I can still remember the first time I went to a Bill’s. It would have been 2005 or 2006. I was living in Hove and the Brighton branch had just opened. EVERYONE was talking about it; this mythical new place which had come over from Lewes and was already getting lines out the door.
As a vegetarian, I remember being amazed by how many different things there were on the menu that I could choose from (this was long before the days of clean eating/vegan/get your greens Insta-trends, don’t forget) and every shelf and surface seemed to have something for sale which I desperately wanted to take home for dinner. Part shop, part restaurant, part bus depot – I’d never really been anywhere quite like it.
A few months later I moved into a North Road flat five doors down – I could lean out of my lounge window to check the queue – and a long love affair with pink lemonade and bountiful salads began.
Whilst the Bill’s hype in Brighton was certainly very real at that time, I never expected it to become the chain it is today. There’s now a Bill’s where I grew up, a Bill’s where my grandparents live and I can think of at least five London branches that I’ve been to in the past six months.
I love – and I mean LOVE – the brunch menu. I can’t thank Bill Collison enough for making me appreciate hummus, guacamole and sweet chilli sauce as breakfast necessities. It was at the Brighton branch of Bill’s that I first tried a halloumi burger, too. Ahhhh to be free from the shackles of mushed up bean patties. What a joy!
But until recently I hadn’t appreciated the fact that Bill’s has a pretty extensive cocktail menu. I knew Bill’s made their own small batch gin (blogged about before here – IT IS VERY NICE) but I guess I’d just always stuck to G&Ts or wine when I’d go for dinner.
So when I was asked by Bill’s if I’d like to make a video where I’d try a whole bunch of these aforementioned cocktails, I obviously jumped at the chance.
Lucy came along as my Very Important Research Partner and we made it our mission to try a healthy chunk of the cocktails on offer across two branches – Battersea and Holborn.
We started with lunch at Battersea, where we toasted our rather exciting tasting project with a Hedgerow Fizz (Prosecco, elderflower and frozen blackberry) and a Raspberry Collins (rosehip gin, raspberry and pink grapefruit cordial, lemon juice and Bill’s pink lemonade)…
I think it was at that point that we knew we were in for a pretty darn lovely day. The Raspberry Collins was gorgeously tangy (why is it often impossible to find raspberry based drinks which are ACTUALLY TANGY?!) and the Hedgerow Fizz was so delicious we could have drunk them forever. In fact if we hadn’t been there to review the menu, I suspect we’d have been hard pressed not to just keep ordering them.
Food-wise, we were gearing ourselves up for a feast at dinnertime so thought it would be sensible to try one of the new salads. We both opted for the Seasonal Allotment Salad (roots and greens tossed in orange cumin dressing with pickled beetroot, cranberries, chickpeas, munchy seeds, mustard hummus and caper dressing – YUM YUM GET IN MY TUM), with Lucy adding the mojo marinated chicken to hers.
We both really liked the salad, especially as it had the type of ingredients we wouldn’t think to add to a salad ourselves. I don’t think I’ve ever had a brussel sprout outside of Christmas lunch, so I was really surprised by how delicious these ones were when drizzled with the hummus dressing and crunchy seeds.
For dessert we opted for more cocktails, naturally, and tried the Aperol Spritz and Orchard Spritz (pear liqueur, fresh pear juice, ginger, peach bitters, soda). Again, very nice indeed. You can’t really go wrong with an Aperol Spritz, it is what is is (i.e TRIUMPHANT) but the Orchard Spritz was really refreshing and unusual. Remind me to buy some peach liqueur for my own drinks cabinet.
We headed back home with a rough idea of our favourite cocktail at this point, but there was more research needed so after a quick outfit change we were back on the road heading for Holborn. We had sweet potato fries in our sights and nothing was going to stop us.
I love how the Bill’s restaurants change at night, with the lit candelabras and dimmed lights helping completely transform the buzzy venues from the day into something much more romantic. I don’t care if I am just catching up with a girlfriend over nachos, I’d still opt for flattering candlelight where possible!
With a Just Peachy Bellini and Apple Blossom in hand, we pretended to look at the food menu even though we’d been fantasising about the burgers we knew we’d order all afternoon.
The Apple Blossom which I ordered was the “Cocktail of the Month” and I can see why – Bill’s London dry gin, cloudy apple juice, lemon juice and honey makes for quite the concoction. I’m a big gin and juice fan anyway and usually opt for this kind of drink at home, but I’d never thought to add honey or lemon. I WILL NOW.
Lucy went with her fave Bill’s main course – the buttermilk chicken burger with chipotle mayo, crunchy winter slaw and added cheese and bacon. In true Mary Poppins style, she tells me it was “practically perfect in every way”. I went with the halloumi and hummus brioche bun (of course) and upgraded to sweet potato fries and added guacamole which, by the way, was the nicest guacamole I’ve had yet at Bill’s. A new recipe perhaps? It was very nice.
Everyone needs a halloumi close-up amirite?
For dessert it was sticky toffee pudding (oooof!) and the impossible-to-ignore special: crushed honeycomb and chocolate cheesecake with caramelised banana, chocolate ice cream and a honey drizzle.
A terrible pics as it’s a still from the video – but trust me it was delicious.
This cheesecake was next level. It tasted properly homemade, like the type of cheesecake you might be served at a dinner party if you’re very very lucky and your host is awesome. I need to try and figure out the recipe or at least beg Bill’s to make it a permanent menu fixture. Creamy, rich and somehow not at all sickly, we wished we’d ordered two.
We finished with a few more cocktails, including the Blackberry Margarita (Aqua Riva reposado, blackberry coulis and fresh lime), the Bramble Mojito (white rum, blackberry purée, mint, vanilla and lime juice) and Ginger Smash (The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum, ginger beer and fresh lime). The Ginger Smash was probably my favourite of those three as I have a lot of time for ginger beer, but the Blackberry Margarita was good and punchy if you’re a fan of tequila.
As you’ll see in the video, we struggled to crown a favourite cocktail. A nice predicament to have, but we really did like all of them a lot! And that was without trying the Espresso Martini, THE CHOCOLATE MARTINI (oy!) and a couple of the others.
We did come up with a winner though as you’ll see if you watch to the end….
Lucy and I had SUCH an awesome day and we can’t thank Bill’s enough for treating us to so many scrummy things on that wonderful Friday. If Lucy hadn’t been off to play hockey the next morning I know we’d have headed back to Battersea for brunch the next day! (And maybe to finally try the Espresso Martini?!).
If Bill’s is currently only on your radar for brekkie, I’d definitely recommend going later in the day and trying the cocktails. You can find your nearest Bill’s and check out the menus here.
I know we’ll be back soon 🙂
This post and video was made in collaboration with Bill’s but enthusiasm, words, pics and creative control is very much mine. You can find out more about how I work with brands here.