With property agents occupying the prime spots along Islington Upper Street, I am convinced that restauranteurs have finally ran out of places to open up new restaurants in Angel. It seems that the moment one closes, another one springs up in the same location almost instantaneously. What happens when there is simply no available shop space? The search goes into the side streets.
Even though I walk along White Lion Street countless times, I’ve never ever taken note of this indiscreet building opposite this hair saloon (the one that offers a £7 haircut, even that wasn’t spared from inflation as it used to be just £5 four years back) beside Pret.
One fine day when we were walking down that same stretch, we noticed that the ground floor was boarded up. The next thing we know, there is a new restaurant popping up. Bill’s, it’s called. If Crocodile Dundee were to set up a restaurant in the heart of London, this is probably it. There’s this forestry ambience to the façade with bunches of chilli hanging down from the ceiling that one has to consciously avoid in some cases.
Though it’s merely a stone’s throw away from Angel tube station, Bill's is on the wrong side of the road. With no publicity whatsoever, it doesn't get a lot of walk-in customers.
A pity considering that the staff was upbeat and all smiles when we popped by for a quick lunch that day. It was one of those wet Saturday afternoons, the type that you would rather snuggle up in bed watching a rerun of Big Bang Theory - in short, dreary. But with the staff whizzing about, flashing their pearly whites an actually looked like their enjoying themselves, the pitter pattering outside seemed a world away.
In many ways, Bill’s reminds me of Jamie’s Italian just down the road. You'd be forgiven to think that you're in a shop rather than a restaurant. Like Jamie's Italian, Bill's is selling its cookbooks, pots and pans. It goes beyond that - shelves with provisions line a wall displaying bottles of jam, crumble biscuits, oils, vinegar dressings, honey, salsa and even balls of twine. It's like a provision store (albeit a rustic one) that happens to serve food.
My burger (£9.95) was not memorable. Although I've requested for it to be served medium rare, it came out as rather tough. The saving grace was that it was served with skin on chips, something that Byron charges more than £3 for. Then again, Bill's chips weren't exactly Byron's.
Judging solely on its burger, Bill's forte isn't in its food. That said, it triumphs on its laid back and friendly ambience. This is one place for hanging out with the pals. You can run out of things to say but there's always something interesting in the restaurant/shop that'll serve as handy distractions.
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Neige d’Ete – Feb 2017
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