A big change is needed for tourists enjoying holidays in the Sydney CBD. There are very few worthwhile breakfast options in the city that have great coffee and diverse food choices. Not loving the thought of eating at a hotel buffet, we had no choice but to go out to the inner suburbs.
It is surprising, but there are not a huge amount of must try cafes near the city, and several good options are shut on the weekend. In the end we took the easy option and chose to meet friends at Bills in Surry Hills.
Bills is an institution. It has all the ingredients that you need for a successful café. Fame, quality food, decent coffee, good waitstaff, and a nice good looking fitout. It is a script that Bill Granger has used around Sydney and as far as London. I can tell you right now that you could not do exactly the same in Melbourne and expect as much success.
We were here for a good time but not a long time, which factored in the obligatory 20 minute wait. Ordering quickly, most of us had scrambled eggs and bacon, which was good quality. Catherine changed up to avocado toast, and again it was a nicely executed classic. The orange juice was fresh and sweet, and the coffee was nice enough, albeit plain.
There are little things here that you need to deal with though. For a start, our friend Simon (a chef himself) couldn’t believe there was no option for eggs on toast other than scrambled. Putting two and two together it would appear that the chefs don’t want to do poached, or the kitchen is too small to do regularly, or a bit of both. There are poached eggs offered as part of some dishes, and fried too, but not simply with toast and a side or two.
I came here knowing these things, and still decided to come. The reason is simple. There are not a lot of good options on the way to Randwick and I know you can depend on Bills. There is a good chance I’ll be back again next time, or the time after.
Rarely do we fall in love at first sight when it comes to restaurants. Many times we have an amazing experience, but cannot afford to go back any time soon, or want to try a new experience given the price tag.
Is that why we often say we “love” places like bakeries and gelaterias when trying to explain our affinity towards them? Many times I have said I love Messina or Beechworth Bakery and well and truly adding to a reasonably long list is the Bourke Street Bakery. There are numerous outposts but Surry Hills is the original.
More than once over the Easter weekend, we were here for lunch or afternoon tea. It was Catherine’s first time and the way I described it was “everything is good – pies, croissants, cakes, breads – everything!” Luckily I didn’t ruin her experience with a heightened expectation that could not be met. Even the coffee is pretty good here.
The pistachio creme brûlée may have been the ultimate sweet from the selection we tried over a few days but only a short margin away was the brandied prune custard tart, rhubarb and almond tart, and the lemon curd tart.
While on Good Friday we tried a vegetarian sausage roll with eggplant, the best savoury was our pie with beef brisket on the Sunday which had enough red wine sauce (and mushroom) to not need any of the tomato variety added.
Something that made some of these treats taste even better was eating them at the harbour beach in Vaucluse. While it might be called “Shark Beach” there is nothing dangerous about it – one of the great inner harbour beaches Sydney has to offer, complete with a shark net just in case.
This bakery makes a beeline towards complete and utter happiness, not to mention yet another love.
I fondly remember a cafe in Surry Hills that seemed ahead of its time. What I forget every time I go to Sydney is that it doesn’t open on weekends which strikes me as quite strange. There are so many cafes in Surry Hills that we quickly looked up another one and detoured to The Book Kitchen, which is a little further east.
The Book Kitchen looks quite quaint and welcoming. It was a busy Saturday morning but we only needed to wait for a little while before a table for two opened up. The menu is reasonably basic but still has appeal.
Catherine decided on the bircher muesli and ordered it with fresh fruits. Even though we were on our way to the races, I chanced the fact that my suit might wear my bacon and egg roll and stuck with that option. My bacon and egg roll included a delicious slightly spicy chutney and did the job well. Unfortunately, Catherine’s bircher had been prepared with both apple and cream, which made it a really thick and off putting consistency which was close to inedible. It was more like putty – something had gone wrong.
The positive in all of this was the fact one of the waitstaff enquired about Catherine’s meal which she had hardly touched and offered to bring something else. In a bit of a hurry by this stage, Catherine chose to just grab some toast with jam which was good. We appreciated the staff had done a nice job to rectify the issue, but I certainly wouldn’t be ordering bircher there any time soon.
The important thing in running a restaurant is realising that not everything goes right all of the time. When you have these situations, providing a decent solution really helps all involved. Especially, the diner enjoying their bacon and egg roll!
The coffee here was pretty good, the bacon and egg roll was good, and the staff were friendly, and handled themselves well. While I would love for Single Origin to be open on the weekends, this is not a bad option a little down the road.