Bill’s, Leeds – Restaurant Review
By Sophie Goodall
It was a gorgeous Wednesday evening when my boyfriend Ryan and I found ourselves in Leeds city centre for a special after-work, hump day treat – cocktails and a decadent three course dinner at Bill’s restaurant.
Located on Albion place, the restaurant definitely looks glorious from the outside – beautiful bright orange parasols with white piped scalloped edges surrounded by trees, in a smart, almost private outdoor terrace enclosed by grey fencing, right onto the street. If it hadn’t been chilly, I’d have been itching to take a cocktail outside and people watch on Leeds’s busy streets.
However, we entered the restaurant and were welcomed by staff who showed us to the bar area – a room containing high marble topped tables accompanied by plush dark green velvet stools, and intimate tables with sage green rattan chairs. The first impressions we had of the room was that it was quite botanical – large airy sash windows, golden structures and splashes of green décor, not unlike being in a conservatory.
“Air of sophistication”
The bar is designed to have a 1920’s, old fashioned cocktail lounge vibe, and I overheard the founder himself, Bill Collison, who was sat at the table next to us, say that he wanted a nice area for the ladies to come and enjoy a drink or two. Well, I could vouch for that! The whole area had an air of sophistication in an understated, elegant feel, reflected by the silverware, thick white linen napkins and expensive glassware, arranged with a drinks menu atop the tables.
Bill’s has recently changed it’s opening hours to 1am on Friday and Saturday evenings, and are wanting to encourage customers to come for an evening meal and cocktails. We decided we wanted to sample a typical evening at the new style Bill’s, complete with pre-dinner cocktails, a three-course evening meal, a peruse of the wine list (it would be rude not to) and an after-dinner coffee.
We were seated on one of the limited number of tables in the bar and were given our dinner menus for the evening, and were offered water. A pre-dinner cocktail in the bar area seemed like a lovely idea, and our waiter assured us that we could order food at our seats whenever we were ready, and then move to our reserved table in the restaurant area. The drinks menu is a muted sage green, slim leather book with gold print, which complemented the décor.
On the inside, is a well compiled list featuring a mix of old favourites and a selection of quirky, novelty cocktails, all recognisable including types of collinses, spritzes, whisky cocktails, aperitifs, Bloody Marys and bellinis, with their own, individual twist. I selected a Coconut & raspberry Daiquiri (£7.25), which was mouth-wateringly sour with a punch of delicious lime, served in a coupe glass. I learned that this drink was designed to be sipped, as it served a sweet and coconutty taste to begin with, before becoming fruity and floral, and sour when swallowed. Definitely refreshing and moreish.
Ryan chose an Old Fashioned (£7.95), which is always his go to cocktail, which he said was smooth and sweet, with just the right hit of orange, but also tasted gentle and quite aromatic. Definitely easy drinking. He also noted that the glass was cold enough for the ice not to melt, so that the cocktail didn’t become diluted. We appreciated that our cocktails were served in nice glassware, again the daiquiri in a coupe, and the old fashioned in a cut glass crystal tumbler, designed to fit in with the cocktail bar vibe.
Once we finished our drinks, we were ushered into the restaurant area, where we were seated and placed our orders. Our waiter recommended red wine based on our food choices, and as I aren’t a red drinker, he advised that I should go for the Merlot Santa Rita 8KM Central Valley (Chile) (£7.35 for 175ml) as it was not as full bodied as most reds are, and has some really lovely plum flavours. Ryan opted for the other red on the menu, the Pinot Noir Little Eden (Australia) (£22.50 a bottle).
Our seating arrangement was a bit of a tight squeeze, although very comfortable. The atmosphere was good, the music wasn’t overpowering and the whole dining experience was very intimate. As we were discussing that Bill’s is unlike anywhere we have been before, our waiter arrived with our wine.
The Merlot had a warm, chocolatey aroma and I realised when I drank it, the waiter was correct as it wasn’t heavy at all. It was soft and velvety, but had a slightly sour and sharp aftertaste. The Pinot Noir smelled quite fruity and sour, and was quite acidic on the first taste, with spicy, peppery, gooseberry flavours.
