Do you have a favourite restaurant in central London? Covent Garden can be a daunting place because although the atmosphere is fun and there are some seriously cool shops – especially if you like shoes and trainers – there are a lot of tourist trap restaurants where you will pay over the odds for something bland and uninspiring.
How about I told you I’ve just sampled the cheapest and most delicious cocktails ever at a bar and restaurant in Covent Garden? They were £4.95 each and they were made with fresh and seasonal ingredients, plus they were beautifully presented. Welcome to the world of Bill’s.
And while I’m talking about affordable luxury in London’s expensive areas, I have more good news. Although I visited the Bill’s in St Martin’s Courtyard, Covent Garden, there are locations in all of London’s loveliest (and priciest) places like High St Kensington, Chiswick, Islington, Putney, Wimbledon and more (see a list on Bill’s website). I’ll raise a Hedgerow Spritz (sparkling wine and elderflower) cocktail to that!
But then again, I think the Bill’s Pink Spritz (gin, rhubarb cordial, pink grapefruit and pin lemonade) and Bill’s Green Garden (gin, elderflower cordial, fresh mint, cucumber and lime) cocktails are also worth using for toasts. And then drinking afterwards, obviously!
Bill’s started life as a café in the front of an independent food store in Lewes, East Sussex and has grown stratospherically from that – a sign it must be doing something right. However, it doesn’t feel like it’s part of a chain with gorgeous, Instagram-friendly décor. The St Martin’s Courtyard venue has piles of produce with jars of sweets and chocolate bars on the shelves, rustic wood furniture, exposed metal and most importantly open air seating so you can dine al fresco. As my sister and I sat outside and looked inside, I had a great view of the restaurant full of tables of friends – there is a happy atmosphere to Bill’s. The restaurant’s motto is from Breakfast to Bedtime and I reckon Bill’s puts a lot of smiles on a lot of people’s faces in that time.
The menu is huge so my sister and I took up the waitress’s suggestion of picking on a dish of olives while we tried to pick what we wanted most. Those large green, juicy olives were devoured quickly – there’s something about large olives that make them so more-ish! Eventually we decided on halloumi as I’d just returned from Greece and I think Bill’s halloumi was just as tasty as that I tasted while in Santorini. But the main attraction was some mini cumberland sausages with honey and grain mustard – sweet and meaty and finger-licking good!
The presentation at Bill’s is just as cute and quirky as the décor. Notice the sausages came in a casserole dish? So did the halloumi but I wolfed it down so quickly, I forgot to take a photo. Sorry about that! I did however manage to take a photo of one of the most interesting salads I’ve had in a while.
Interesting can sometimes sound like an insult but I like a dish in which you don’t know what you’re going to get in each mouthful. Eating mouthful of lettuce after another mouthful of lettuce with maybe a piece of rocket to break it up would be dull and boring but my salad contained chickpeas, red cabbage, quinoa, kale leaf, avocado, red onions and chargrilled vegetables with flaked almonds on top and some added protein from a chicken skewer.
My sister had a healthy meal of sea bass in a chunky tomato, avocado and tomato salsa with a crispy spring onion and parsley potato rosti. Bearing in mind this is Covent Garden, I’d have guessed a sea bass would cost £14.95- £19.95. This was £12.95 and it was perfectly cooked – it melted in the mouth, leaving you with the addictive sauce flavour. Capers and tomatoes is a food mix I’m going to try to repeat at home. Being less health-conscious than me she had a side order of chips but I have to admit they were gooood – chips with skin-on are way better than small fries. These chips were a great size as they weren’t too big or too small.
With all that, we really should have been full but I wanted to test the dessert menu. By this stage of the meal, I thought there had to be a catch. We’d had value for money in a sublime environment and the savoury food had been just to our liking. Plus the service is fantastic – the waitresses couldn’t do enough for us and we noticed that it was not just us receiving special treatment. Every table received swift services and smiles, which I think must be infectious at Bill’s. So would the pudding be a disappointment? I am pleased to say the answer is no. Their Eton Mess is a pudding that has to go in my ‘top 10 puddings in London restaurants’ list.
Here’s a close-up
Not only is the portion generous, they don’t skimp on the crunchy meringue. This means each mouthful is a heavenly mix of crunchy meringue with fresh cream – the smooth and the crunch! Tart strawberries cut through the rich taste and you feel more summery with every mouthful. Try it and you won’t be disappointed!
The next time someone asks you to meet in central London, suggest Bill’s and win brownie points for knowing about a venue that serves up great food at great value.
Check out the Bill’s website to see the menu and location details.