Sunday, 16 June 2013

Million Dollar Bill - Bill's Restaurant Cardiff, review

Bill's Restaurant, Cardiff
Bill's Restaurant, Cardiff
We all love Cardiff's arcades right? Of course we do, they are a lovely shopping experience, and I make a point of spending my cash in the various shops and cafes there as often as possible. Like many of you, I frequently choose the extra walk to make purchases at the independents there, favouring it over the glass and steel temple-to-chain-shopping that is St David's 2.

A couple of weeks ago I finally caved in the face of needing a pre-theatre option in town, and booked a table at Bill's at the top of Wyndham Arcade. I'm sure we all know the story by know, but here it is again. Bill Collison's store was originally an independent grocer/deli/cafe in East Sussex and was very successful, enjoying a healthy reputation for tasty, simple food and overflowing with good produce. Enter stage left, Richard Caring (of the Ivy, J Sheeky et al) who buys a big chunk of the company, and Bill's shifts a gear, aggressively expanding first into London and then across the rest of the country.

Dining room, Bill's Place, Cardiff
Shabby chic
There is no mistaking the hand of a London brand agency as you walk into the restaurant, the whole shabby chic look and feel is too 'on purpose' for my taste. Bunches of dried chillies, industrial lighting and signs painted to look like chalkboards festoon the walls and ceilings.

Crispy lemon squid, Bill's restaurant, Cardiff
Crispy lemon squid
As for the food it is all ok, but nothing more than that. Crispy lemon squid with chipotle, garlic aioli ( thanks for clarifying Bill) and lemon (5.95) is only just this side of burned unlike the same starter delivered to the table next to us which looked anaemic. If there was any chipotle in there I couldn't taste it.

Bill's prawn and avocado cocktail with spicy tomato salsa and cocktail sauce garnished with deep fried tiger prawn, ciabatta crisps and lemon (£5.95) was decent but unremarkable.

Prawn cocktail, Bills Restaurant, Cardiff
Prawn cocktail
The mains were standard fare too. Bill’s hamburger served in a sesame seed bun with red onion, tomato, lettuce, horseradish mayonnaise and skinny fries (£9.95) plus Monterey Jack Cheese (£1.20) was disappointingly dry because of a well done patty and a substantial bun.

Bill's hamburger, Bill's Restaurant, Cardiff
Bill's hamburger
Bill's Burger, Bill's Restaurant Cardff
Well done burger
The best of the night was definitely the Home-made cod fish finger sandwich with tartare sauce, rocket and ketchup on toasted white bread served with skinny fries (£8.50). The fish was moist, tasty and nicely cooked and a huge portion for such a bargainous price.

Bill's Homemade Cod Fish Finger Sandwich
The best of the night, Bill's Homemade Cod Fish Finger Sandwich
Bill's success is great for Bill who remains a director of the company but is no longer hands on and it shows. If his ethos is to 'cook with the seasons' there is little evidence of it here, and just as a seasonal menu has been replaced with chain pub food, so the groceries have been replaced with eponymously branded cross-selling opportunities. Once you have eaten Bill's breakfasts, burgers, and butties you can now fill your boots with Bill's beer, balsamic and biscuits.

I see why it is popular, I really do and I am trying not to be a food snob, but considering the chain's history, and the juxtaposition against some of Cardiff's finest independents, the whole experience left me feeling full but also a little empty.

Bill's Restaurant
27-39 Wyndham Arcade, Mill Lane, Cardiff CF10 1FH
02920 231524


Bill's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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