Ah…I always got a pang of envy when the southern belles on my Twitter timeline tweeting (ALLITERATION!) about going for Sunday brunch at their local Bill’s Restaurant. See, I have been to Bill’s a few times when in the big smoke, but since my trips to London are less frequent these days, I can only dream about having a civilised Manchester breakfast NOT in Morrisons, for once.
Manchester dining is a mixture of naff chains, better chains, takeaways, completely stuck up their own backside restaurants and a few gems in-between. Bills is a chain but it ain’t no Nandos; it certainly doesn’t have that ‘run of the mill’ feel when you’re inside, it still retains that homely feel. The restaurant is located on John Dalton street, just off Deansgate and inhabits the space once taken up by clothing store, Adolfo Dominguez. You know I walked past that place every day for years and I had to look up the name because I never paid attention to it. But I digress…
Bills has no awkward steps thankfully, and we had a fab corner table which was PERFECT for parking the buggy. Some of the other seating areas are narrower, so if taking a kiddo in a buggy I’d recommend booking and requesting a more spacious table. He didn’t wake for the duration of the meal, which means there was no blaring music playing (just a few cackling ladies opposite).
The feel of the restaurant as I mentioned earlier, is rustic-homely. It’s the kitchen you wish you had. There is lots of seating, a patio area outside, the spacious tables we were at, the booths, and a sofa area too.
They also have take home food (like a mini shop!) but we didn’t get a chance to peruse that, but you can order from your table!
The menu is great – homely British food, not too big, not too small. Specials change ever 3 weeks and the main menu changes approximately every 3 months. The menu is supposed to reflect the seasons and UK produce is sourced for the dishes wherever possible.
I wasn’t actually that hungry when I arrived – hazard of being in the third trimester I guess, but as always, as Mr C says, I have eyes bigger than my belly. But I ate…how I ate. There’s always room for good food it seems.
Bill’s Giant Green Gordal Olives
I love olives, good quality ones that is so I couldn’t resist trying the gordal olives. These extremely meaty rich green olives were yummy – not at all tart (which Mr C hates), with a rich, almost earthy flavour and mild tang.
Charlie, out cheerful waitress recommend the Cripsy Crumbed Halloumi with Chilli Mayo:
These were also very nice tasting – whenever I’ve had fried halloumi it goes chewy, especially as it gets cold. These were light, not at all chewy, and just very soft and tasty. The Chilli Mayo is quite spicy do not be deceived by it’s pale pinkness.
The Halloumi wasn’t salty now I think about it, I usually find store bought Halloumi very salty. It works well with a dip that’s for sure.
Opening drinks! I wanted Mr C to have the Hedgerow Fizz, which is a yummy sounding combination of sparkling wine, elderflower cordial and iced blackberry but instead he wanted his one dose of booze (driving!) to be this Cornish Gold Cider:
He said it was extremely extremely yummy – I don’t drink alcohol because I get the Asian red face, and it makes me feel like I am about to have a heart attack but I had the teeniest sip of this cider and I could see what he meant – it was sweet and mild, none of that strange twang I can smell in cider usually.
I had a Super Green Smoothie (comes in regular and large size) because I am trying to eat and drink healthier stuff, since I can’t seem to eat much at all – this was very tasty, not too thick or runny and unlike Wagamama smoothies that get that odd foamy layer, you can drink off of this!
Back to the starters. Mr C had Chicken In a Jar, which is Chicken liver parfait, with toasted sourdough and a sweet chutney. I personally cannot stand liver, but this dish was extremely popular as I saw it served to at least 3 tables near us.
Mr C loved this and the sweet chutney too. I didn’t try any cos I really do hate liver so much, but it didn’t smell liver-y anyway.
My favourite dish possibly, was my starter, the Crispy Lemon Squid with garlic and lemon mayo. They looked quite brown to me, but they were perfect – not chewy at all, just tender tender tender.
