So what did we make of Bill’s?
At the beginning of April, you couldn’t turn the page of a newspaper without being confronted by the word ‘drought’.
Bill’s restaurant, like last month’s rain, has made a timely introduction to our town centre, refreshing the high street with its novel approach to cuisine.
Founded upon principles of simple and local produce by fruit and veg man Bill Collison of Lewes in East Sussex in 2001, the restaurant has seduced high street interest in Cambridge, Reading, Brighton and even sparked the imagination of Richard Caring, the owner of The Ivy in London making it an unlikely culinary success story.
But the restaurant’s rise from the wheelbarrow of a young child to its seven branches nationwide has not jaded its principles. Filled with an eclectic clutter of domestic and homemade knick-knacks, the restaurant interior felt like a home from home, like a friend’s tree house or an uncle’s garden shed.
A cunning blend of tradition with a modern outlook has helped Bill’s integrate itself into Exeter town centre which boasts a similar mix with its 15th century cathedral tucked behind a row of cutting edge retail stores.
Likewise Bill’s can be found on the secluded and cobbled roads of Gandy Street, and also opposite The Vault.
The restaurant itself functions on similar ideals with a modern takeaway service, but with a traditional homely vibe that always welcomes, from its much praised early breakfasts, through to a quick sip of afternoon coffee or a Bill’s brand beer, right up until the evening when a hearty meal is provided with generous steaks and burgers too big for their own good.
Bill’s can perhaps be summarised as a restaurant of bizarre and enchanting paradox. Its menu offers the best of British but also an interesting concoction of Mediterranean flavours, combining delicious healthy produce with classical indulgence foods like their chunky French fries or their melt-in-the mouth sticky toffee pudding, all in the setting of an old fashioned green grocer turned contemporary deli.
There is so much going on behind the restaurant’s humble exterior, perhaps on occasion too much, that the unique dining experience, like the food is never dull. Plus with welcoming staff who provide a quick and friendly service you are always certain to feel at home.
Like a patchwork quilt knit lovingly by a grandmother, everything about Bill’s is a beautiful mess that ought not to be so successful yet endears so honestly with an authentic and simple approach which greets you like the outstretched hand of Bill himself at the door of his own kitchen and, at a very respectable £15 for a substantial meal can be revisited again and again like the ancestral quilt.