Bill Collison is a very special person.
Bill has a horticultural background, and since opening a small greengrocers shop in Lewes, East Sussex, the business has mushroomed (see what I did there?) into the ubiquitous chain of Bill’s Restaurants which you can find in more than 62 locations from Bath to York.
Almost all of this has taken place since 2000, when the original shop was disastrously flooded.
Bill re-opened in larger premises and introduced a cafe, serving great food with a twist.
When people began taking photographs of the foods he produced, he knew he was onto something and the expansion began.
Opening in September 2015 amidst the restaurant boom exploding in Leeds City Centre, Bill’s took over the handsome former Leeds Law Society building. Georgian in character, the shiny new interior is in total contrast to the grand exterior.
Stripped back walls, exposed pipework and vents reflects the taste for industrial modernism.
The place is very colourful, with distressed painted wooden floorboards and panels. There are various alcoves with glass privacy panels above. Lighting is subdued and creates a great, buzzing atmosphere.
Matching (for a change) tables and chairs cater for 106 diners on two floors.
In December the upper room caters for larger parties, keeping the ground floor more intimate.
In warmer weather, there are tables and chairs for a further 42 diners on the gloriously traffic-free paved area outside. So relaxing in the sunshine.
On arrival, we were greeted at the door and shown inside and to our table by very friendly and welcoming staff. The young staff provided excellent service all evening and were a credit to the business.
The menu is predominantly British with some European influences and touches.
Catering for all-day dining from breakfast to late dinner, at off-peak times there are ‘specials’ at 2 courses for £9.95 or three at £11.95 or an exclusive BBQ platter with beer at £16.50. Plated nibbles are from £3 to £4.25.
There are starters and meze too mouth-watering and extensive to list, around £5 to £6.
Mains are around £10 to £13.50, Steaks from £17 to £18.50, Grills from £12.50 to £14, whilst scrummy desserts are £4.25 to £7.
Afternoon Tea, something just about everyone is doing these days, is £10.
My party opted for tzatziki and hummous dips which came with grilled padina bread, freshly cut strips of cucumber, celery and carrot.. These were very fresh and tasty. One serving was enough for two people and at £4.25, such a bargain.
I had a Bill’s Burger and was asked how I would like it cooked. It came as a large tower burger, just pink inside as requested, with fresh accompaniments and a container of lovely chips.
On being served, I asked for BBQ sauce and went for the ‘hot’ option, thinking it would be highly spiced. In fact, it came in a small gravy jug and was actually hot in temperature as well as spicy.
Delicious doesn’t even come close. So good, I asked to buy some from the small shop, but this sauce is made freshly on the premises each day and is not for sale. Missing a trick here Bill!
The buttermilk chicken was tender and so tasty, with sweet potato fries and extras.
Everyone in my party left having had a great dining experience.
Bill’s Beer is a smooth and malty lager, not unlike some U.S. versions and very palatable.
For those who have been impressed by the fayre on offer, there is a selection of Bill’s own branded goods for sale within the restaurant or by ordering on-line.
Further details can be found about Bill’s Restaurants at www.bills-website.co.uk
There are multi-storey car parks in the near vicinity of Bill’s in Leeds and some on-street parking nearby. It can be found at LS1 6JL.
Cheers Bill, great job, mate!