Australian chef arrives in Waikiki

Mar. 27, 2014 | 0 Comments
The dining room at the original bills Sydney restaurant in Australia. (Courtesy photo)

The dining room at the original bills Sydney restaurant in Australia. (Courtesy photo)

BY STEVEN MARK / smark@staradvertiser.com

Chef Bill Granger brings his wildly successful brand of modern, casual dining to Waikiki with bills Sydney, a new restaurant at Waikiki Beach Walk opening this weekend.

Chef Bill Granger. (Courtesy photo)

Chef Bill Granger. (Courtesy photo)

The self-trained chef, who dropped out of art school to open his first restaurant in 1994 in the Darlinghurst district of Sydney, has made it big with “simple, relaxed” food that obviously have that something special. His eggs, for example, were called “as light as the breath of an angel” by the New York Times. He’s become a big celebrity in Australia — Australian visitors passing by greeted him warmly — with television shows, 11 cookbooks and newspaper columns on food and dining.

The two-story restaurant, located at 280 Beachwalk next to the Hard Rock Cafe, has seating for about 150 people and a bar in the upstairs dining room and another 50 in the downstairs cafe. The light and airy decor, with furniture and menus trimmed in pastel shades, is a combination of Hawaiian and his own esthetic, “like a Hawaiian beach house,” Granger said.

“I try to make the place like a home, and you come into it, hence the big sofas,” he said. “I try and make it as unrestauranty as possible.”

The menu features salads, pizzas, pastas and entrees of steak, fish, chicken and pork chops, priced at a modest $10 to $32. Breakfast specialities include ricotta hot cakes, which are served with honeycomb butter ($14); sweetcorn fritters, served with roast tomatoes, spinach, bacon and avocado salsa ($14); and a selection of baked goods. Everything will be made in house.

Locally inspired dishes include kimchee fried rice, poke and fried green tomatoes. Granger developed the rice during a stay here studying the local cuisine and going to local market to prepare his menu, and it’s now offered at several of his restaurants.

There is no distinctively Australian cuisine, Granger said, since the food there stems from the various ethnic and national groups that emigrated there over the past two centuries.

“I take influences from all around the world,” he said. “It’s like California. It’s a mixture of everything, taking ingredients from everywhere. But it’s about freshness. Freshness is really important, having a lightness to the food, not doing too much to it.”

Granger now has restaurants in the United Kingdom and Japan and will be opening up new restaurants in Seoul, London and Sydney later this year. Even with all those restaurants, he plans to spend “a lot of time” here in Hawaii.

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