Starting your day with a meal at Bills Surry Hills is an experience in itself, writes Alan Teh Leam Seng
THE Sunday morning traffic in Sydney is surprisingly heavy and the talkative Silver Cab driver of South Indian descent decides to kill time by filling me in with stories as we head to 359 Crown St, Surry Hills.
Finally, he stops at the top of an inclined road and, before leaving me at my destination, reminds me to try the scrambled eggs. I am taken aback. The food here must be very good, for even cab drivers know so much about it.
I find my friend Jim enjoying his coffee and the view from his seat by the window. Acknowledging my arrival, he says I must sample breakfast at Bills before I leave Australia. In fact, he’s taken the liberty to order popular breakfast favourites for me to try. The delicious smell of newly baked toast and freshly brewed coffee is starting to sharpen my hunger pangs.
Jim insists that I sample the brew here which, according to him, is out of the ordinary. I relent and let Jim, a Sydneysider and a frequent customer at Bills, order for me.
HERE, THEY COME
The food finally arrives after an hour. By then, my hunger level is nearly approaching the point of desperation. I dive straight into the food. My first choice is the scrambled eggs.
The yellowish mass is creamy and soft yet firm enough to balance on my small piece of sourdough toast. After the first mouthful, I am convinced that Bill Granger, self-taught cook and restaurateur, has managed to come up with something amazing. This is definitely THE best scrambled eggs I have ever tasted.
Curiosity gets the better of me and I try to find out the other ingredients used besides the eggs, in subsequent mouthfuls. I am frustrated. I fail to distinguish the ingredients used to make this dish even with my tastebuds working at maximum capacity.
Finally, I ask one of the serving staff. All I manage to find out is that this simple yet amazingly delicious creation is made using one third cup of cream to two fresh eggs. I doubt I will be able to recreate it at home.
The ricotta hotcakes are served with fresh banana, maple syrup and honeycomb butter. I like the thick, fluffy pancakes which have soft creamy centres. I cut a piece from the edges as I want to try the pancake plain first, minus the syrup and butter. Surprisingly, they are not sweet at all and I end up adding quite a lot of golden brown maple syrup to enjoy my pancakes the way I like them.
Being at Bills is an experience in itself. Everything is so clean and orderly. Even the air is so fresh and crisp. The restaurant is surprisingly vibrant and lively for a lazy Sunday morning. Jim tells me that diners are known to wait for three hours before getting their food. That is how popular Bills is.
My special coffee arrives while I am enjoying my fried rice. The in-house blend of single origin roasters looks ordinary enough. I guess what makes it special is the generous dollop of vanilla ice cream accompanying it. I smile. I am glad Jim remembers how I enjoyed this combination when we were at the Blue Mountains just two days earlier.
I gently add the precious ice cream into the coffee. Then, I sit back and watch the white and brown liquids swirl around each other, spurred by the tussling hot and cold convection currents. It takes several minutes
for the mixture to finally even out. By then, the fried rice on my sharing plate with Jim has already vanished.
The coffee here is far better than the one I had earlier at the hotel. I thank Jim for introducing me to this popular Sydney breakfast outfit. I will surely remember the scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes for a very long time.
The open kitchen concept at Bills.
Clockwise from top: The scrambled eggs go well with the sourdough bread, The crisp fried rice is served with raw vegetables, brown rice and chilli fried egg with sprouting seeds. The ricotta hotcakes are very popular at Bills.