Restaurant Review: Bill’s Cambridge Restaurant

Address: 34-35 Green St, Cambridge CB2 3JX

Date of visit: 04 November 2015, 16:50pm

As part of this blog I will be reviewing Cambridge eateries, preferably not the big chains though. Yesterday I had to head into town to visit the Apple store for some work on my phone, and rather than face the rush hour traffic, decided to have an early supper. We settle on Bill’s, as the OH had been there before and it just looked appealing, not too informal and not the default chain choice (though I believe they are a small chain).

Hard to pin down what the place is, I’ve summarised it as an Italian deli-cum-gastropub with cocktail bar. Purely based upon the ambience inside – we’re talking bijou wood panelling, Italian grocery containers as ornaments, lots of chalkboards, including three with recipes written on – a lovely touch. Overall a very pleasant atmosphere.

Wasn’t especially busy, and we were served immediately by a smiling waitress. Waiting for orders to be taken wasn’t long at all, and we didn’t have to ask for a water jug.

The menu itself was not too big (which as we all know is often a bad sign – think about it; a small pub that has a fifteen page menu? You may as well have bought a ready meal), with a few appealing choices but mostly classic gastropub fare. Fish and chips, burgers, mac and cheese.

As I was driving, decided not to check out the cocktail menu but instead went for their pink lemonade, which, when it arrived, was sold under Bills’ own label. According to the bottle (a charming glass affair not a plastic vending machine special), it was made for them by a small artisan French producer. On the way out, I noted 750ml size bottles available to buy to take home. May do so upon next visit as it was a nice drink. It was garnished with a strawberry in the glass.

Bill's Pink Lemonade, also available for purchase and have at home
Bill’s Pink Lemonade, also available for purchase and have at home

We chose the butcher’s Special mezze to start as it was a shared one (they also offer a veggie version). On offer was hummus, baba ghanoush, marinated olives, pork sausages, chicken kebabs and a sesame-coated meat
kebab. Plus tortilla chips and flatbread. Sounds like a gut buster and a decent if random mix. It arrived fairly quickly, and pleasingly was not overwhelmingly loaded. Perfectly sized if I’m honest.

One chicken skewer each, the sausages were small two-bite affairs on sticks, and the flatbread was about the size of a large pita. Only small criticsim was perhaps bigger dip bowls? Tortilla chips were clearly home made and not from the catering-size bag of knock-off Doritos; chicken skewers were tender and heady with coriander.

The baba ghanoush was to die for. Proper olives too, we’re talking kalamata and those almost avocado-creamy Nocellara or Sicilian ones, not aged, wrinkled bullets straight from the ambient brine jar. They were stone-in though, so watch out.

Mezze - whilst a bit fusion, all the components were high quality and all tasted home made.
Mezze – whilst a bit fusion, all the components were high quality and all tasted home made.

Reasonably short wait for mains – arrived before we finished the starter. But this was more us dragging it out to not have to leave too soon!

I went for the Duck pie. Again, nicely sized, came in the ovular dish you’d expect a pub lasagne or shepherd’s pie to arrive in. I guessed from the menu that it wasn’t going to be pastry, and I was pleasantly surprised. Beneath
the herbed creamy mash topping lurked meltingly soft meat with chewy pearl barley. It was served with some pickled cabbage, which cut through the richness a but and a small jug of gravy which you could add yourself. And it tasted like real gravy, not Bisto. Toby had buttermilk chicken, which was a cutlet served in a bun with sweet potato fries. Sadly I wasn’t resourceful enough to taste it for reviewing purposes but he left the top of the bun so it can’t have been bad!

bills 3

We fore-went dessert and paid. For two, it came to £49.83 including the service charge which I felt was reasonable for Cambridge and what was on the whole, good, honest food. Bill’s is a definite addition to the ‘will return’ list.

Overall, Bill’s is worth a visit. Perhaps the only real problem is that they seem to be trying to be everything. The decor and artisan goods for sale gave it the feel of an Italian delicatessen; whilst the cocktail bar obviously is there to attract the hip young professionals…the menu is a bit too globe-trotting for my taste – it has a bit of an identity crisis, listing burgers and BBQ ribs alongside English pub fare with a bit of the Middle East thrown in.
Although I enjoyed the started and felt it was a nice selection, I wouldn’t call it a true mezze – sharing platter would have done fine. But that’s just me being pernickety as much of the components of the stater WAS the kind served in the Levant.

Food: 10/10
Service: 10/10
Price: 8/10
Ambience: 7/10

I liked:
-Decent price
-Very good quality food, nothing felt like it was out of a Booker’s packet.
-Eclectic menu
-Nice ambience
-Friendly wait staff
-Some lovely products for sale
-Other cute details; recipes on chalkboards etc.

I didn’t like:
– Aforementioned identity crisis. Is it a mezze bar? A British gastropub? Italian deli? Cocktail bar? Stange mix of cuisines on menu – Middle-eastern/BBQ/British pub classics.

 

 

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