Godfather of Sydney’s French cuisine and fine dining clan, Tony Bilson is aptly described by Maggie Beer in just one word: Master.
Almost any chef of any renown in Australia has worked with Tony.
Now located in the grand Radisson Sydney, surrounded by warm browns and large windows that reveal the passing suits, Bilson’s is the closest you can come to a fine French experience without boarding a long-haul flight.
“MASTER.” – Maggie Beer
But Tony’s 40-plus-year journey is worth noting, for at every stage he has been part of some of our greatest culinary hotspots. Starting in Melbourne in 1971, he achieved Godfather status in the early ’80s with the original Berowra Waters Inn in Sydney’s north (see No.15 on this list). Tony’s stewardship there launched a thousand celebrated Australian chefs and their fine and iconic Australian restaurants. This was followed by Kinsellas and Bilson’s at Circular Quay. A falling out with Leon Fink ended Bilson’s at Circular Quay and paved the way for Quay restaurant. Tony then set up Number One Wine Bar and Bilson’s sitting smugly in Sydney’s Radisson Plaza Hotel.
Always a magnanimous host, Bilson sometimes lets others steal a bit of the limelight. He has shared his kitchen with French heavyweights including Reine Sammut and Nicolas Le Bec. You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between food prepared by the French and our own moustached master – his soufflés have been known to make even the harshest critic’s mouth water.
In 2006 he was inducted into the Restaurant and Catering Industry Hall of Fame, immortalised forever as our father of modern French food. Keen to make sure the baton is passed, he’s running a mentor program for apprentice chefs.
To eat at Bilson’s is to simultaneously appreciate how far we have come and see a little of our fantastic dining future.
Where: Radisson Plaza Hotel, 27 O’Connell St Sydney NSW. (02) 8214 0496, www.bilsons.com.au
Did you know: Bilson hired Tetsuya Wakadu before he was famous, appointing him sushi chef at Kinsellas.