1993 Bill Granger opens his first café

Bill's Basics, published in 2010, was Bill Granger's eighth book

Bill Granger was the self-taught cook and restaurateur credited with introducing Australians to avocado on toast. In 1993, he opened his first restaurant, eponymously named bills (also introducing Australians to the annoying device of beginning names with a lowercase letter). The Darlinghurst café quickly became Sydney’s go-to destination for breakfast and brunch.

Born in Melbourne, Bill Granger moved to Sydney to go to art school. He had his first taste of the restaurant business working as a waiter, soon abandoning ambitions for a career in art to start a café of his own. The first bills café featured simple decor, a communal table and breakfast dishes including fluffy scrambled eggs, ricotta hotcakes and, of course, the aforementioned smashed avo. The Darlinghurst venue continues to this day with those signature dishes still on the menu.

It was the beginning of a café empire. The second bills opened in Surry Hills in 1996 and there are now (2023) four Sydney cafés – Darlinghurst, Surry Hills, Bondi Beach and Double Bay. As is the wont of celebrity chefs, Granger soon moved into the cookbook business. His first book, bills Sydney Food, was published in 2000. The book, according to the blurb:

… explores the whole food culture in Sydney, the trends, the fresh produce and exciting market scenes, the restaurants, cafes and the beachside eating society. Bill Granger highlights some of the wonderful spots in Sydney, where he shops for ingredients, and what inspires his recipes.

In 2008, Granger moved into Japan, opening his first overseas restaurant in Tokyo. He subsequently opened several restaurants in Japan, one in Korea and five in London under the name Granger & Co. He was credited by The New Yorker as “the restaurateur most responsible for the Australian cafe’s global reach”.  Food writer Terry Durack summed up bills’ appeal this way:

“‘Every city has one cafe that becomes the poster child for its inner spirit, and for Sydney, it is bills. Bill had a way of synthesising market produce + eggs + sunshine + freshness into something you didn’t know you wanted, but you wanted it bad. Somehow, Bill takes the sunshine with him. The key to Bill’s global success is that he changes constantly, and yet has never changed. The principles remain the same – take something people love to eat, and make it fresher, lighter, more beautiful. It’s irresistible. It’s the sort of food you eat when you’re on holidays, and yet you can eat it every day.’ 

Bill Granger authored 14 cookbooks, the most recent being Australian Food, published in 2020. He appeared in TV series, on ABC radio, and wrote food columns for The Independent. In 2023, he was recognised in the Australia Day honours list “for service to the tourism and hospitality sector”.

Bill Granger died in London in December 2023 at the age of 54. His passing led to many tributes from fellow chefs, both Australian and international. They praised his sunny personality and his way of making simple ingredients taste special. But, for many of us, he’ll be best remembered as the first person to put avocado on toast on the menu.

This website uses cookies but doesn't share them.