York’s food and drink adventure takes a new turn on Monday (July 21) as Bill’s Restaurant opens its doors, promising a fresh take on all-day dining.
Found almost opposite City Screen (and bang across from Greggs – a very contrasting food offer), the restaurant is the 42nd in the Bill’s group – and the first to open in Yorkshire.
The premises has been transformed from its days as the Jane Norman fashion store.
We were shown around by general manager Brad Baddams who said the refit had cause quite a buzz among shoppers.
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Bill’s has a shabby chic style. “It’s rustic, it’s earthy,” said Brad.
“We like to think of it as organic, in the same way as we grow the business. We want it to feel like a home from home.”
The restaurant offers 152 covers in distinctly different dining areas.
As you enter from Coney Street you are greeted by shelves containing colourful Bill’s produce – from chutneys to jams to tea.
Ahead are booths and benches made from seasoned wood with leather seats. To the left, in front of the large windows, is a coffee area, with smaller tables for people popping in for a cuppa.
A raised area at the back has larger tables for diners. There’s also a fairly spacious private dining area, although that may not be ready to take bookings for a couple of months.
The refit has seen the skylights opened up again, letting in natural light, and the brickwork exposed.
Much of the furniture is reclaimed, including old armchairs and Chesterfield style sofas, and the light fittings – including some impressive chandeliers – upcycled.
The look is inspired by the restaurant founder Bill Collison who, Brad said, is always on the look out for pieces to adorn his premises.
Just before our tour, some chimney pots and old wooden shutters had been delivered.
The food and drink
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“Bill Collison was originally a greengrocer,” Brad said. “He took his love of growing fruit and veg and created a café.
“We keep that fresh, seasonal approach and have taken it on.”
Bill’s opens daily from 8am to 11pm (Sundays 9am-10.30pm) and offers breakfast until noon (1pm on Sundays). This can be just tea and toast, porridge, eggs benedict right up to a full English.
The lunch and dinner offer includes burgers, chicken dishes, grills and steaks, fish and vegetarian options.
Menus are the same across the group – you can see them in full on the Bill’s website – and change seasonally.
Drinks include Bill’s Beer (£3.75 for 275ml, 4.0% ABV), brewed by Harveys Brewery in Lewes, East Sussex – home to the first Bill’s Restaurant.
Wine ranges from a house white at £3.95 a glass/ £14.75 a bottle to Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label champagne at £46 a bottle.
Soft drinks include smoothies, milkshakes and pink soda, and they serve a range of tea and coffee.
From the menu
Sour dough toast & jam £2.55
Blueberry and buttermilk pancakes £5.95
Cooked breakfast £7.95
Hamburger and fries £9.95
Duck pie £11.95
10oz sirloin steak £18.95
Ice cream and sorbets £3.95
Eton mess £5.95
Cheese plate £6.95
The new restaurant employs more than 40 staff.
“We hire people who are passionate about food. Everybody in this building has a love of food and fresh produce,” said Brad, 30.
He began his career as a chef in his home city of Adelaide, Australia, and has also worked in South Africa as well as the UK.
This is his first job with Bill’s and he plans to move to York with his family from Huddersfield where he has lived for six years.
The nearest other Bill’s restaurants are in Manchester and Nottingham, with another due to open in Liverpool in August.
Why did they choose York as the first Yorkshire outlet?
“York is a relaxed, easy going sort of environment. And it’s a beautiful place,” Brad said.
“You’ve got the races, but you’ve also got the museums, the culture and history.”
And who is the target audience? “Everybody’s welcome,” he said.
There is no grand opening planned for the first day: “We’ll just open the doors.”