Sunday, 25 March 2018

REVIEW: Bill's, St Albans

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain
Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain
Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

Although I don't live in St Albans any more, I still find myself back there a lot. I was born and bred in that town, and it'll always have a place in my heart. It's so interesting how much it's changed over the years - it's gone from being a pretty-but-boring place that's a 20 minute train journey to London to a really great destination for a minibreak, and a big part of that is the foodie scene.

I am - as you've probably noticed - very into food, so this is a good thing. But it's definitely weird seeing so many of my teenage drinking haunts becoming restaurants. I think the Fighting Cocks and the Horn are the only ones left! But the place I spent most of my Friday nights in my late teens to my early twenties was the Cross Keys which was the Wetherspoons in town (followed later by Lloyds, which was never so much my scene - not least because I never forgave it for taking over Hot Coles, the best cocktail bar in the WORLD, and turning it into their kitchen). But the Cross Keys, man. It was a total dive, but was the setting of so many great nights. So many not-so-great hangovers.

When it closed, a couple of restaurants tried to take over and didn't do so well, which was a shame as it's a great building. So when Bill's moved in a few years ago, I was really excited because my London-based pals had been raving about it for a while. These days, Bill's is in most towns and it's always one of the first places I choose for a good dinner (I went last week with work). So I was very happy to be asked to review the St Albans one following their awesome renovation - I mean, obviously I was pretty familiar with the menu, so I knew I was in store for a great meal. And I was!

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

I had a little chat with the manager who explained that they're really popular as a breakfast and lunch destination, but people don't necessarily realise that it's a great spot for an evening meal, too. So the renovation is focusing on creating lots of cosy corners and booths, lots of low lighting and quirky decorations.

Matt had a beer and I started with a cocktail - an English Country Garden, which was elderflower, gin and apple and super refreshing. Then for starters, Matt had the cheese fondue dip which was great, as I wanted to try it desperately (sadly it doesn't seem to be on the menu any more) which came with toasty bread to dip, and it was pretty amazing.

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

I ordered the fried halloumi sticks as they're a long-time favourite of mine, but I was a bit disappointed with my plate which was pretty much just sliced halloumi. I didn't say anything because I thought they'd maybe changed them, but having been since, I think I was just given a substition so I'm a little disappointed that the otherwise-great server didn't point this out to me as I probably would have chosen something more exciting! I mean, it was still halloumi, so still good, obviously.

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

Then for mains, Matt went for the burger. Bill's do a great burger - fat, juicy and stuffed (yet not overly so) with filling. Also, it just looks INCREDIBLE. Right?

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

I was being very indecisive and kept leaning towards the pan-fried chicken (with truffle and wild mushrooms, YUM) but in the end decided to go for something fat and hearty so chose the steak and rarebit pie. It was a rich steak pie, covered with a cheesy rarebit sauce which was massive and impossible to finish, but completely hit the spot. I could have done with a wee bit more cheesy sauce, but to be honest I can always do with more cheese. It's just a rule for life. Shout out to the rosemary gravy, too, which was amaaaazing.

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain
Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

For pudding, I went for the sticky toffee pudding, which is a seriously extra dessert. The pudding itself is fluffy and rich, covered in a to-die-for caramel sauce that I could cheerfully drink from a pint glass, but then it also came with clotted cream ice cream, topped with toasted hazelnuts. This was served separately in a little pot so I felt like I had two desserts, and I was into it.

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain
Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

Matt's dessert, though, was something else. That boy can never resist a banoffee sundae, and the Bill's melting banoffee sundae comes with a melting chocolate cover that our waiter poured salted caramel sauce over to reveal the sundae underneath. He made some noises while eating it that he's not proud of.

Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain
Food review from St Albans recommended restaurants - Bills gastropub chain

We had a fab meal at Bill's, and it absolutely is somewhere I'd go for an evening meal - it's cosy, friendly and the food is always really reliably good. I like how the menu changes regularly but still keeps the favourite meals such as Mac'n'Cheese and a few really good burgers. And the restaurant looks great after its renovation (there's an amazing floral display outside that I didn't get a photo of as it was dark, but you can see it here in this fab photo from The Alban Way. Thanks for a fab meal, Bill's!

Bill's St Albans is at 2 Chequer St, St Albans AL1 3XZ. The restaurant kindly paid for our meal in exchange for this honest review.
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1 comment

  1. That pie looks so, so good! I haven't been to Bills in forever, definitely need to visit our local one (we haven't actually been despite living here for 18 months!)

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