bills Surry Hills review

Go-to-dish: Grilled cheese and house green kimchi open sandwich, $14.50.
Go-to-dish: Grilled cheese and house green kimchi open sandwich, $14.50. Photo: Christopher Pearce

359 Crown St Surry Hills, NSW 2010

View map

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)
Chef Mika Kazato
Seats 83
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.

Parmesan-crumbed chicken schnitzel, creamed corn and fennel.
Parmesan-crumbed chicken schnitzel, creamed corn and fennel. Photo: Christopher Pearce

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.

Full Aussie scrambled eggs, sourdough, bacon, cumin roast tomato, miso mushrooms, pork, chilli and fennel sausage.
Full Aussie scrambled eggs, sourdough, bacon, cumin roast tomato, miso mushrooms, pork, chilli and fennel sausage. Photo: Christopher Pearce

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.

White chocolate and pistachio pavlova, rhubarb and yogurt cream.
White chocolate and pistachio pavlova, rhubarb and yogurt cream. Photo: Christopher Pearce

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.

bills Surry Hills has three separate menus for B, L & D.
bills Surry Hills has three separate menus for B, L & D. Photo: Christopher Pearce

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.

The low-down

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.

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.

https://www.bills.com.au/