Bills, Surry Hills

How many times have you heard Bills being referred to as a "Sydney institution" for brunch?


Well you must be living under a rock.  There is a 90% chance that Bills will be referred to in a foodie article about brunching in Sydney.

Okay, I made that statistic up but it seems like a fair estimate to me!

As with most places that receive such high praise, it is with good reason.

We ventured to Bills in Surry Hills one week when there had been a constant stream of wet weather in Sydney.  Yet we were lucky on this day to enjoy a rare day of (cloudy) sunshine and readily soaked up the good atmosphere at Bills.

Due to its 'Sydney institution' status, Bills is very popular. They do not take bookings for brunch and we were lucky to nab the last table available upon arrival although I noted that about half an hour after we sat down, some more tables freed up so it seems like there is good traffic flow.

The one thing that hit me immediately upon sitting down was the warmth and glow of the sunshine coming through the windows.  It streamed through the large windows on the side of the restaurant and everyone was basking in the light.  This amazing light just made everything look so good!  The furniture, the food, the people.  A PERFECT brunch setting!
I started off with a Flat White.

Bills own organic coffee by Single Origin Roasters ($3.90)

Like all Single Origin coffees, it was very smooth and went down well.

As you may know, articles about Bills always seem to mention his signature ricotta hotcakes. 

Ricotta hotcakes with fresh banana and honeycomb butter ($19.50)

What can I say?  They are delicious.  You receive three light and fluffy hotcakes with little pieces of ricotta buried in the batter.  Banana and honey is a classic combination for breakfast and you just can't go wrong with these! Yum yum.

Bills' sweet corn fritters are another breakfast dish that is often cited in articles.

Sweet Corn Fritters with roast tomato, spinach and bacon ($18.50)

On this occasion, I found them to be a bit dry and wished for some sauce or extra tomatoes to cut through the fritter batter.

There was still a warm glow coming the windows when we finished our meal.  As we paid and left, it felt like we were leaving Brunch-land and entering back into reality where somehow, the sunlight just wasn't as nice as it was inside Bills.

Bills on Urbanspoon

Adriano Zumbo Patissier, The Star

You know you have hit the big time when your name is in giant lights.  And you are a pastry chef.


Seriously - is there another pastry chef who has their name in giant lights like this?  The hot pink is amazing and those lightbulbs throw some major bling!  Watch out Hollywood!

Adriano Zumbo's new store at the revamped Star City is extremely different from his venues in Rozelle.  By comparison, the Rozelle venues appear almost traditional when you look at the fitout and design of his newest store - which many have said resembles a Willy Wonka factory.

Let's have a look at the creativity in this store.  It reminds me of a scientist's factory!

The individual cakes on offer are displayed in big lamp-shaped jars at the front of the store.

Each cake is displayed with a small card indicating the components of the cake and the price:

When you go inside the store, the current macaron flavours are displayed in cute little glass alarm cases.  There is also a mini self serve section for croissants, danishes etc.  It was afternoon when we visited, so this might have contributed to the pastries looking a bit lacklustre as though they had been sitting there a while....I'm sure they would have still tasted delicious though :-)

I was saddened to see that the lychee macaron flavour was unavailable - I had already marked this flavour as one I wanted to try!

This store also has a different ordering system available.  A staff member hovers around the store with a notepad, ready to take your order for macarons and cakes.  After you have recited your order, they will pass the order to the kitchen.  When your goods are ready, your name is called out to collect and pay at the cash register. 

I restrained myself to a select number of goodies.

I chose three macarons - Lime & Mint Mojito, Sweet Corn with a hint of Mango and Watermelon & Orange ($2.50 each).  My favorite out of these was the Lime & Mint Mojito.  It was packed with flavour and did indeed taste like a Mojito!

I have always wanted to try Zumbo's famous V8 cake but unfortunately never had a chance to before they stopped producing it!  So I was extraordinarily pleased to discover (thanks to a tip-off from Mobblees) that Zumbo was producing a Christmas version of the V8 cake.

Christmas V8 cake ($10)
8 layers -Cinnamon Creme Chantilly, Morello Cherry Jelly, Pain D'épices, Toasted Nougat Brulee, Vanilla Chiffon Cake, Vanilla Ganache, Pistachio Crunch and Pistachio Dacquoise

All I have to say is - wow.  If you get a chance to try this cake, I highly recommend it!!  Usually I'm not a fan of cherry in my desserts but the thin layer of cherry jelly worked well with the seven other layers in this cake.  There was a variety of texture in every bite - crunchiness, smoothness, density - you can tell a lot of work has gone into designing this cake.  The flavour was incredible too - you could taste some spice, vanilla, pistachio, nougat, cherry .  It was so yummy!

Adriano Zumbo's new store at the Star is unlike any other patisserie that I have seen before.  Props to him for daring to step outside the boundaries and also a big thanks for creating a store in the city!

Adriano Zumbo P√Ętissier on Urbanspoon

District Dining, Surry Hills

District Dining is a new favourite restaurant that I discovered this year.  In fact, I cannot believe that it took me this long to try it!  Tucked away right next to Central Station opposite the Devonshire Street exit, it is unbelievably convenient to get to by public transport.

