Bills – Conflict of Interest
There’s this place called Bills on Crown Street in Surry Hills that does awesome breakfasts…
Well, so the rumours go. I have wanted to try out Bills for quite awhile now – I’ve heard that their breakfast menu is fantastic. As a big, big fan of brunch (just think of it as the lazy man’s breakfast *cough*) I just had to give it a try. Well, that was several months ago – my eating adventures and lack of an able brunch-buddy has precluded my long-awaited trip there.
Until last Saturday, that is. I was in the ever-charming company of Bonbon (henceforth referred to as The [one and only] Cracker) and with ASOC JASS ball ready to spring into (absolutely fabulous) action later that night, a brunch at Bills was in perfect order.
Number of Visits: 1
Date Visited: 15/09/2012
Address: 359 Crown Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
Good for: breakfasts/brunches, somewhat alfresco-style dining,
Not good for: anything exotic
Go-to dish: those ricotta hotcakes mmm…
The immediate thing you notice is that it’s somewhat more colourful than other cafes. Bright yellow chairs, piles of fresh fruit and veggies of varying colours piled up behind display glass and a general sense of vibrancy to the place immediately put on a good atmosphere. A good start indeed! We sit down on a table for 2 between two other tables – but this didn’t feel very comfy so we switched to a corner-window table as soon as it was available. That’s how I ended up facing the cafe.
The interior of Bills is very bright and colourful (see header pic for green chairs on the outside as well). Cheerio!
It was only in retrospect that I learned that Bills is most famous for its sweetcorn fritters with roast tomato, spinach and bacon. We didn’t order that. Oops. BUT as the optimist this simply means that there will be more to try next time I visit!
We DID however end up ordering 4 dishes, which is quite the feat considering how there were only the two of us and one of us doesn’t have what I deem “sufficient stomach capacity”. Ahem.
First thing to arrive is the one sweet food that Bills does very, very well.
Ricotta hotcakes with fresh banana and honeycomb butter
Here is a clip of George Takei’s famous “Oh Myyyyy”. Listen to it.
That friends, was the feeling I got as I took the first few bites of the hotcakes. The smooth, buttery texture dances playfully around your mouth and you do NOT want to wolf these down quickly as you often do with hotcakes. I was clever not to over-lather the syrup since you don’t want to overpower the hotcakes themselves. Spread a bit of the [honeycomb!!!] butter on and you are THERE. I immediately got the feeling that this was going to be the best dish we were going to have that day and I was not wrong.
Smooth, the right amount of heat and sweetness. The three most important factors which were beautifully met by this dish. Oh Myyy indeed.
(notice how I don’t need to talk too much about dishes that are great? You just KNOW it’s great when you eat it).
I’m pretty sure that The Cracker didn’t want to share me those hotcakes, and after having them myself I can see why. So…do they do delivery?
Brioche bun with sunny-side egg, rocket w/optional bacon
I’ll just use this sentence to say that brioche is my favourite umbrella-type of bread. I would readily eat brioche over any other type of bread in almost every possible situation. This is primarily why the hot dogs at Snag Stand are so awesome (review will come one day!). Of course, not the healthiest choice due to the higher-than-average sugar content but hey – I’m blogging about food, not diet
I ordered this brioche roll with bacon, so it arrived without it. AWKWARD. I think the waitress misheard me or something (insert appropriate statement about quality of service here) but honestly I could not have cared less – I took it as a sign that I shouldn’t be having bacon. Yeah, turned that one around (Y).
And hey – I didn’t need that bacon (sure it may have made it better, but I was happy without it) since the roll itself was fine and dandy already. The brioche was a bit light on the flavour but fluffy on the texture. A minus and a plus there. The egg was fried but I was very surprised when rich, creamy egg yolk burst forth when I bit into it – it was amazing how they made it so runny! And yes, this is a big PLUS. Be careful when eating this one – I ended up wasting a bit of yolk from the splatter! Ah for the life of a messy eater
The rocket wasn’t really value-adding to the burger, so if you dislike rocket’s texture/bitter taste you ought to remove it before eating. I actually like rocket somewhat so I’m going to go with a +1 here.
