After spending literally 36 hours in bed because I had the flu on the weekend, I thought it was about time I dragged myself outside for some fresh air and a hit of socialisation before the cabin fever well and truly kicked in.
So mid-morning Sunday, C and I ventured out to Bill’s in Islington, a new favourite of mine.
The Islington branch of Bill’s has been around for a good while, but I’d not really tried it until recently. I started noticing quite a few new Bill’s locations opening up around London and realised this was a business that was taking off.
I was intrigued.
I had no idea if it was a popular place or not, and to be honest, had I not noticed it was taking off, I wouldn’t have really ventured inside because the branding doesn’t really do it for me… I imagined a greasy spoon café or a dodgy pub when I saw it from the outside. But I was pleasantly surprised on my first, and all subsequent visits.
Bill’s is an interesting concept – it’s a café come restaurant come store, with a lot of Bill’s branded produce (olive oils, sweets, preserves) and dining accessories (picnic baskets, tea towels, etc) displayed all over the place and available to buy.
The two Bill’s I’ve been to (Soho and Islington) have a bit of a rustic, farmhouse feel to them. With exposed brickwork and industrial-style lighting, wooden shelves and mismatched furniture. It is packed with bits and bobs – hanging chilli and garlic bunches and loads of other things to look at – like everything is constantly on hand.
I like the effect, but I can’t say I find it easy to imagine people walking in and just wandering around looking to buy something. I feel more like you’d just notice the things next to you particular table and might be inspired to pick something up.
My first experience was standout.
On arrival, a friendly staff member greeted me almost straight away, which in my book is always a good start. The service was brilliant without being intrusive, being offered coffee and drinks straight away.
Their breakfast menu is what really impressed me, which is why I was so keen for C to experience it. It’s a relatively straightforward menu with a lot of the usual suspects – porridge, pancakes, full English, vegetarian, Benedict etc. Reasonable prices. But delivered in such a way that you feel like you’re really getting a great deal. I had the Eggs Florentine – the eggs were cooked to perfection, the hollandaise sauce was delicious, there was the appropriate amount of toast, and it was finished with small flourishes like toasted pumpkin seeds and parsley on top.
For me, well-presented food, on an appropriate sized plate is absolutely key in the overall dining experience. There is nothing worse than getting something delivered that looks like it’s swimming in a porcelain-ocean-of-a-plate and doesn’t look like any kind of love has gone into it. Equally, there is nothing worse than TOO much stuff just being plonked on the plate and completely overwhelming the senses. Especially at breakfast time.
C and I have since been back for both lunch and breakfast and each time we were impressed with the service, the overall atmosphere, the offer and of course the food. They make amazing coffee, delicious fresh juices and everything we saw coming out of the kitchen on both occasions looked incredibly delicious!
Another big plus for me (as I’m sure you’ve already guessed) is that at breakfast time they offer a gluten free bread option so you don’t feel like you have to miss out on the proper breakfast experience. The lunch menu is a bit harder to navigate for glutards like me but I went with a beetroot and pomegranate salad and some fries which was a delicious balance of flavours and I went home happy none-the-less!
I think I’ve discovered a new favourite breakfast place, which, for an Aussie living in London is a huge win for me because the type I usually like are much harder to come across in a city awash with greasy spoon cafes and dodgy coffee shops.