District Dining has one of those menus where there are at least ten different things that I want to try because everything just sounds so good!  The first time we visited, I was bitterly disappointed to hear that the school prawns had sold out for the day.  I stared at the waiter in disbelief before shaking myself back to reality and had a consolation prize of the crispy quail eggs with tarragon mayonnaise instead.  They were nice, but they were no school prawns.  On this same visit, I tried the steak tartare and mandarin brulee - it was delicious and enough to convince me to come back again.

During this second visit, I crossed my fingers and prayed to the food gods that the school prawns would be available.

This time, I started off with a crisp pear caprioska.

All District Dining cocktails are $17

It was refreshing and exactly what I needed on a Friday night.  

After studying the menu for a long time (again, there were too many enticing options and there had been some seasonal menu changes since the last visit), we waved the waiter over.  I ordered with baited breath and the waiter didn't blink an eye as he wrote down the order for school prawns.  Phew!

Crispy school prawns with lime mayonnaise ($16)

District chicken wings with chili caramel ($12)

The crispy school prawns were amazing!  So delicious.  Each prawn was chomped down whole, with the head and body deep fried to a crunch.  The bowl of prawns seemed bottomless, it was a generous serving size for the mere $16 paid.  I especially liked the bigger prawns as they had the most prawn-y flavour.

The chicken wings were also yummy with the clear standout being the finger-licking chili caramel sauce.

Roasted spatchcock, succotash, lime sour cream and tortilla ($29)

When the spatchcock arrived at our table, I was surprised by how BIG it was!  The spatchcock had been carved into quarters and seemed about the same size as a small chicken.  I could only eat about half of this and handed over the rest to my dining companion.

Duck confit, sweet potato, pomegranate, ras el hanout ($27)

This photo doesn't really do the duck confit justice.  It was crisp yet moist and the sweet potato added wonderful flavour to the dish.  About half the size of the spatchcock.

There were only four dessert options on the menu but it was still so hard to choose!

Chocolate mousse, hazelnut brittle ice cream and hazelnut crumble ($14)

Cookie sandwich, coconut and chocolate, honeycomb parfait ($14)

In hindsight, we should have gone for the creme brulee because the two desserts that we did choose were very similar and ended up being a bit overly sweet.

In the week following this meal, I kept dreaming about the crispy school prawns and would begin salivating at the thought of them.  District Dining has awakened the crispy school prawn monster in me!

District Dining on Urbanspoon

Quarter Twenty One, Westfield Sydney

I really, really like the new Westfield Sydney.  I can forgive the months of ugly construction that it took to build the shopping centre.  But not because of the shops - instead, the charm of this Westfield comes from its food!

I have been slowly building up a post for the different things that I've tried in the food court. 

In the meantime, please enjoy this post about a recent lunch at Quarter Twenty One - one of Justin North's restaurants conveniently located on the same level as the food court. 

We arrived for a three-course Friday lunch, eager with anticipation to try this new place as none of us had been here before.  Although the restaurant is right next to the food court, it is a different world once you step inside.  The furnishings are plush and the noise levels inside are surprisingly quiet. 

We started off with some bread and a dollop of light, airy butter.

Then we selected two entrees to share.  It was difficult to pick just two because they all sounded so tempting!

Confit Petuna trout, bone marrow, broad bean persillade, leek & lemon pith puree ($26)

Tartare of beef with grilled toast, quail eggs & mustard ($12)

The plating of the Petuna trout reminds me of the plating style at Justin North's other restaurants.  So pretty, with a splash of colour on the plate.

Beef tartare never used to interest me in the past but it now catches my eye on any menu. This rendition was simple and tasty. The gooey centre of the quail egg didn't fail to disappoint.

Our waiter was extremely helpful and assisted us in choosing our mains.  Coincidentally, we each ended up with a main off the 'From the Oceans, Rivers & Lakes' portion of the menu!  Clearly he did a good job talking up Quarter 21's seafood dishes.

Roast skate wing, scallop and crab, stuffed courgette flower, fennel, noilly prat ($38)

Steamed Cone Bay barramundi

The next picture is my main - I'll admit that it looks just like a bowl of foam with some prawns peeking out but don't let that fool you.  Our waiter informed us that it is one of Quarter 21's most popular dishes - a light seafood broth that is filled with fresh seafood.  Of course I had to choose it and I wasn't disappointed - I had to ask for a spoon so that I could sip the delicious broth!

By now our stomachs were stuffed but it isn't a meal unless there is dessert!

Granny smith apple mille feuille, tea soaked grapes and brown butter ice cream ($16)

Souffle du jour ($17)

I was intrigued by the description of 'tea soaked grapes' with the mille feuille but the reality was a let down.  The taste of tea was a bit too subtle - they looked and tasted like prunes!  The mille feuille looked very pretty on the plate but I would have preferred a more traditional one i.e. with some creamy custard sandwiched instead of just apples because it was a bit dry.

Quarter Twenty One seems like another success story for Justin North.  The restaurant also offers cookery classes and sells a variety of products and cookbooks.  What more could you ask for?

Quarter Twenty One on Urbanspoon

copyright © . all rights reserved. designed by Color and Code

grid layout coding by