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Bill’s Café & Produce Store Review

Casey Gillespie is underimpressed with Bill’s Café & Produce Store

Written by . Published on May 11th 2011.

Bill’s Café & Produce Store Review

SEEING how London is still fairly new to me, I am savouring the excitement of finding what will soon become my “locals.” Join me as I take you through the first to make the list. Bill’s Café and Produce Store, a cosy, two-story eatery in St. Martin’s Courtyard that tourists wouldn’t be able to find even if they tried (gold star for that!). They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, and on one very rainy afternoon last week we decided it was the perfect opportunity to pop in for lunch. The space is open and airy with a distinct rustic feel—an assortment of wooden tables are scattered throughout while every wall is lined with a bottle, box or bag of something (more on that in a minute). You have to love a restaurant that feels cheery even when it’s raining cats and dogs outside.

I ordered the raw beetroot salad as my main; perfect for the New Yorker in me who occasionally does a five-day juice fast, not so great for someone who doesn’t enjoy the taste of dirt.

Mezze plate %28Note the delicious hummus%29

Taking my January detox very seriously—at least on this particular Friday afternoon—I decided we would start with a bottle of bubbly water and the mezze plate (£8.95). Before I go any further, you should know that I am somewhat of a connoisseur when it comes to hummus; I love it more than cake or pizza and I try to eat as much of it as possible. And I say this with all honesty; Bill’s has the best hummus I have ever tasted. Not only do they get the tahini-to-chick pea mix right, they understand that a little spice is just the right amount, and the chef even mixed in few whole chick peas to give it a yummy, chunky texture. There was also a peppery, lemony baba ghanoush, creamy guacamole sprinkled with pomegranate seeds, an olive-caperberry-cornichon mix and another dish with mixed peppers, courgettes and feta cheese. It’s served with toasted bread that has been drizzled with olive oil and the entire plate topped off with heaps of fresh pepper and flakes of sea salt. Absolutely divine.

The rest of the meal wasn’t quite as show-stopping, but I was personally going for a give-me-something-colourful-and-healthy rather than comfort-food-meets-another-two-pounds-of-post-holiday-weight. I ordered the raw beetroot salad (£4.95) as my main; perfect for the New Yorker in me who occasionally does a five-day juice fast, not so great for someone who doesn’t enjoy the taste of dirt. Earthy would probably be a more PC description for the raw veg-lentil combo, but let’s just say I would try something else next time.

Chargrilled minute steak and chipsMy lunch date, being the carnivore ying to my vegetarian yang that he is, ordered the chargrilled minute steak and chips drizzled with a wholegrain mustard hollandaise sauce and a handful of rocket (£11.50). The chips were delightful while, judging from how he was sawing through the piece of beef, the steak was a little tough. Not that this stopped him from polishing it off. “Not a melt-in-your-mouth piece of steak, but it does the job.” I’ll let you interpret that as you see fit.

Now, you would think that with two out of the three dishes falling below expectation that I would cross this place off of my list and move on. But no, I have every intention of going back and giving it another chance. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, I’m slightly shallow and the place was cute and attracts cute people. You would think it would be rammed with fashionistas and hipsters, but instead there were two older Italian gentleman sitting to our right sipping coffees, two twentysomethings having a very productive meeting involving laptops and lots of pretty pictures to our right, a son having afternoon tea and cake with his elderly mother… it was all endearing. Secondly, they seem to do a very nice brunch with £3.50 Buck’s Fizz, Bloody Mary’s and Belinis. The real clincher was pink Champagne for £5.50 a glass. Everyone needs a good roster of brunch places and I am hoping this one makes the cut. Stay tuned…

The storeAnd what actually makes Bill’s a standout for me, hummus aside, is that you can do your weekly shop while you are sitting contently sipping your tea and eating a slice of what looked to be utterly delightful carrot cake. On every table there is a little flier that allows you to go through and tick off what you would like to pick up for the store (see, this is where the “store” in Bill’s Café and Produce Store comes in). Your server will get the items, bag them, bring them to you at the table and add it to your tab. Do you need tomatoes? Lentils? La Tazza drinking chocolate? Olive oil? French lemonade? Yep, you can get them all here. Multitasking at it’s finest.


Rating:            13.5/20

Breakdown:     5/10 food
                      3.5/5 service
                      5/5 ambience


Bill’s Café & Produce Store
28 St Martin’s Courtyard
London, WC2E 9AB

Follow @CaseyGillespie on Twitter

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.

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