There once was a day where Bill's Produce Store was hot, with streams of queues, largely for their breakfasts, winding out from the door. Then it all got a bit unsexy with a big buy-out and Disneyfication of the brand across sites around the country, diluting what was so special about Bill's and here we are today.
If I'm honest, I've steered clear of the Brighton branch for a number of years now. But, and I kid you not, was enticed back by hearing how many highchairs they had available. Really. There will be those of you scoffing at this and those sighing and nodding in understanding. And highchairs aplenty they have. They were also still quite busy. People seem to be talking about Bill's again now.
Anyway, the menu remains varied and enticing with plenty of daily changing specials to keep your interest but the Bill's classics are still worth a look.
The legendary fish finger sandwich really deserves its status. There is a time and a place for the perfect rectangular fingers from the Captain, but these were home-made, soft flaky fish in a perfectly crunchy jacket. Lovely, crisp toasted bread, not too thick, not too thin. Not too much sauce, not too little. I liked the rocket in there. Yeah a darn good sarnie, and if you think a few of the pubs in the area do a frozen packet version with crisps for around the £6, then this Gucci version is bargainous at £8.50.
Burgers, both beef and the halloumi and hummus are always nicely presented and make a decent, filling lunch option.
But really, breakfasts are what made Bill's name and this is still one of the best ones in town. Aside from the contentious serving of the bread under everything, all the parts of the full breakfast were well cooked, no soggy mushrooms or tinned tomatoes here. The bacon and sausage are particularly good quality. I think bubble & squeak really belongs to a breakfast and love it, even if the extra £1.50 was bordering on a bit steep for what was essentially a bit of mashed potato. I couldn't see much cabbage in there if any.
Service can be awkward. Recently on one occasion we had to prompt our order being taken, then the order took ages and then we had to wait ages for the bill and yadda yadda. Breakfast orders tend to be smoother and speedier. Lunch and dinner are different timing beasts and it amazes me that some established restaurants still miss the mark on it. Lunch needs to be speedier, epecially with workers, families etc and dinner relaxed. Not rocket science is it? One other thing that has irked me over my last few visits (and many others judging by Twitter) is that some staff seem to be a bit iffy, particularly with kids (nose ring girl with your rolling eyes, I'm looking at you.) Luckily, on the whole, they are a friendly bunch.
The food produce for sale has become a sort of wallpaper. No prices and little information means few people will purchase it but nice to see thay still have those lovely Spanish oil cakes I love. The fresh produce has gone too.
One thing I do like about Bill's is the interior in a former bus depot. The chilly breeze coming from the front door has been sorted with a big, thick curtain and the open, industial space is very unique in the area.
And although it has lost it's initial sparkle and if some of the staff buck their ideas up, there's still a place for our old mate Bill's, certainly in Brighton anyway.
The Depot, 100 North Rd, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1YE