For our starters, we decided to go for the same dish as it sounded so appetising. The Chicken and Sesame Dumplings (with Bill’s spicy chutney) (£6.25) arrived promptly and we were pleased to discover there was plenty on the plate. The dumplings looked a little like mini Cornish pasties, but the pastry was fine, crispy and crunchy, and the filling was soft, plentiful, tasty and hot, and was complimented by the spring onion included in the fresh side salad. The accompanying sauce had a kick – not necessarily hot, but spicy, and was sweet and smooth. The main flavours that came through were red onion, plum, BBQ and hoisin, which complimented both the Merlot and Pinot Noir. We found the starters filled the gap and was not overly filling – but a great dish in its own, as opposed to the generic starters you tend to get at restaurants, which are often boring and lack creativity. This had the power to even stand out as a main course. We would definitely recommend.
“Cooked to perfection”
We spent an acceptable amount of time between the starter and the main course, enjoying sipping our wine and soaking up the surroundings. Our main courses were brought out, and this time we chose different meals. I chose the Kashmiri Lamb Shank, which was cooked in a spicy cashew nut and tomato butter sauce with charred red onions, coconut rice & grains and a cucumber, red onion and mint salad (£15.95). The lamb was cooked extremely well, was tender, sticky, chewy and fell apart when cut into. It was seasoned well, there was plenty of meat on the bone, and it was served with the right amount of sauce, which tasted slightly bitter and tomatoes, not unlike a curry sauce.
The bed of coconut rice was soft and tender, and the flavour added a buttery softness to the sauce. The side salad accompanied the dish was laced with coriander, adding to the Moroccan take on the simple lamb shank. It was cooked to perfection, but became slightly filling towards the end.
Ryan’s main was the Carrot, Mushroom and Cashew Nut Wellington, with butterbean mash, long stem broccoli and rich vegetable gravy (£11.95), and first thing we noticed when it arrived (when I stole a bite of his) was that the pastry was the star of the dish. It was buttery, flaky and melted in the mouth. The Wellington itself was filled to the brim with so many flavours – the carrot and mushroom worked really well together. The broccoli was crunchy and flavourful and Ryan noted that the little mushrooms were nice. The mash was a bit bland, but the gravy was really rich, fruit and meaty to say it was a vegan dish. All over the meal was light (compared to my lamb shank) and Ryan would recommend it.
However, the desert was the piece de resistance and totally stole the show. Bill’s Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Sphere, with indulgent salted caramel ice cream with chocolate and hazelnut mousse, velvety chocolate sauce and golden pearls (£7.50) was definitely worth ordering.
At first glance, the desert seemed to consist of a hard chocolate shell, which was very fine and must have been made with the skill of a patisserie chef. But on closer inspection, a line of decorative crispy, crunchy nuts hid an opening, cracking the chocolate egg in two. The shell was filled with a chocolate cake in the bottom half, which was like a thick and dense brownie, topped with a smooth, salted caramel ice cream. In the top half of the egg, was a smooth chocolate mousse. While the dessert was decadent, it wasn’t overly sweet and every element complimented it well, especially the ice cream, which cut through the salty dense brownie. On top of the egg was a special ‘Bill’s’ wafer which was frosted with gold glitter and a Ferrero Rocher. The presentation of this desert was utterly special – the pure craft of it was inspiring to say it was just a modest dessert. A true treat and definitely the best thing we ate all night.
While we were comfortable, we agreed that perhaps two courses would be enough next time – we would definitely have the chocolate sphere desert, and the gorgeous dumplings – but Ryan said the Wellington stood out the most for him. While we mulled this over, we decided to add to the overindulgence and order an after-dinner drink each. As I always order a Bellini everywhere I go, I decided to sample Bills’ White Peach Bellini (£6.50). It was quite small when arrived in its flute, and quite a dull orange colour. The presentation was plain (it was topped with a raspberry – not sure why). However, there was a nice aroma of fresh peach, and when I sipped it, it was fizzy, flavourful and strong. However, I prefer a thick, almost pureed Bellini, and this was mostly alcohol. At the best of times, I think peach flavours can taste a bit artificial and there was definitely some ‘soul’ missing from this Bellini.
Ryan had the Negroni (£7.50) (he favours his whisky cocktails) which he said to be bitter and refreshing, before he finished the evening with a black coffee, and we hurried to catch our train.
We really enjoyed our evening at Bill’s, and felt that the pre-dinner cocktails in lovely surroundings really made the evening for us. We would, in fact, be tempted to come to Bill’s just for drinks. The food was imaginative, classic dishes with a twist, but the desserts are really special. Come to Bill’s for the full package, I guarantee a special evening out. You won’t regret it.
Bill’s Leeds, 1 Albion Place, Leeds, LS1 6JL
Monday – Thursday: 8am-10pm
Friday – Saturday: 8am-1pm
Sunday (& bank holidays): 9am-10.30pm
0113 245 2010