Not your ordinary chain, Bill’s Cheltenham manages to make you feel like you’ve stumbled upon an effortlessly cool eaterie off the beaten track, with its eclectic menu, crowd-pleasing comfort food, laidback interior and brilliant staff.
National borders seem to mean very little at Bill’s restaurant in Cheltenham – skipping across the globe with its eclectic menu, which spans everything from Thai green curry, Italian flatbreads or Cumberland sausages to pork sesame dumplings or spicy beans with chorizo – and while this lack of a strict ‘cuisine’ might usually have us running from the hills, the sheer flexibility of picking from the diverse menu on a Monday lunch was easy-peasy. There’s even some good vegan choices – because we all know a vegan nowadays!
National borders seem to mean very little at Bill’s restaurant in Cheltenham
So, if your friend fancies a flat iron steak, while you’re hankering after halloumi, there’s no arguing over where to dine – Bill’s Cheltenham has it all on its slightly bonkers, but in a good way, menu.
So that’s just what we did, we relaxed, sipped on Hedgerow Fizz cocktails and ordered a bit of everything… We shared the mezze to start, which arrived quickly, and was a fresh and flavoursome affair: well-cooked calamari, delicate crab cakes, tortilla chips, olives and tasty little skewers of glazed Dakkochi chicken.
Trying to watch the waistline (it was a Monday after all!) I ordered a ‘naked burger’ which, yes admittedly, is a juicy beef patty, but instead of the carb-packed bun and chips comes with tangy tzatziki, large herby salad and a side-order of feeling a little smug. Meanwhile, the chorizo and prawn gnocchi, new on the autumn menu, was ordered opposite and was a more exciting choice – and our dish of the day, in fact – packing a generously fiery chilli punch, perfect for a warming pick-me-up on a brisk day.
We loved the rustic tins of cutlery, mismatched china, bunches of chillies, refectory tables and Chesterfields, we were even partial to the rows of pretty sweets and jars of jam for sale – it all made for an artfully laidback feel which, although similar across the many other Bill’s in the land, made you feel like you might have been in the very first Bill’s, launched by the eponymous Bill Collison in Lewes more than 15 years ago.
But, what really made eating at Bill’s Cheltenham memorable was the frankly brilliant service. Despite it being pretty busy – surprising for a Monday lunchtime, perhaps – nothing was too much trouble for the team: from the knowledgeable manager who gave us some top personal recommendations from the menu to the friendly waitress whose diligence was only overshadowed by her affability. It made for a lasting impression and guaranteed return visits.
The puddings! Feeling virtuous after the main course, we found ourselves tucking into a sweeter than sweet banana cheesecake with crunchy honeycomb that was a good choice for the very sweet-toothed. Baked in an individual tin, the autumnal plum and apple crumble was a more grown-up treat – served with the most sensational salted caramel ice cream. Definitely worth the calories!
While Bill’s breakfasts are widely known to be spot-on, did you also know that the children’s options are some of Cheltenham’s best? Lunch or dinner costs a very reasonable £6.95 for three courses and a drink – with choices including Cumberland sausages with mash, peas and gravy, and strawberries and banana with warm dipping chocolate for pud.
By Michelle Fyrne
Friday 13 October 2017
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