It’s a good enough roll, but it’s not what I would be coming back to Bills for. Better brioche can be found elsewhere in different forms.
Kimchi fried brown rice with egg noodles and chorizo
Now this was interesting – a rather Asian dish at a not-so Asian cafe. I looked up, and lo and behold were several Asian chefs in the cafe kitchen! Not that I’m being racist or anything, but I didn’t exactly picture Bills to be an Asian cafe – considering almost every other dish isn’t. Oh well, my thoughts on this matter were quickly dispersed by the aroma that was coming from the rice. Without further hesitation I dug in.
The problem when I cook brown rice for myself in a pressure cooker (yes I do cook! Sometimes…not very well) is that the rice isn’t cooked for long enough and still ends up tasting a little bit nutty/hard. Now you can’t expect the texture of white rice since the composition is simply too different but still, I was sure you could do it better than with a pressure cooker. Turns out Bills can do it – in the form of fried rice. I imagine they’d have special cookers which cook the rice for at least twice as long with maybe as much as 30% more water (which is how I eventually got around that problem myself). Then proceeded to whittle a great deal of water out of it and fried it up! The result is actually very impressive. See, put it this way – had I not known what I was ordering, I’d be inclined to believe it’s white rice! It was done that well. Now I still knew it was brown rice because there was still a hint of that nutty flavour and slightly tougher texture that’s inherent to this lovely grain, but I easily overlooked that and enjoyed the medley of flavours that were there on the dish.
Speaking of the flavours, they seemed to fight a little – at times I felt like I needed a bit of kimchi to spice things up, other times I had to take a bite out of the chorizo in order to maintain the flow of the dish. Overall, it was also a bit on the somewhat sour-chilli side. Some of you would enjoy this flavour quite a lot, I’m more partial to it. I’m not used to fried brown rice – so I feel that this is a dish that leaves room for it to grown on me.
Oh and, if you dare – I recommend you use the hot chilli sauce that is provided with it. Use a mighty big dollop
Yes this chilli sauce – not for the mild-hearted!
As for the egg noodles – completely unnecessary. I didn’t really ever figure out how to eat them – by themselves they were tasteless and they didn’t work with other elements of the dish so I awkwardly just soaked them up in chilli and nommed away.
Okay, so we’ve gone through 3 dishes now. But no, I’M NOT FULL. I’M STILL HUNGRY (I literally said these words as The Cracker can attest to). Thus, I got one final dish on the menu that I had been eyeing for awhile.
Bills Gravlax, soft cheese parsley salad & toastedrye bread
Now I definitely had mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, the rye bread that came with it got burned so I had a fun time chewing on carbon. On the other hand, the parts of the bread that weren’t burned were quite well toasted! I don’t know how to explain that.
As for the gravlax (that’s cured salmon/trout done in a Nordic style) hmmmmm. So remember what I said about sashimi in my [Masuya] review? Those rules don’t apply here – the trout is quite a bit tougher – somewhere between soft salmon and akami (super lean tuna), probably leaning towards the lean tuna’s level of toughness. I was fine with that since you’re not meant to eat it in the same way as sashimi. What was wrong for me was the dressing used – it was far too rich in parsley and the flavour was really, really WEIRD to say the least. It didn’t play nice in my mouth. It’s a hard flavour to describe…think of mayo with a ton of chopped up parsley and…remove the flavour of the mayo. Yeah it’s pretty much a sauce that tastes like parsley. That did not work out for me :/
Overall, you should be coming to Bills for its sweetcorn fritters (dang it) and its hotcakes. The other three dishes? Yeah throw ‘em in on the side, especially if you’ve a love affair with parsley. Yes, Bills is a complicated place for sure and I’m sure there’s a bit of conflict in the flavours (and cuisines) of its dishes.
Despite the score I’ve given below (since I can’t just skew it because of one awesome, awesome dish), I will definitely come again – you just gotta make the good choices, isn’t that what life’s about in general?
I give Bills a grand total of seven Caesars out of 10 – 7/10