359 Crown St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7am-10pm; Sat and Sun 7.30am-10pm|
|Features||Outdoor seating, Bar, Breakfast-brunch, Vegetarian friendly, Gluten-free options, Accepts bookings, Licensed, Wheelchair access, Family friendly, Events|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9360 4762|
If there were such a thing as Planet Bill in the solar system, you would be able to live on breakfast all day, every day; from fresh fruit bowls to ricotta hotcakes to sweetcorn fritters, to the most famous scrambled eggs in the world (just ask The New York Times).
You could start with excellent Single O coffee, move on to spiced bloody mary and finish with a chic carafe of Jamsheed chardonnay from the Yarra Valley. The sun would shine non-stop, waitstaff would be cheery, and the dining room would just glow, almost incandescently. It would be heaven.
But there isn't such a thing, because bills is all grown-up now – especially the new one in Surry Hills practically next door to the old bills – which has three separate menus for B, L & D.
In fact, October marks 25 years since Bill Granger opened his very first bills in Darlinghurst, rewiring our concept of what a cafe could be. Now, it's a 19-strong global empire with restaurants in London, Sydney, Japan, Hawaii and Korea.
This new incarnation, from designers Meacham Nockles, is deliciously lush, the warm golden walls glowing like soft Sydney sandstone in the setting sun. Corners are soft, tables bevelled, and seemingly everything is elegantly elliptical in the Art Deco manner.
Add a terrazzo floor, glossy marble and deep red laminate tables, cushy leather banquettes and strategically placed art from the Ray Hughes Estate, and it's head-turningly dreamy.
I'm here for dinner, with a menu from head chef Hannah Wilmott that goes from Asian soups and rice dishes to pasta, risotto and grills, and it's as if my body clock isn't working. It just doesn't feel right to not be eating eggs.
Nor does a baffling opener of extremely crisp sourdough, topped like a tartine with creamy labne and sweet, sticky candied cumquats ($14). Huh? Lunch, maybe? Or dessert?
Parmesan-crumbed chicken schnitzel ($27.50) is, let's face it, pleasantly bland child-friendly food. The creamed corn with it is sweetly nostalgic, and the shaved fennel needs dressing. It's a similar story with a swiss cheese-slathered wagyu burger with pickled and fresh cucumber ($26.50) and a bowl of (good) skin-on skinny chips.
Then it's a classic bills dismount – a boulder of white chocolate pavlova ($14.50) topped with yoghurt cream, rhubarb and white chocolate shavings, that's sweet, rich and clean-tasting.
Lunch is more like it, mainly because it has a swag of bills' breakfast dishes on it. The winner is a gooey, juicy, chilli-strewn grilled cheese and kimchi on toast (14.50) that's butch enough to push even the avocado, lime and toasted rye ($14.50) out of the headlines.
"Green fried rice" with kimchi and fried egg ($22.50) is easy and breezy, but unappealingly dark, and soft, squishy falafel ($23.50) lack that bright clean, sunny cut-through we've come to expect from Mr Granger.
But oh, that breakfast. The joy of sitting down to those golden moussey sand dunes of scrambled eggs ($15) with good Iggy's toast and real tea-leaf tea.
To gorgeous fluff-puff ricotta hotcakes ($22.50) and sweetcorn fritters with roast tomato, spinach and bacon ($23.50) on charmingly striped oval plates from Steelite.
As The New York Times said about bills way back in 2002, "breakfast built its reputation". And breakfast, dear NYT, will continue to do so.
bills Surry Hills
Drinks Good coffee from Single O, house-made sodas, smoothies, frappes and shakes, serious cocktails, and a decent if not spectacular wine list that includes bills house wines made by Delinquente wines in the Riverina.
Vegetarian Bill is always good for meat-free – chopped salads, zucchini fries, roast cauliflower (and there's always the ricotta hotcakes).
Go-to-dish Grilled cheese and house green kimchi open sandwich, $14.50.
Pro tip The elegant loos are worth a visit.