This was really quite tasty, the mayo is already quite lemon-y and I added more by squeezing the lemon over it cos I like it sour, but if you don’t then do not add the extra lemon!
I just really adored this dish because of how tender this was.
Amazingly enough, after the starter and small plates we still had room for more food. The portion sizes in Bill’s are just right – I didn’t feel like any were too small, but it wasn’t like we had so much food per dish that we felt sick either.
Although the Sea Bass on the specials menu looked yummy, I decided to go for the Duck Pie since it was quite an unusual dish.
The duck pie consists of a braised duck leg, carrots, gravy, barley topped with buttery mash and dorset cheddar. It comes with some red cabbage and we had some recommended sides to share, like the Tender Stem Broccoli with Red chilli and toasted sesame seeds, and Butternut Squash Mac ’n’ Cheese.
The duck pie doesn’t come in a huge dish but it is enough…
Mmmm. This is a super yummy pie and far better than a regular cottage pie. The duck was cooked well and I loved the addition of barley which added texture and flavour. There’s tons and tons of meat in this pie:
The red cabbage that came with it is lovely, and refreshing and breaks up the richness of the gravy in the pie.
The Broccoli is tasty and very Chinese style if I don’t say so myself – cooked with some crunch like how my mama would make it. It’s actually pretty spicy too because of the chilli, so be aware that it’s quite feisty.
I wanted to try the butternut squash mac’n’cheese since it was recommended to me, BUT, not as a main.
I am not the biggest fan of Mac ’n’ Cheese although this is definitely a better one I’ve tried – Mr C didn’t like the breadcrumb like topping, I did. There was a bacon-y sort of taste from this even though there isn’t any in there! The squash was mild and sweet (apparently the old recipe had leek in it) and I can see why people like it although for me I‘ve never been able to it this dish in any large quantity.
Mr C did what a lot of men do when faced with a menu and unable to make a choice – he went for a sirloin steak which was served with a portobello mushroom, tomato skewer and sweet potato fries (this is an upgrade option! You can have regular fries too!).
His steak was cooked rare-borderline medium (he actually asked for that) with some peppercorn sauce. As far as steaks go, it was a good quality one, tender, rich in flavour and all round decent if you are in the mood for steak.
The sweet potato fries are nicely crisp with no hint of chewiness – I was so full I only had one of these!
Drinks top up – Peach Ice Tea with Mint was very tasty and refreshing:
Pink Lemonade and Vanilla Ice Cream Float – this was such an unusual drink. The pink lemonade is extremely sherberty and has a real tang, like sweet transformed into a beverage, and the ice cream float sits on top of the lemonade and under some light whipped foam which I think is also the ice cream?! I’m not sure but it is very light in texture. The women near us saw my drink and immediately ordered a few!
Sweets wise, we shared a Specials pudding, the Sticky Toffee Pudding and Malted Banana Ice Cream (I think that was what it’s called?!). This was super super super nice. Firstly isn’t a massive wedge of cake, and it has a lovely toffee-pecan-y type of flavour to it that isn’t overly sweet. Even the syrup isn’t too sweet either which is one of the reasons I can’t eat this kind of pudding. The malted banana ice cream is just so good and goes perfectly with the warm cake and syrup, once again without being too sweet.
I don’t know how we managed to finish this too but we did. There are also other things on the menu like ice cream, chocolate brownie and cinnamon doughnuts.
Price wise, you’re talking £7.95 for breakfast, £9.95 for a chicken burger, £5.95 for an Eton Mess. You won’t be hungry after eating here (unless you order one side salad obviously) and it’s a very comfy eating experience so worth the price.
What I like about Bills is that it was very comfortable and unpretentious. Mr C had to dash off at one point to get the car, and I quite happily sat there sipping my latte whilst little H slept in the buggy…it’s the kind of place I can imagine stopping by for a cake and coffee by myself, or breakfast with a friend, or afternoon tea with my mum or dinner with the Mr.