Bill's Produce StoreThe Depot, 100 North Road
Tel: +44 (0)1273 692894
Cuisine types: CAFÉ | MISCELLANEOUS
Having just moved to Brighton from London, and read nothing but great things about Bill's, I couldn't wait to check it out. So, one weekday afternoon, I headed down there when I presumed it'd be a little quieter than weekends and I'd be lucky enough to grab a table.
The sun was blazing and the scrubbed wooden tables at the entrance basked invitingly in its gorgeous warmth, while abundant displays of the most beautiful, plump and fragrant fruit and veg beckoned passers-by into its cooler depths.
Bills is bigger than you'd first think, a stunning open-plan building with high ceilings, walls flanked by wonderful produce, wooden tables and chairs positioned haphazardly around the floor and various counters selling takeaway salads and sandwiches, smoothies, coffees and warm, eat-in dishes. The place was packed to the rafters, but I headed upstairs to the mezzanine and bagged a table overlooking the people below.
You can either order from the standard menu, or from the day's specials (blackboards listing these are positioned all over the cafe). Everything looked and sounded amazing and I found myself in a bit of a quandary - should I go for a simple brunch classic, for which Bill's is somewhat famous (a sausage or fishfinger sandwich, eggs benedict with smoked salmon, buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup or grilled portobello mushrooms on toast) or try one of the mouthwatering specials, all of which come with a choice of two salads? I finally opted for a small, homemade pizza of prosciutto, fresh fig, spinach, mozzarella and pine nuts, with herb and lentil salads on the side.
The pizza was warm, an enormous helping, but a little doughy, though the combination of crispy fried prosciutto, sweet fig and pesto was a marvel. But the side salads were the real stars - a mound of tender leaves including rocket and mint, and the most surprising lentil salad I've ever tasted ... the pulses had been mashed with what I'm sure was fresh coconut and various spices (could I taste cinnamon?) and topped with dill, fresh green peas, various sprouting beans and fresh, raw beetroot. It was crunchy, earthy and totally moreish. Every mouthful sparked off a different attempt to identify the individual flavours within. A complete revelation. I would go again for a plateful of the lentil salad alone.
The homemade cakes looked, as you can imagine, very lovely, but all I could manage was a latte, which I sipped on as I subtley checked out the food on the neighbouring table (judging by their commentary, the full veggie breakfast and steak sandwich were a sexual experience).
I can't recommend Bill's strongly enough, though despite being the perfect place for brunch, is a little too full at weekends with a few too many kids about. My advice: pull a sickie and head down there during the week! And don't forget to buy a jar of the Manjira tomato pachadi before you leave.
Bill's is a unique cafe and produce store created by a team of people who are passionate about food. br> Inside the store you'll find fruit, exotic vegetables and flowers stacked up alongside an array of alluringly colourful homemade cakes, pizzas, quiches, pies and sandwiches. There is a wide choice of ever changing desserts and salads as well as made to order juices, smoothies, milkshakes, coffees and teas that are all available to eat in or take away.