In his 28-year career as a restaurateur, this is the first time Bill Granger hasn’t been on-site for an opening.
“I’m gutted I’m missing this,” Granger says about the launch of his new Double Bay eatery, which opens today. “Creating a new restaurant is such a joy. I love this stage of opening. But I talk to the team every day, and I feel like I know every inch of the place.”
Granger’s first Bills opened in Darlinghurst in 1993, followed by eateries in Surry Hills, Bondi, London, Tokyo and Japan – but the chef and cookbook author says he’s always had an affinity for Double Bay.
“When I first moved to Sydney in the late ’80s, I was 19,” he says, speaking to Broadsheet via video call from his restaurant in London’s Notting Hill. “I remember Double Bay had such a vibrant cafe society. Everything spilled out into the streets, which was unusual for Australia at the time. Over the years it’s changed a lot, but fundamentally it’s a local village, and a beautiful place to meet, have a chat and a glass of champers in the arvo and watch the world go by.”
Bills Double Bay is inspired by Granger’s time in Vienna and meals in its grand all-day cafes. Global development chef Louis Solley (ex-Ottolenghi) has kept the familiar breakfast and lunch dishes that put Bills (and Australian breakfast culture) on the map – sweet-corn fritters, avocado with chilli and lime on rye, scrambled eggs and ricotta hotcakes – as well as dishes that celebrate fresh produce, such as green-pea falafel with fennel and herb salad, grated tomato and hummus.
“Dinner is a collection of our favourite things,” says Granger. That means plays on the schnitzels he enjoyed in Austria; a raw bar featuring Sydney rock oysters; simply grilled fish or steak; and a chicken, pea and leek soup that he’s especially excited about.
Although he takes inspiration from Europe, Granger wants to balance the glamour of European dining with an Australian warmth and ease. “In Europe, dining can feel intimidating. We want to make it welcoming and easy. The Australian attitude towards eating is egalitarian and fun.”
Long-time collaborator Meacham Nockles design studio is behind the handsome dining room, which offers the same warm and inviting experience as its predecessors. Tan leather banquettes and rattan chairs – both something of a signature for Bills’ Sydney venues – frame a combination of gilt-edged and timber tables. Out the front, glossy black chairs sit behind orange tables on the footpath. Sconce lighting illuminates the modern space, while an eye-catching black column stands in the middle of the dining room.
Although he’s a household name, Granger is humble about each new venue he opens.
“I can have a vision, but the customers give a place personality. It’s my job to make people feel like they’re the most important people in the world when they walk in.”
With nearly three decades in the business, and a strikingly difficult 2020 (which saw Granger close then, weeks later, reopen his Darlinghurst cafe), Granger is feeling hopeful about opening in Double Bay.
“The pandemic meant so many terrible things for so many people, but I think it’s also meant that none of us are scared of anything anymore. And nobody takes things for granted. We’ve come through the other side, and we really appreciate each other and the places we go to eat.”
Bills Double Bay
16 Cross Street, Double Bay
(02) 8412 1144
Mon to Fri 7am–10pm
Sat & Sun 7.30am–10pm