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Since then, Bill has been crowned the 'egg master of Sydney' (New York Times 2002), the 'king of breakfast' (The Telegraph Magazine, 2016), the 'creator of avocado toast' (Washington Post 2016) and 'the restaurateur most responsible for the Australian cafe's global reach' (The New Yorker 2018).
Nowadays, from Sydney to Tokyo, and London to Seoul, queues form to enjoy ricotta hotcakes ('Sydney's most iconic dish' Good Food 2019), fluffy scrambled eggs, lively salads and punchy curries. It is a bright picture of Australian food that has travelled across the globe, packed with fresh flavours and local produce, healthy but never preachy, whose main ingredient seems to be sunshine itself. The plates at any of Bill's restaurants are more sophisticated today, reflecting decades of global experience and culinary creativity – but the warmth of atmosphere and joy of eating remain the same.
From the Publisher
I never really had a plan. Helpful people tried to make me write a 10-year plan, then a 5-year plan. Anyone who knows me knows that a 2-week plan would be ambitious. But I had a hunger to prove myself and make my mark. It was 1993, and until that point I hadn’t been able to finish anything. It had taken me three at tempts to graduate high school. I’d started architecture at university in Melbourne and left after four months. It says something that I couldn’t even finish art school in Sydney. I took off to Tokyo to live for six months, then got distracted and went backpacking around India. But when I decided to open the restaurant I found my groove; I found my tribe. Being asked to write a book about Australian foods made me take time to think about what were those magical elements that clicked all those years ago in a tiny, sunny Sydney corner store. And, in choosing the 100-odd recipes to feature in this book, how my own particular menu of Australian food came about, and then evolved.
Chapter 1 :Classics
Which ‘team avo’ are you on – sliced, smashed or diced? We serve sliced in the restaurants but at home I usually dice it into a salsa. I’ve included both options here to avoid a diplomatic incident. A few newspapers have flatteringly described me as the ‘inventor of avocado toast’. Fake news? I suspect it might be, but who would turn down such an accolade?
Chapter 2: Grains, Seeds & Juices
Does the world really need nourishing with another chia pot? Is it possible we’ve reached peak wellness? Both valid points, but I just couldn’t leave out this recipe – it’s such a popular and deliciously effortless modern breakfast to put together for the family. I use almond or oat milk with this – perfect if you’re not a big fan of dairy, as one of my daughters isn’t. (So much so that her idea of hell is a cheese room.)
Chapter 3: Breakfast Plates
It goes without saying that I love scrambled eggs, but these days I seem to be eating scrambled tofu more often. It can be very basic – just scrambled with a little tamari – or a bit more involved, like this dish. I spent so many years cooking scrambled eggs at 6am that I have a recur ring nightmare: customers are waiting outside, I’ve overslept and am now in the kitchen cooking eggs in the nude. I fear this has made me prefer tofu.
Chapter 4: Bakery
With this great breakfast loaf you can be best friend to the gluten-free, king of the dairy-free, and beloved of the egg-free. It is a very moist and quite unusual loaf. In the restaurants, we toast it and serve with jam and peanut butter, but at home I enjoy it even more, cold the day after baking, thickly spread with good butter and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Chapter 5: Bowls
This is inspired by the summer noodle dish, hiyashi chuka, that I ate in ramen bars as a student. I put my version on our first menus, using soba noodles instead of ramen, and seared pink tuna instead of shredded processed pink ham. I am yet to be convinced that spiralised zucchini (courgette) is a complete replacement for pasta, but here its raw nuttiness does give a delicious contrast.
Chapter 6: Salads
Don’t forget to be adventurous with your salad ingredients and use whatever’s in season. It really is decades since we saw salad as ‘only’ a summer dish. Keep the textures crisp and the dressing warming and serve this with roast chicken or warm haloumi on a winter’s day… even a London winter’s day.
Chapter 7: Small Plates
As a nation, Australia has embraced the dumpling. My kids are obsessed with potstickers and gyoza and spent an entire summer, while we were working in Tokyo, on gyoza adventures – seeking out the best dumplings and rating them in a special holiday dumpling diary. This is one of their favourite flavour combinations. And if you too become a dumpling fanatic, you can buy a little plastic ‘folding machine’ to use at home. I would never call that cheating.
Chapter 8: Barbecue
When I was a little boy Dad would bring bavette and lamb shanks home for the dog because nobody wanted to buy them. Oh, to be a butcher’s dog! Bavette, like lamb shanks, has since been discovered as a great cut of meat (and the cost has gone up accordingly). It’s not a tender cut, but not all meat has to be. As a wise Italian chef once told me, it’s about ‘enjoying the chew’.
Chapter 9: Big Plates
We all now know the health benefits of the olive oil, fish and vegetable-rich Mediterranean diet; our strong Italian and Greek communities in Australia have been quietly teaching us to eat that way for years. The white beans make a delicious change from potato and if you use pitted olives for the salsa there’s barely anything to do here.
Chapter 10: Sweet
This is a very intense hit of chocolatiness. Leave outthe vodka, if you prefer, but it helps prevent ice crystals in the sorbet. Even if you cheat here and buy the sorbet – and you’ll never be frowned on for time saving short cuts in an Australian kitchen – it’s still a pretty easy show-stopping dessert, showcasing our favourite summer cherries.