Wednesday 18 February 2015

A Double Date at Bills in Durham

Back when I lived in London I was very fond of a spot of brunch on a Saturday morning and was always on the look out for somewhere new to try.  It was a Google search for "best brunch in London" that lead me to St Martin's Courtyard and my first ever visit to Bills, a produce store and restaurant that soon became my favourite place for breakfast.

Unfortunately for me, my little secret haven didn't stay secret for long and on my next visit queues for tables were out of the door, it seemed that Bills had captured the imagination of foodies in the capital.

Fast forward a few years and Bills now has over 50 restaurants across the UK, not bad for a little family run business that began life in Sussex only 14 years ago.

When I first relocated to the North East I was a little gutted that I was moving to a part of the country that didn't have a Bills.  So as soon as I heard a little whisper that we might finally be getting one I kept my ear to the ground until the news reached me that Bills was to open in Durham.

If I was to pick a place in the North East to have a Bills then Durham would be my perfect choice.   A gorgeous little city full of cobbled streets, river views and beautiful buildings.  It's a great fit for Bills.

When Bills invited us to try out their new restaurant I decided to bring along my friend Kayleigh and her boyfriend Chris to introduce them to Bills.  Pressure was on after telling them all about the menu stuffed full of lovely food.

Like many branches of Bills, the Durham restaurant is very popular with every table taken.  If you want to drop by to try it out for yourself, make sure you book in advance!

As a fan I've been to a number of Bills restaurants and although their newest space is laid out in Bill's typical style with chalk boards and shelves full of produce, the Durham restaurant definitely has its own charm with plenty of tables in cute little hideaways.

I've had so many Bills breakfasts over the years that I decided for our first visit to Durham we'd try something different and have some lunch.  The lunch and dinner menu is served from 11:45 am until late and is bursting with dishes to suit every taste.

We turned our attention to the drinks menu first and were impressed with the amount of non alcoholic beverages available.  I usually just find myself ordering a Diet Coke when I'm not drinking but there were so many other options at Bills it took me a little while to decide.

In the end I opted for Cream Soda and Rhubarb, it was sweet and refreshing - I really enjoyed the little hint of rhubarb.  Kayleigh had Bill's Pink Lemonade which comes served with strawberries.  I've tried the Pink Lemonade before and it's gorgeous.  You can also order it as an ice-cream soda and it's so refreshing on a hot Summer's day.

Typical Simon went for the naughtiest drink he could find on the menu and ordered the chocolate brownie milkshake which was served with cream and a flake.  In his own words "it was goooooooooooood!"

The Main Course was an even tougher decision with a great list of home comforts, classics, grills and steaks to chose from.  I quite often find myself tempted by vegetarian dishes when I'm out and this time the Mac n Cheese with Butternut Squash sounded too good to resist.   It was seriously scrummy and I'll be ordering it again on my next visit.

Kayleigh ordered the Pan-Fried Sea Bass which looked amazing and both boys had burgers.   I'm not sure if anyone else is counting how many burgers Simon has had so far in his hunt for the best burger in the North East but I think it's been a fair few!  He was very impressed with this one and pretty much fell silent as he happily munched his way through it.

There's a great range of desserts at Bills so we knew to make sure we had enough room for some pudding. 

I ordered the Rhubarb and Stem Ginger Crème Brulee.  I'm a massive fan of rhubarb and ginger so was pretty excited at the prospect of having the two flavours together.  My portion was very generous, I loved the tang of rhubarb mixed with the sweet Crème Brulee and the buttery ginger biscuits served on the side were beautiful.

Simon had the Eton Mess which he enjoyed but admitted was a little too sweet for him (anyone else thinking this could have something to do with him ordering a chocolate milkshake  AND  dessert?!)

Kayleigh had the Lemon Meringue Pie Cheesecake in a glass and Chris ordered the Warm Chocolate Brownie.  I always love when everyone at your table orders different desserts, it's good to see what you're missing out on.   This time I definitely think that I had the winning dessert but I'm pretty sure the others would probably argue that they did.

As well as eating at Bills you can also shop!  The shelves are full of cookery books, jars of jam, sweets and bottles of pop.   Each product has such beautiful packaging and it makes the restaurant alive with colour.

If you can't be bothered to get up off your seat (which admittedly is difficult after you've indulged in too much food) you can peruse the shopping list that's on the table, fill in what you'd like to buy and pass it to your Bill's server who will package your items up beautifully in some of Bill's bright coloured paper.   I've never ordered anything myself, but my friend Kate orders the chocolate orange buttons each time we go, she's addicted!

You can also shop online here .   I have my eye on quite a few things for our next visit - some cherry jam, some cappuccino buttons and of course a bottle of pink lemonade.

I am quite literally bursting with excitement that Bills have finally arrived in the North East and I can't wait for you all to get out there and give it a try for yourselves.  Please do let me know if you visit! 

Now I just have my fingers firmly crossed that another Bills pops up in Newcastle.  Me, greedy?  Never!

Bills treated us to a complimentary lunch but all enthusiasm is my own.  I have had countless meals at Bills and have always loved the food .. just ask all the friends I've introduced to Bills over the years.
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