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15th November 2019

Bill’s grand reopening: what’s new?

From interior change to seasonal menu shifts, Writer Dominic Fung gets to sit down with Bill Collinson, founder of the newest ‘Bill’s Restaurant’, and discusses their new menu and the importance of excellent service…
Bill’s grand reopening: what’s new?
Photo: Dominic Fung

With their first new opening in 18 months, Bill’s is a spot in Spinningfields that is definitely worth checking out.

Amongst the likes of Tattu, Australasia and 20 Stories, Bill’s is the perfect balance of homely and classy. While you may have seen them in the past on John Dalton Street, their new location is a grand reopening for all. How do I know? Well, I was fortunate enough to get a first-hand look (and taste) while sat with Bill himself!

Photo: Dominic Fung

Interior of Spinningfield’s Bill’s

As you’d imagine considering his, quite literally, down to earth origins as a grower, Bill was friendly and welcoming. With a life-long passion for food, he enthusiastically described how, initially, chefs would simply grab produce from the shop and take it into the kitchen to make whatever meal came to mind.

The first Bill’s catered only to breakfast and lunch, though with such popularity as time went on the company ended up catering for dinner too! It was, however, nice to remember the “good-old-days” with him. When asked how things had changed he recalled how much was different in terms of taking photos. At the start, taking pictures wasn’t even allowed by the chefs for fear of their ideas being stolen! These ideas may have simply been the menu for the season or a huge cake that was one-of-a-kind.

In stark contrast, photography of their perfectly plated food is almost encouraged (luckily for me). Bill ensures he is involved in every step possible despite all these changes from their first restaurant in 2001. The most crucial part for him is the experience. No matter what, he wants every branch to retain that sense of coming home and eating to soothe the soul. He cares about the experience, describing eating out as “a show” – a sentiment I can agree with.

From the food to decor, everything is carefully orchestrated for the optimal experience. And naturally, as he explains to us, nothing is more important than having good floor staff. Good food can certainly be ruined by having poor staff, while good staff can have a huge effect on the overall mood of diners. This was something I could see and feel for myself as I saw the smiles on the faces of customers and staff alike around me.

Onto the food itself though. Following the theme of most Bill’s restaurants, the menu changes on a seasonal basis. This is to prevent stagnation or boredom of going through the same motions each time you return. The core ethos that the food should be as fresh as possible goes in line with the restaurant’s practise of altering the dishes themselves to reflect the seasonality of produce. After all, while a warm bowl of stew sounds great in these chilly months, it’s hardly ideal in the heatwaves of summer.

In light of this, all the courses I sampled encapsulated the sentiment of something you’d have on a rainy Manchester day – food to warm you up from the inside out. Bill’s has strived to maintain a large variety of choices to cater to any who set foot inside, while also maintaining that “homely and familiar” feeling.

To start with, I was greeted with a plethora of choices, from the usual of olives and halloumi fries, to the Asian inspired tempura and chicken dumplings. If those aren’t quite your taste, the toasted focaccia with hummus is sure to be a hit. The variety allows there to be something for everyone whether you’re vegan, gluten-free or looking for something a little special to start the night. There is a simplicity about each dish, which keeps the atmosphere casual as you ease into the meal.

Halloumi fries and tempura vegetables. Photo: Dominic Fung

Moving onto mains, there’s an equally extensive list of choices. For myself I chose the fillet of sea bass course, although I did give an occasional longing glance at the vegan wellingtons I saw dotted around. Perfectly prepared in house, the fish is pan-fried and retains crispy skin and flaky flesh on a creamy rösti bed. The cherry tomato, avocado and caper salsa it was topped with was almost as if the ideal millennial breakfast had been translated into dinner.

Seabass. Photo: Dominic Fung

In terms of desserts, you are quite spoiled for choice, with rich brownies, a mountain of Eton mess or plenty of doughnut pieces and salted caramel available. I would personally recommend the Eton mess. Despite it looking like the standard meringue layered into whipped cream and generous helpings of raspberry, you get an occasional bite of spiced pear which jumps out at you. A warm plate of brownies wouldn’t go amiss either on these cold winter nights!

Eton Mess. Photo: Dominic Fung

As if all this wasn’t enough, their cocktail menu has also been fully revamped. While Bill enjoyed a classic Hendrick’s gin and tonic with cucumber, there are plenty of other Bill’s originals to indulge in. For those interested, Bill’s own brand of gin is used in their “Blackberry Sky”. Pictured are their “Shrub a Dub Dub” (right), a liquorice-like spritz and their “Wildflower Margarita” (left) which was more akin to a liquidised haribo.

Wildflower Margarita (Left), ‘Shrub-a-dub-dub’ (Right). Photo: Dominic Fung

If you’re interested in getting your hands on some of this yourself, get a seat at Bill’s for a night out without breaking the bank – at only £20.50 for 3 courses, the only question is… What are you waiting for?

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