Bill Granger is an over-achieving self-starter who opened his first Darlinghurst restaurant at the tender age of 24 in 1993 and has since opened branches across Sydney and the world (with branches in London, Tokyo, Seoul and Honolulu). Bills Cafe is quintessentially Australian and prides itself in seasonal, local produce and a philosophy of no fuss food (aka this is not the place to find matcha waffles with a side of kimchi - although as one concession there is a "Japanese brunch bowl" on the menu - I suppose no one is immune to peer pressure). Bill's signature ricotta hotcakes have cult status in the Sydney foodie scene and I was determined to try the legend for myself.
Brunch Tips for Young Players If you drive up any brunch street in Surry Hills on a weekend mid-morning, you will see the lines of brunch-enthusiasts waiting for a table at their chosen cafe, and I suspected Bills in Surry Hills to be no different. There is only one proven strategy for minimising the wait-time at any inner west brunch establishment and that is to arrive early. Being a morning person, this is my preferred modus operandi, however I have on more than one occasion had to drag a dining companion kicking and screaming to a 9am weekend breakfast. The other benefit of an early arrival is the availability of free parking and we managed to nab a 2 hour spot just around the corner.*
Bills is unapologetic about the boozy brunch possibilities and I was pleasantly amused by the placement of aperitifs just above the fruits, grains and cereal options on the menu. There is also ample consideration of the wellness-warrior/hipster crowd with an extensive selection of juices, smoothies, loose-leaf tea and home-made sodas on the drink menu. For chai tea lovers, the description of the "homemade almond-macadamia milk spiced chai" rings true for a quality chai.
In social media, Bills is known for two things - the ricotta hotcakes and the creamiest, most-perfect scrambled eggs in Sydney. I already knew what I came for. Is there a possibility I influenced my husband's order so that I could try the scrambled eggs too? I plead the fifth.
We sat for a while on our street side table sipping tea and OJ (freshly squeezed using an industrial-looking machine) as I subtlety tried to take photos of the decor. I could hear the middle-aged couple next to us laughing at my photo-happy efforts - can't people just sit and enjoy breakfast anymore without pulling out a smartphone? I'm sorry, but it was for a good cause, I swear!
Experiencing the Legend When the waitress came out I was presented with a mountain of hotcakes, it turns out that Bills is certainly not helping our obesity epidemic with their serving sizes. Four ample sized hotcakes topped with a large slab of honeycomb butter, a generous pot of maple syrup and I did find some bananas hiding underneath.
Let's not beat around the bush, it all lived up to the hype! The hotcakes were fluffy, ricotta filled pillows with pops of honey and maple syrup and the bananas provided a nice relief to the richness of the dish. I admit they were so sizeable that I could only get through 2.5 hotcakes, but do not let that be a reflection of quality!
The scrambled eggs - what was in these things? In fact, I don't want to know because the amount of cream and butter required to achieve this perfect texture and taste is probably best left unsaid. Let's just accept this offering with guilt-free enthusiasm.
Do yourself a favour and give this place a try. After two decades of serving breakfast in Sydney, Bill Granger proves that classics stay around for a reason.
*although having parked in a Surry Hills dead-end side street, it took a fair amount of to-ing and fro-ing to get back out.