order ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter at dinner, for dessert.

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.