Spring is always a busy time for our household with all four birthdays falling in a seven-week period, starting with mine in April. This year we also had a wonderful family wedding in May, so it really has been a time of non-stop celebrations! 🙂
Also with an April birthday, twelve days before mine, is my Mum. When I was invited to enjoy a meal at Bill’s restaurant in Cambridge, it was the perfect opportunity to take my foot off the pedal for a while and enjoy a joint birthday lunch.
Bill’s was created in 2000 by Bill Collison, who built a café alongside his greengrocery in Lewes, East Sussex. The seeds were (quite literally) sewn many years before that. It’s a heart-warming story of the encouragement of a dad for his young son who evolved a passion for growing fruit & vegetables into a UK-wide restaurant chain.
location, location, location
Anyone who has been to the ancient heart of Cambridge will surely agree that it is amongst the prettiest places in England, possibly the world – am I biased? Running between Trinity Street and Sidney Street is the narrow cobbled Green Street; lined with an eclectic mix of independents, it’s not a surprise that it was chosen for Bill’s fifth UK restaurant.
Inside, it’s larger than you might imagine. As you head towards the middle of the restaurant, it opens up into an L-shape. The large space is subtly divided up. It even has a library area with comfy seats and space that can be closed off for private parties.
Mum & I went on a Saturday lunchtime which, as you might expect, is a busy time! After a five minute wait, we were sat at a table around the corner, at the toe end of the ‘L’. Although a total fluke, it suited us well; Mum struggles to hear in places with a lot of ambient noise, so this spot was great for her. The photo below was taken as we left; earlier, every seat was taken. 🙂
There is a mix of interior styles with its open ceilings, rustic wooden tables & chairs and plenty of colour splashes; I certainly don’t think beige features on their colour palette! The music was a nice mix of modern and older tracks; not too loud, but enough to blend out the hubbub of a busy restaurant while creating a tuneful ambience.
For someone who loves to read, and read anything at all (Rob laughs at me when I pick up random magazines & flyers), I was amused to see vintage French & English magazines and opera programmes on the ledge next to us. One was from 1965, one from 1954! 🙂
With fairly small appetites, Mum & I chose a starter to share. We had corn tortillas with salsa & guacamole dips. Lightly spiced, the tortilla crisps were incredibly moreish. The salsa could’ve done with a little less red onion, but that’s just my taste.
Mum’s main course was grilled halloumi with a warm salad of roasted peppers, courgette and broccoli with flatbread and pesto. It was a generous portion of halloumi and the salad was nicely cooked with just the right amount of dressing – neither of us like it with too much.
My choice was the marinated chicken skewers with giant couscous, rocket and cucumber with flatbread and tzatziki. The chicken was moist and had a light chargrilled taste, which I love. Fortunately, the salad was fresh – all too often salad is an afterthought, but this was great.
To drink, Mum & I both chose white wine: an Australian Pinot Grigio for Mum; a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for me. I’d love to tell you about the fruity or flowery notes . . . But I don’t have a clue about that sort of thing. They both tasted good – that, we know. 🙂
We don’t normally eat desserts, but the banana & honeycomb cheesecake proved too tempting, so we had one to share. It wasn’t overly big, and it was delicious but slightly too rich for me. I try hard to avoid food waste, so we took our time and between us managed to finish!
I didn’t previously know that Bill’s offered a takeaway service. The manager suggested we took home some mini cinnamon doughnuts; they came with sliced strawberries, chocolate and caramel dipping sauces. They smelled amazing, and the verdict of my three testers at home was that they were delicious and we should get some more!
For anyone with a food allergy, Bill’s has produced a comprehensive allergen guide – it’s on their website, so you can check it out before you go.
As Bill’s is now a chain with over 80 restaurants across the UK, with the bustle of a Saturday lunchtime you might feel that they’d prefer a quick turnaround of covers. Fortunately, the opposite seemed true. Staff were friendly – attentive without being overbearing, and we were able to take our time – and they seemed happy, which is always a great sign.
Something I’m especially fastidious about is the cleanliness of the facilities. I always feel that if a restaurant can’t keep the toilets clean, what else is going on behind the scenes. . . Happy to report the ladies (can’t comment on the others) were fresh and clean. There was some water damage around the mirror frame which might hint that a refurb could be due, but other than that, it ticked all the right boxes 🙂
from breakfast to bedtime
Mum & I had a great time at Bill’s; we were treated very well and were grateful for some delicious food & wine for our joint birthday lunch.
The Bill’s in Cambridge serves all day from 8am, and you can book a table for dinner late into the evening. Obviously, double check this as it may change, and it may vary at Bill’s elsewhere.
I’ve heard some great things about Bill’s breakfasts, so I think we need to make an effort to get into Cambridge early one weekend and try it out. If it’s as good as our lunch, it will be worth it.
Bye for now!
Disclosure: Our food & drinks were complimentary, and, as ever, all views expressed are my own.