Changes creep into one's life so surreptitiously. All of a sudden, my baby brother has grown taller than me, my parents have discovered the joys of social media and I have somehow finished my law degree! In this world of fast paced changes, I often crave for an oasis where one can stop mentally planning the next task and concentrate on enjoying the present. For some, this oasis may be playing music or practising yoga. For me, the oasis is having a lazy Sunday brunch with family and friends at a quality cafe.
My friend Anthony from Canberra is currently working in Sydney over the summer break. When he asked me what was a good place to go for brunch on the weekend, I had a feeling that Bills at Darlinghurst was the perfect place to catch up over brunch.
We arrived at Bills on Liverpool St at 11am. It's behind Dr Victor Chang's Cardiac Research Centre and a short stroll from Oxford St. As expected, there was a line outside the restaurant. After waiting for about 15 minutes, a waitress came out and told us that we could be seated if we didn't mind sharing a table with two other people. We didn't want to wait any longer so we readily agreed to share a table with 2 other strangers. Little did we know, this communal seating eventuated in one of the most delightful brunches I've ever had.
The restaurant was brightly lit and its decor was simple and refreshing. A large communal table was located on the right side of the room, with Chrissy decorations, cookie jars and magazines placed in the middle of the table. The menu was simple and interestingly divided into 'freshly baked', 'the classics', 'grains, fruit and juice' and 'drinks'. I was instantly drawn to the bizarre dish titled 'crab, chorizo with kim chee fried brown rice'. The two girls who were seated beside us also wanted the same dish that I wanted. The waitress came bearing the sad news that the 'crab, chorizo with kim chee friend brown rice' was sold out already. In the end, I settled for a full Aussie breakfast and Anthony picked the famous sweetcorn fritters with roasted tomatoes, spinach and bacon. The two girls coincidentally ordered the exact same dishes that we ordered
As we drank our coffee and waited for the food arrive, we somehow started talking to the girls who were seated next to us. We found out that Jess and Megan were from the United States - Jess just arrived in Australia while Megan's been here for a few months. The girls told us about many of their amusing travel stories in Australia, from the time they spent in Townsville, the story behind the phone number written on Jess' arm, to their inability to comprehend Australians' passion for cricket... I am not normally a person to converse with strangers on a communal table at a restaurant but I found myself telling them the best gelato places to visit in Sydney, the cheap eats in Chinatown, and the best spots for New Year's Eve fireworks in Sydney. Anthony told them about his hometown Canberra, the compromised capital of Australia. The American girls were just bewildered by the story behind the history of Canberra and somehow Australians' sense of compromised just made them love Australia that much more.
Mocca with dark chocolate
Time really flies when you are having fun. Anthony's sweetcorn fritters and my Aussie big breakfast arrived. Someone once told me that Bill Granger's scrambled eggs are the best in the world. The best scrambled eggs ever? Surely anyone can great scrambled eggs at home! Honestly though, those scrambled eggs were firm and light, full of body, yet seasoned with the perfect amount of flavour. Not too salty and not too milky. The lightly roasted tomatoes sprinkled with cumin seeds were just divine. Bacon was crispy and not too fatty, the mushrooms were beautifully booked and the fennel pork sausages were pocket rockets filled with great flavours. By the time I demolished my Aussie breakfast, Anthony was only half way through his breakfast!
Anthony thoroughly enjoyed his sweetcorn fritters too. He loved the bacon and the roasted tomatoes, and observed that the corns fell so beautifully apart as soon as the fork hit the fritters. The avocado salsa was a highlight for him as well.
After I finished my big Aussie breakfast, I noticed that the American girls were still waiting for their food to arrive. We ordered about the same time and I became annoyed that the girls had been waiting for quite a while. I waved the waitress over and asked her why the food for the girls hadn't arrive. It was bizarre, I know. Asking the restaurant why the food hadn't arrived for the people who were seated on the communal table with us. Anyway, you would be pleased to know that their food arrived soon after and because they waited for so long, the restaurant decided to apologise by waiving the entire cost of their brunch! Good on ya Bills!
Brunch at Bills was a true oasis - we caught up with friends, managed a mini Australian-American cultural exchange between strangers on a communal table and enjoyed top quality coffee and food. Perhaps I will bump into you on the communal table at Bills next time!