The Drop Visits…Bombay Bills
Sanya Burgess reviews local hidden gem Bombay Bills
When I told my friend I was taking her to Bombay Bills for a meal, her response was “which Bills? Tiger Bills? Bombay Bills? Bills? Bills Bills?”
So, before I begin, let me clarify ‘The Bills situation’ – we have three restaurants in Exeter town centre which have “Bills” in the title: Bill’s, Tiger Bills and Bombay Bills.
The first is completely separate, but Tiger Bills and Bombay Bills are similar concepts, with Tiger focusing on American and Thai food and Bombay on American and Indian. Bombay Bills is located just around the back of Mama Stones, on Bartholomew Street. Got that? Great, let’s move on…
Probably due to Bombay Bills not being on the high street, it’s not a popular student venue as it doesn’t spring to mind when wondering where to go for a meal: You’re missing a hidden gem.
The Tuk Tuk in front of the former Old Malthouse gives a hint of the surprising mix of East and West that is Bombay Bills. The inside would be best described as a Tardis; it opens up into a welcoming and homely restaurant but also includes the striking original feature of “The Chimney”, and has an extra floor known as “The Basement”.
The stylish mixture of wooden and leather features and furnishings create a warm and comfortable environment that you could easily spend hours in whist you and your friends eat and drink.
The décor reflects the East meets West vibe of Bombay Bills and is really refreshing to the relatively bland decoration of most of Exeter’s restaurants. However, the canvas photos on the wall do seem a little too much and too haphazardly strewn about, potentially less frames would create a more effective vibe rather than channeling the inside of a Snappy Snaps.
But the well placed statues and figurines boost Bombay Bills’ decoration points. “The Chimney” is definitely the most attractive part of the restaurant. Its billowing fabrics, circular shape and comfortable leather sofas make you want to cosy up in there for hours.
Also, as it is slightly separated from the main restaurant it creates an intimate space which is perfect for drinks before your meal, especially if you’re on a date. However, if any other customers come in whilst you’re in there the illusion of your private getaway is tarnished some-what.
Price wise, Bombay Bills definitely fits into a student’s budget. Starters average £5, a decent sized curry is between £6-8 and sides are about £3.50. A hefty American burger is roughly £10 and authentic American meals such as the “steak and rib combo” would only set you back about £15. The menu is well set out and has such variety with meals to please everyone.
Bombay Bills is one of those places where you spend longer deciding what to have than how long it takes you to eat it; everything just looks so good and you can’t help but wolf it down once it’s placed in front of you.
The Wine list is surprisingly affordable, with bottles starting from £15 and a large glass averaging £5. Whilst the wine is definitely fairly priced, the cocktails are for those with deeper pockets.
However, apart from when you’re lucky enough to stumble across a 2 for 1, Bombay’s cocktails are averagely priced and delicious. If you feel like splashing out, the signature “Bombay Fizz” should not be missed.
My friend and I sampled the Bombay Feast for two which is normally £19.99 and comes with three individual curries, a side of rice and naan.
The quality of the food was excellent, the meat was well cooked and there was a good meat to sauce ratio (as is so important in a good curry). Also, the ability to choose your own mix of curries is really appealing and a great option if you can’t decide what you want.
The only negative, if you can call it that, was considering it was a sharer meal, the size of the rice and naan felt a little small if both you and your sharer had big appetites. However, both my friend and I were both full, and at £19.99 for two people to eat, it’s a great deal.
We just about squeezed in a slice of chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream which was definitely worth betraying my waistline for. Dessert is another bargain at big portions at £3.95, with ice cream, custard or cream built into the price.
Bombay Bills doesn’t just offer food: “The Basement” has big plans for the future. As well as being available to hire (for free), “The Basement” hosts a comedy night on the first Thursday of every month, with the next being the 5th July.
You can combine the evening performance with a package meal from £20 upwards, or just £3 advanced or £5 on the door. The set up tends to include a couple of comedians, with a comedic host who works the audience and organises the Caption Competition where you can win £10 of Bombay Bills’ vouchers for your witticisms. Although the middle act was a little disappointing, the headliner and host definitely supplied hearty banter.
The venue is quite intimate and so you’ll probably end up as the butt of one of the jokes but as long as you have a sense of humour (which helps at a comedy show…) it’s definitely worth a fiver. Plus, it’s something a bit different to do and not as awkward or cringy as the open mic nights that are normally the only comedic outlets in Exeter. I’d definitely recommend booking as it was full on the night I attended, and it saves you a couple of quid.
The only bad thing really was that the bar queue at the interval could rival Arena’s. The staff seemed a little chaotic and considering Bombay Bills can boast two staffed bars, it seemed a bit mismanaged. However, they still served my drinks with a smile and apologised for the wait which was much appreciated.
Bombay Bills is definitely my idea of a hidden gem in Exeter – it’s affordable, friendly, and something a bit different to your standard high street chain or local curry house. Its personality and good food have won me over, and I’ll definitely be attending more of their comedy nights too.
Plus, the Epic Meal Time/ Man vs Food style steak and curry challenges make it a good shout for anyone who wants to prove they can eat like an American/take their heat!
I award it 8/10.