Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Restaurant Review - Bill's

Location: North Gate Hall, Saint Michael's Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 2DU, UK
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It seems Bill's new restaurant in Oxford was causing mixed reactions; some were saying it was great, some were saying style over substance, some were complaining that it was another chain... curiosity usually kills the cat, so I hear, but thankfully on this occasion, said cat was pretty sated.

Tucked behind George Street on St Michael's Street and three doors away from Mission Burrito, Bill's is part retailer, part deli, part restaurant; offering everything from breakfast, lunch, dinner and cake, through to huge jars of artichokes, chutneys, cook books and canvas bags... so are they trying to be all things to all men? Quite possibly, but from what I could see, they were doing a decent job of it. The menus (arriving just before noon I had breakfast, lunch & specials menus to select from) had a good range of appealing dishes to choose from; then the retail/deli items were displayed on industrial shelving and listed in a separate pamphlet on your table, allowing you to choose items which can then be added to your bill.

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Shelves displaying various goods for sale

I don't mind this idea, I quite like the thought of popping in for brunch then leaving with a jar of chilli jam; I can imagine though, some people would not be amused by the in-your-face commercialism... personally, I think there's something quite honest about it. You see Bill's aren't hiding the fact they're trying to sell to you, and quite frankly, as long as the waiting staff don't actually try to 'sell' the wares while you're visiting, I can't say I care (if they did start pushing the goods then that would be another matter).

Getting settled in with my several menus, I checked out the interior - vast ceiling space, grand windows, leather button-back seating and chandeliers harping back to Victorian splendour, mixed in with big metal ventilation pipes, galvanised steel chairs and industrial looking shelving. The interior is well and truly styled to within an inch of its life, but I didn't find it at all pretentious. I found the staff pleasant and helpful, the atmosphere warm and relaxing, and the surroundings pretty chilled out - quite ideal for a peaceful lunch while off duty (no kids!!!).

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My regular readers won't be surprised to hear I went for the Full English, or 'Bill's Breakfast' to be specific (£7.95) - quite a staple reviewing dish for me, although unusual for me to order at lunch. On this occasion, however, I'd speedily snaffled some early morning toast on my way out the door so a cooked breakfast sounded pretty appealing. Swapping fried for scrambled eggs (they had no issue with this I'm glad to report) and not opting to add Baked Beans (£1 extra) or Bubble & Squeak (£1.50 extra), I settled in with the produce menu and a nice decaf latte to await my brunch.

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Daytime Menu

Oxford Restaurant Reviews FoodieOnTour
Breakfast Menu

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Specials Menu & Produce Menu

On arrival, the breakfast looked huge, and actually very well displayed as far as breakfasts go - I wasn't quite sure I could finish it to be honest! Turns out, this was a very enjoyable brekkie: delicious and still warm (yay!!) mushrooms; pretty well cooked but still OK scrambled eggs; nicely roasted plum tomato; delicious, crispy, smoky, streaky bacon - great to see this as a change from the usual back bacon; toasted, fluffy, white, buttered bread; then two small but perfectly formed Cumberland sausages - and I have to say... they were cooked stunningly well! HALLELUJAH!!! Throughout my pregnancy I have been blighted by restaurants serving me undercooked sausages... enough already! These sausages were cooked just the right side of pink, there was a slight blush, but they were COOKED! They were also bloody tasty.

Being a bit of a slow eater (poor MrF often has to sit and watch me eat for at least 10-20 minutes after he's finished), the toast did get a bit soggy underneath the eggs, but I assume this would be better if sticking with the fried eggs as standard. Other than that though, I couldn't fault this dish.

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Bill's Breakfast

I never did manage to clear the plate - I polished off all the mushrooms and bacon, most of the sausage, plus about half the toast and egg; I love the thought of having the beans and bubble & squeak added but there is no way I could manage it all... possibly more of a manly sized dish (grrr).

So, overall opinion of Bills... I really quite liked it and am definitely planning on returning to try out more of the multiple menu options. I also hear they do good cake, so, I guess I have to taste it and report back - purely for your reading pleasure of course!

Overall score: 8/10

Bill's Restaurant
Northgate Hall
St Michaels Street
Twitter: @Bills_Food

Facebook: @billsrestaurants
Website: www.bills-website.co.uk
Phone: 01865 202550

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