Those who suffer from food envy will know all too well the need to ask what everyone’s having.
The other half and I were joined by two friends this week — we’ll call them the happy couple, since they’re about to put a ring on it — and all were warned that they had to order different dishes, to give your humble reviewer a true taste of the menu.
They failed— but maybe that’s what you get for bringing two boys along when there’s steak on the go.
We settled in to a comfy table for a bite and a midweek natter. There were oohs and aahs over the quirky paper menu of takeaway items like jam and pink lemonade — just tick what you want and your (impeccably) friendly server will bring it to you. If only all food shopping was so easy.
Bill’s may be a chain, but has less of the corporate feel that other eateries in walking distance; with chintzy chandeliers, cosy candlelight and chilli garlands separating dining areas, it’s the shabby chic kitchen you’ve no doubt tried to recreate at home.
We started with excellent crispy lemon squid with garlic mayo — comforting finger food — and delicate crab, chilli and prawn cakes, served with baby gem, mango and spring onion; a step above your average salad.
There were two orders of grilled halloumi with quinoa salad; a tasty concoction of grain, lentil and chickpea with flecks of juicy pomegranate, nicely paired with the salty cheese, although the main event could have been hotter (halloumi cools fast and can go back to squeaky by the time it’s at the table — this was letting out a whimper or two).
On then to the mains, and the boys decided that different sauces were enough to differentiate their sirloins. Both were good; sizeable cuts, seared well and served with great skin-on chips to mop up ample juices and tasty peppercorn and garlic butter.
A healthy marinated chicken skewer dish went down well, served with a saintly cous cous salad, flatbread and tzatziki — Mrs Happy Couple was clearly saving herself for dessert.
My pan-fried sea bass was well crisped, as was a tasty spring onion potato rösti — although a tomato, avocado and caper salsa lacked the vinegary punch it promised.
It’s all too often that restaurants fall back on safe, simple dessert options paired with the same old vanilla ice cream — no such laziness at Bill’s, as we tucked into a thick, creamy eton mess with mascarpone and strawberry coulis, and puffy cinnamon doughnuts with glistening chocolate sauce.
But the star of the show was a treacle tart; a richly-textured pie complemented by honeycomb ice cream. Dark and syrupy with crisp, chewy pastry, this is how dessert should be done.
It’s a menu of staples — so many that you might have trouble choosing (there’s that food envy again) — but for the most part, Bill’s delivers, and we had four happy customers to prove it.
22-24 West Nile Street
0141 221 6883