“Breakfast at Bill’s?”

In Sydney it’s not a question, but an answer. Ten years ago it was the solution when you needed to escape the humdrum of still living with your parents on the north shore. All you needed to conjure a dash of possibilities- a glimpse into ‘what could be’- was to drive over the Harbour Bridge, battle to find a park in the narrow terrace back streets of Darlinghurst and secure a spot at Bill’s communal table with the sun slanting in on your back. Life was instantly better.

It’ was also how we introduced overseas visitors to that particular credence of casual, fresh and artfully styled food that Sydney is now known for. And it was the answer to any morning that descended, tinged with a stain of regret from things you swallowed or said the night before.

Bill Granger; with his handsome face, good cheer and approachable food- in cafes, books, magazines and television appearances became an aspirational template. We too yearned for a white open plan kitchen and seamless barbecues, sandy feet, the adoring gazes of blonde offspring and mornings made right with fresh juice, banana bread, sourdough toast, scrambled eggs and avocado.

It seems it’s a vision that also translates across borders to London, with the advent of  Granger and Co in Westbourne Grove.  The all day dining space opened more than a year ago to some fanfare; ricotta hotcakes! Sweet corn fritters! Flat whites! All without having to leave the nest of Notting Hill! Soon it was flocked by Australian expats, bankers, bugaboo toters and the large numbers of Russians who crowd a once bohemian suburb. They’ve all come in search of a slice of the good life.

It’s relatively early on a Sunday morning, some 15 months after it opened that we eventually find our way there. It seems the appeal of the place has not waned. At 9.15 we just manage to squeeze into a small table by the door, flanking this white walled, open space. There are cheerful jots of green from flowers and wooden accents and a generous display of the Sunday papers up on the bar. By 9.30 am, there’s a queue welling next to us. At 10 am, there are so many they’re now having to wait outside.

Breakfast is what most have come for. We might not be able to emulate the fresh faced healthful zeal of a Sydney stroll through Centennial Park to Surry Hills, but we can have a dose of ‘Bill’s daily greens’ (£4.80); a Kermit hued concoction of  green apple, cucumber, spinach, chia and young coconut. It’s sweeter than expected, but definitely earnest.

Coffee is made using Antipodean Allpress beans- it’s good, though the flat whites aren’t quite as strident as some (re  The Hungry One) might like.

Second go round he asks for an extra shot. It seems to work better.

For those hungry for a taste of Bill’s classics, they’re all here on the menu- from the beloved coconut bread to the sweet corn fritters and ricotta hotcakes.

A ‘Full Aussie Breakfast’ (£13.50) arrives with some nice touches- there’s a lovely twinge of smoke on the bacon and the St John’s Bakery sourdough toast is thoughtfully placed on top, not underneath the rich scrambled eggs (heaven behold those who prefer to avoid a morning dose of egg-sog). The mushrooms are meaty and the tomatoes are lightly burnished. It’s a good, full plate of food.

Under the bakery section of the menu, the tomato and broad bean hummus on sourdough suffers a little from the quality of tomatoes that are available in this paltry attempt for spring, though the hummus carts a lovely burlap texture and subtle earthiness. A touch more seasoning (flakes of salt and pepper are available on the tables) helps to make it shine.

It’s hard to think of Bill’s, or to feel like a visit to any of his outposts is complete without a spot of banana bread. A sneaky shared order of the chocolate studded loaf arrives with two chubby pieces, toasted and gussied up with powdered sugar. A pot of whipped ricotta is there just to gild the lily further.  It’s cake, for breakfast, with a sturdy crust and gentle crumb. And it’s lovely.

A Sunday morning at Granger and Co might not be the most relaxing of endeavours. There’s noise- the squeaking of prams and rumble of toddlers (who are all perfectly welcome here). There’s not a heck of a lot of room to spread out and enjoy the papers- though I’m sure midweek there’s much more. The space may be airy, yet the overarching vibe on a weekend is … busy.  But the staff are cheerful and the food is bright. For the critics among us who want to point out that it’s not the cheapest breakfast in town, all I’ll say is, when was the last time you looked closely at a Sydney brunch menu?

It seems that in the last few years that loveable city, full of sun and cheer by the sea, with its ‘casual’ lifestyle and approachable aesthetic has morphed into a luxury in itself.

And for those of us missing our first home so much that occasionally it stings, a slice of banana bread and a flat white is still a heck of a lot cheaper than a 26 hour flight with Qantas.

Granger and Co
175 Westbourne Grove  London W11 2SB
www.grangerandco.com/

Closest tube: Notting Hill Gate/Ladbroke Grove
7am-11pm Mon-Sat (last orders 10.30pm- breakfast served until 12)
8am-10pm Sun (last orders 9.30pm- breakfast served until 12)

Granger & Co on Urbanspoon

Nb, if you can’t make it to Sydney, Notting Hill (or one of the Bill’s outposts in Japan) and are craving the taste of a flat white and some banana bread for breakfast, there’s always this.

Coffee banana bread

Equipment

20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5 in loaf tin

Shopping/foraging

2 and 1/3 cups of plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp salt
110g/4oz butter, plus extra for greasing
125g caster sugar
2 free-range eggs
4 ripe bananas, mashed
85ml milk coffee (1 shot of espresso topped up with milk)

Here’s how we roll

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

2.  Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt into a large mixing bowl.

3. In a separate bowl use a hand mixer to combine the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy and duckling yellow.

4. Add the eggs, mashed bananas and coffee and to the butter and sugar mixture and stir well. Fold in the flour mixture. Do this gently- you don’t want to overwork the flour and have it turn out tough.

5. Grease a 20cm x 12.5cm/8in x 5in loaf tin and pour the mixture into the tin.

6.Transfer to the oven and bake for about an hour, or until well-risen and golden-brown.

7. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

8. Serve with a coffee on the side.  Perhaps some ricotta, or butter over the top.