6 February 2014

Bill's Bill's Bill's
The Triangle, Bristol

I’m not usually a big fan of a chain restaurant. I think a lot of it has to do with the huge mix of dishes on the menu...if I see the words ‘Cajun’ next to spaghetti carbonara I get a bit edgy. So with that in mind, I was a little wary when I first visited Bill’s new restaurant on the Triangle.

It was my first experience of a Bill’s, as I’m reasonably northern and most of their restaurants are in the south, including fifteen just in London. The Bristol branch opened last year and hearing good things, including the buzzwords “good value”, I thought it best to try it out myself.

And it can’t have been bad...because I've been back four times since.

The first thing that you notice about Bill’s is that it looks pretty good, although it certainly does a good job of tick-boxing several trendy design features; Booth seating? Check. Exposed industrial ventilation shafts? Oh yes. Massive hams hanging down from meat hooks? You betcha. Saying this, you won’t find me objecting to eating surrounded by pork products any time soon. It has a very chilled out vibe and does a good job of dividing up the seating areas into more intimate sections which helps as the place goes back for miles.

The menu is reasonably extensive as they cover breakfast through to dinner. They offer a small plates and starter section which some good looking mezze boards which several families were tucking into when I visited. The mains lurk somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, ranging from fish pie and fish finger sandwiches to macaroni cheese and ribs. The only real departure being a Thai green curry which sticks out as being somewhat out of place. The puddings follow suit with Eton Mess mixing with both pecan and lemon meringue pie.

The burgers are good value coming in at under a tenner for a huge portion and are always very popular with my eating crowd. They are served medium rare which makes for much more pleasant eating and accompanied by excellently-salted skinny fries. Unusually for me, I have often been seduced into ordering the vegetarian burger – a huge pile of halloumi topped with roasted peppers, yogurt and hummus. I suppose it’s more of a hot sandwich than a burger but who cares? If I've ordered it twice rather than the meat version, it must be bloody good.

The only slightly mediocre dish I've seen over my visits is their mac and cheese, which is disappointing given the quality of some of the other American-style dishes. Puddings-wise however, Bill’s sticky toffee pudding is not a bad effort at all. On one memorable occasion it was served with malted banana ice-cream which was a real winner and helped cement my belief that if I see the words ‘salted’ or ‘malted’ on a pudding then all self-control goes out the window.

The final point I want to make about the Bristol Bill’s is that the quality of service I have received on each visit has been excellent. This includes my staff Christmas outing where 20 people left happy after being served on-time and just at the right pace. I’m sure you’ll agree this is no mean feat.

On the whole, Bill’s has managed to find its place in Bristol in an area already saturated with chain restaurants. It stands apart by serving up good value grub with a real sense of identity and excellent customer service. My only advice is to mind your head when you stand up…those hams can give you a right wallop.

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