It’s unusual for us to review a place that we can’t quite put our finger on, but Bill’s is one of them. The new site on John Dalton Street (off Deansgate), likes to be known as a ‘posh cafe’, though when we pop in to have a sneak peek, it feels more like casual dining.
Despite the high end dishes such as grilled plaice and Asian slaw, the table service and the size of the place, Bill’s still struggles with a real desire to be known for it’s authenticity and coffee shop-vibes. No obvious niche.
Bill, you see, is a real person. A greengrocer by trade, the entrepreneur who gives his name to the chain had a little market stall in Lewes that was swept away by a flood in the year 2000. Grabbing life by the throat, he patiently started up again, this time adding a cafe and enough antique trinkets to sink a battleship.
Several years later, and our very own Mancunian branch has landed, pulsing with the same sort of optimism that set Bill on the road from small time greengrocer to big time restaurateur. Each branch is infused with this same ambience, but the antiques are all independently sourced. That’s why the John Dalton Street site boasts mismatched chairs of the reclaimed variety, as well as an enormous vintage fire alarm . Why so delightfully wacky? I ask. “That’s absolutely Bill,” we’re told.
What with breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, they’re here for you from ‘Breakfast to Bedtime’, but even that is not all. Bill’s also sells a selection of exclusive and eponymous products that range from champagne to pink lemonade to the very same jam recipe that the Queen enjoys.
The thing with Bill’s is that it’s so intensely varied that every single person will get a different experience from it. Some will see it as a Central Perk-from-Friends-fame type hangout what with it’s sunken, welcoming chairs; others will treat it as an upmarket grocers for special shopping trips; and some – like me – will find it hard to call it a ‘cafe’ because putting your finger so firmly on one thing is impossible when Bill’s is trying to be everything for everyone.
8-12 John Dalton Street.
Open 8am to 11pm most days.
0161 8342 756
Photos by Simon Rogerson