My first experience of eating at the new Bill’s in Peterborough was something of a revelation. With a plethora of new-age, new-dining choice on every street corner, it was refreshing to experience a grass-roots philosophy of bringing fresh produce to the table in an unpretentious and uncomplicated way that focused fully on celebrating the marriage of great flavours.
I had the opportunity to speak to manager Ben Litchfield, a man filled with passion for the brand and a deep admiration for the original ‘Bill’, its founder. “He [Bill] hasn’t forgotten where he came from and what all this is about” said Ben. And I have to agree that there are little touches everywhere that speak of a brand that has its roots firmly in fresh produce. From the jovial barrel of locally grown apples greeting guests at the doorway and encouraging passers-by to take one (a clever marketing move by the way) to the array of Bill’s own-label goods enticingly displayed in a delicatessen-like area, this is a business that has managed to stay humble, despite its dramatic growth within the UK – there are now 55 Bills nationwide I’m told.
Peterborough Manager, Ben Litchfield talks with pride about the history and philosophy behind Bill’s
The menus arrived and my husband Dean and I decided to try a few small plates including the crispy crumbed halloumi with chili mayo, the chicken in a jar and the avocado, bacon and spinach salad. Our waiter was keen to explain how he and the other staff had tasted everything on the menu prior to the opening and assured us we would not be disappointed. Indeed, we were not! Fresh, vibrant flavours that resonated with a care and attention to “keeping it real” were presented in unison with proud smiles from the servers as they set them down before us.
It was the second day of opening – a Tuesday and not even midday, yet the place was already buzzing. An eclectic mix of tables, chairs and seating options, from the rustic farmhouse casual booth to the intimate corner setting, complete with chandelier overhead; touches of whimsical decorating genius that delighted yet didn’t intrude.
This, I knew, was a place I would be returning to often.