Breakfast is cool again. Comfortably so. In the last year or so the capital has seen a super-smoothie/farmhouse toast/salmon and eggs-fuelled surge of trendy places to eat your way off to a good day.
It is generally something of a speciality for eateries. Unless you’re at a swishy hotel or Fortnum and Mason’s you’re, by and large, unlikely to find a super-brekkie provider and the optimum place for a nice, candlelit evening meal. Enter Bill’s – a kind of British produce ‘mini-chain’ with restaurants in several south England cities, with three in London. The vibe of a corporate mass-marketing chain, however? Most definitely not.
It would be easy to scoff smugly at Bill’s for its homier-than-thou, cover-all-bases mentality. All produce is as locally sourced, freshly prepared and ethically produced as a River Cottage preserve wrapped in homespun gingham. As well as comprehensive breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks menus, there’s also an on-site ye olde tasty ‘foodie shoppe’ selling bountiful hampers of Bill’s chocolate, Bill’s rhubarb and ginger jam, Bill’s beer and all number of other goodies.
I’d been told about breakfast at Bills, overwhelmingly positively, by a number of people. So when I headed over to the Covent Garden restaurant for a 9am breakfast treat, expectations were high. Being greeted by friendly, relaxed but confident staff, and funky-rustic decor (wooden tables and chairs complimented by brightly-coloured draped fabrics) got my morning off to a good start. Swiftly served with a perfect latte, I perused the menu with some glee.
Dishes arrived, conversations were put on hold, and a lot of contented munching ensued. Bill’s vegetarian breakfast was a far cry from the half-hearted plasticky tofu sausages affair you’d find in days gone by. Poached eggs, tomatoes, hummus, mushrooms, guacamole, sweet chilli sauce and hot toast, with baked beans, seemed incredibly complicated but came together very harmoniously. Smoked salmon and eggs on thick white toast, and the French toast with banana, strawberries, toasted walnut yoghurt and maple syrup were both heavenly. Washed down with Bill’s peach, raspberry and mango juice, it was both welcoming and character-filled.
Naturally, it seemed only right to see how they faired in the evening. The lights were dimmed, candles were put on tables and a whole different menu, including changing specials, materialised. Nicely set up with a glass of hedgerow fizz (tastes delicious with a nice herby edge balanced out by elderflower cordial and fizz), I started with crab spring rolls – light and zesty with coriander and a chilli kick – and creamy butternut squash soup.
And the best was yet to come. Bill’s fish pie – cosy yet fresh, comforting yet full of flavour – still brings back happy, gluttonous memories and was accompanied by perfect glass of house white. Perfectly cooked chunks of salmon, flakes of smoked haddock, queen scallops and tiger prawns, all mixed with peas and tender baby onions, covered with smooth English mustard and cheddar mash. Seriously, try to find that unappealing. I dare you. I’d have booked a room with that fish pie, given half the chance.
Pudding time, myself and the other diners chuckled and shook our heads briskly at how we couldn’t possibly manage another bite, and would probably just have a cup of something herbal and head home. And maybe a portion of warm mini cinnamon doughnuts with fresh strawberries and warm chocolate dipping sauce, to seal the deal. And another glass of wine. And coffee (very good coffee). All carried off effortlessly by slick, friendly, but not too friendly, service.
And that’s the really nice thing about Bills – it’s so easy, it offers pure foodie enjoyment with no pressure or pretension, whilst sustaining serious spark and excitement because everything on offer is so darn appealing. So, whether it’s a dreamy breakfast or a fun but ‘proper’ evening affair you seek, do give it a try.
Click here for more information about Bill’s.
Polly Glass @Polly_Glass