How good can a chop salad be? Our waiter's eyes light up as he describes it as a personal favourite.
"It's all about the dressing," he explains. “It takes 3 hours to make and the ingredients in the salad itself are just perfect... edamame, corn..." My concentration waivers and I'm in a trance watching his lips move, feeling hunger pangs rising in my stomach.
“Sold! Yes I’ll have that!” I declare.
“Any additions? Smoked salmon?… Grilled chicken?”
I pause, thinking about my current obsession with the plant proof podcast… “No, just as is please…”
My companion and epic cameraman Dave orders the prawn linguine and both we agree on herbed fries to share.
Bills is quintessentially Sydney. Granger with his blonde hair and wide smile hooked me in my early 20’s when I’d find any excuse to pop past Crown Street, even just for a takeaway coffee. I love his cooking and I love his new restaurant. Taking over the neighbouring site to his very first cafe on Crown Street over 23 years ago, Bills hasn’t wandered far but the aesthetic is very different.
Distinctly Art Deco with a nod to a European influence it’s a paired back dining space. Soft leather banquets hug the perimeter and I notice tucked behind the backrest is a shelf which discretely offers iPhone charging for diners.
The walls and ceilings are a warm brandy-custard colour…or is it mustard? Clearly, it’s inspired from something edible, or am I just hungry?
Excusing myself from the table I’m off to explore the bathrooms. Not because nature calls but more because I’m a frustrated interior designer and I want a peak at the bathroom details.
I notice the wall and floor tiles are the same terrazzo used on the dining space floor. They have that old Italian feel, in a dirty salmon hue.
A shelf supports a vase of my favourite spring flowers ‘Star-Of-Bethlehem’ and washing my hands the botanical scent of the Assop hand wash fills the air. “Oh, I like this,” I confirm to myself and stroll back to the table.
A chunky wooden bowl is set before me. Thank god it’s substantial and as promised it’s full of delightful ingredients and textures. The earthy flavours of the crunchy chickpeas are offset by sweet morsels of beetroot and charred corn. The crisp iceberg lettuce is dressed in that heavenly sesame miso medley and it is as good as the waiter described. Utterly delicious, there’s no food envy here.
Dave politely offers me a prawn. “No I’m good,” I say but 2 minutes later my fork is hovering over his pasta. “Well I need to review the flavours,” I report cheekily.
It’s a light pasta with a good serve of juicy prawns. Visually it looks hot with many red specks of chilli but upon sampling, I decide the overwhelming flavour is actually garlic. Dave is chuffed, explaining he’s obsessed with it, often enjoying raw garlic by the spoonful whilst cooking.
We notice the ceiling speakers are made from a clear perspex showing the inner workings. It’s the only real contemporary element, everything else feels modern but more classic. The brains behind the interiors is local Darlinghurst firm Meacham Nockles and they’ve done a fantastic job.
I can’t leave without a coffee and sipping my extra hot soy latte I decide Bills is still one of my all-time Sydney favourites and the new space makes it all the more fabulous.