Jack and Jill … Surrey Hills: Bills, Hudson Meats, Bourke Street Bakery. Sydney

ricotta pancales at bill's
As I walked by Carter Road this evening I remembered that I was yet to charge the batteries of the NEX3. The lens is gone but the base unit has been repaired. I thought I’ll check on the photos on the memory card once I charge the camera.

I remembered the last morning at Sydney as I walked on in far away Bandra. The photographs I was yet to see. The lovely Saturday morning that I spent there with one time food blogging acquaintance, and now good friend, A at Sydney’s Surrey Hills. As I remembered that warm sunny colourful morning my steps quickened as I wanted to finish my walk, head back, get the camera out and retrieve the pictures. And I knew I had to write. It was one of those moments. I had to. No matter how tired I was. How late it was. No matter what happened in between. I just had to write.

I came back, finished a long phone call, saw that Banu’s daal was inedible, tossed myself a fried rice, gobbled down dinner and put the batteries into the camera with trembling fingers and switched it on. The photos flashed by one by one.

It all came back.

A reaching at 9 that morning, parking her car and calling me. Stepping down to her warm smile as we headed up from Elizabeth Street to Surrey Hills. I was in my sandals and not sneakers. No idea of the trek ahead. I gamely panted up the long uphill walk. Following A who had imbibed the Aussie sprightliness after all these years here.

Chatting and walking…on the one hand looking forward to the long flight back home in a few hours… on the other slightly wistful at leaving the lovely city of Sydney which had become my home for about ten days… A looked at me with a bit of concern, ‘Are you fine with the walk…had to park the car far away’…I smiled back bravely ignoring my pampered aching shins.

Apart from being a good friend and a wonderful person, A is proud of her city and is a great host. So she chose our breakfast place with care.

Bills. Owned by Bill Granger. Originally a partner of Kylie Kwong in her restaurant Billy Kwong. Kylie bought off Bill’s share later as A told me. His name still remains though.

Billie Kwong's Bill's

Bills is a sort of deli/ cafe run by Bill Granger the restaurateur.

When I came back to Mumbai, I re-read Simon Majumdar’s chapter on Sydney in his ‘Eat My Globe’. Bills is where Majumdar started his Sydney trip. That’s where I ended mine.

It all seems like yesterday. The joy of not having a queue as we entered. Apparently Bills fills up pretty quickly on weekends. Luckily the hoards came in after we got our table.

A told me that three things are apparently famous at Bills. The scrambled eggs, the ricotta pancakes and the corn fritters with bacon. The waitress told us that they had small portions too. A mercy at super-sized Australia. A ordered the pancakes and the fritters so that I could taste at least  two of the troika. Turned out that Simon had the scrambled eggs as I later found out in the book.

The photos in the camera brought alive the memory of those dishes once again…it is almost as if I can even now  feel my first bite through the soft plump cuddly pancakes, the ricotta bashfully streaming out, the glow of the honey which A maternally poured on to the pancakes and the bite of the fresh banana…this was sheer food perfection…one of those times to be savoured where everything else falls into place and nothing else matters for those few seconds.

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I could vaguely hear A murmur in the background with an Aussie twang “you won’t have pancakes at Pancakes on the Rocks after this will you?”.

I smiled and shook my head. My mind swirling around in a rather opiate stratosphere of pleasure.

I can taste the sweetish buttery corn fritters coming together with the juicy full flavoured exceptional bacon with a healthy touch of greens which suddenly become so desirable at the Eden called Australia.

It was as if the Australian master Chef, Bill Granger had put together a breakfast in the best traditions of Aussie culinary creativity and gumption to bid me farewell.

corn fritters at Bill's

Cappuccino at Bills
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Our last coffees and it was time to walk down the picturesque streets of Surrey Hills, the suburb I had heard so much of during my trip, and had made it to at the end.

We stopped at Hudson Meats, a very premium meat shop. The place from where A usually bought her husband, Andrew, his favourite birthday gift. A prime steak. She stopped  to pick some meats for him and their kids as I walked around the shop in awe. I was like a kid in a candy shop. Or a Bengali in a meat shop. And there was mutton too. Except here it was premium and more expensive than even other meats.

I had a bite of the cured meats that A picked up for her kids.

This was a religious experience. A taste so sharp and yet so subtle. So infinitely delicate and yet so intrinsically luscious. A tiny bite was enough to stay with you till your next trip.

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During the long walk back A suggested stopping at the legendary Bourke Street Bakery. One more place I was yet to to tick off my list even after my second visit to Sydney. A told me that the sausage rolls were famous here as were the tarts and pies. She warned me about the sad airport food and suggested I pick something up.

The way it worked was that you walked in a queue into the tiny shop placed your order, took your delivery and walked out. I picked up the roll as we made our way back. Though I wanted to buy up the whole shop and was tempted to stay back.

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A last reassuring warm hug, our final goodbyes and A headed off to pick up her kids and I headed to the flat to shut my bags, shower and head to the airport.

And then it all begun to hit the fan.

First I realised that I had left the sausage roll behind after I came down with my bags to look for a cab. Then the camera mishap as it fell below my cab and broke into two. Then the airport laksa that burnt my tongue. Then giving up the sambal I picked up at the Asian Stores at the security check. And then being grounded by Qantas at Singapore.

Still at the end I returned home.

And most of all I didn’t break my crown.

Thanks A for that lovely send off. Hope to see you soon ….

Talking of returning home listen to this song from the movie Rockstar...just love the many layers to it

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