Monday, 24 March 2008

Bill's: the real thing

A little while ago I posted about a Masterchef meal which I challenged The Scientist to devise. He cooked a 'Bill's brunch' based on our favourite cafe in Lewes, in East Sussex. Over Easter we got to re-experience the real thing when we went back to visit Granny T, and it was worth the wait.

Bill's started off as a greengrocer by the river in Lewes. Then Lewes flooded REALLY badly about 6 or 7 years ago (before we lived there), and the people in the unit next to Bill's gave up and sold up. Bill's expanded, and became a cafe as well as a shop. They serve good-quality food at only slightly expensive prices, in a laid-back and chatty atmosphere, all amid casually enticing displays of luscious-looking veggies, jams, chutneys and bread. When we first moved to Lewes a lot of the produce was quite exotic, but over the years there has been more of an emphasis on locally-grown and organic veggies, which I think is just great. I love it that you can buy sweetcorn, asparagus or plums which are labelled as coming from just a few miles away. The exotic stuff is still there - Bill's is the first place I had seen a stripy aubergine or a UFO squash - but the balance is definitely going in the right direction. Not long before we left Lewes they expanded again (I don't know if the people further down the street are starting to look edgy as Bill's popularity seems to know no bounds), and they now have a lot more seating space as well as the signature long table you share with other diners. They also have a branch in Brighton which we visited a few times - also top notch. If you follow the link above it shows the Brighton branch - I do prefer the Lewes one, which is cosier. The Brighton one is in an old bus depot, and it's massive!

Bill's was our brunch-spot of choice whenever friends visited, as well as for treaty lazy Saturdays ourselves. Kiwi Sis and Kiwi Bro definitely ate there with us at least once, although we couldn't remember if the Munchkin made it before we moved. I had raved about it to Munchkin Gramps, and was then worried when we took him down there in case he didn't like eating elbow to elbow with strangers (admittedly very nice, middle-class strangers - this is Lewes, after all), but he loved it, too. Even the children who eat there are well-behaved. Were we worried it wouldn't live up to our best memories after six months away? Not for one second.

The Scientist's super duper steak sandwich

We got there at about 11.30 and managed to get a table for six. We revelled in the old familiar atmosphere while we waited for the others to arrive, so au fait with the menu that we didn't even need to plan what to eat. True to form, The Scientist had a steak sandwich, which is served in focaccia bread with mustardy mayo and an assortment of grilled veggies, and I had my trusty scrambled eggs on toast. I know, I know - I make scrambled egg myself all the time at home, but these are just in another league. Granny T had scrambled egg with smoked salmon, and Munchkin Granny went for a focaccia pizza slice with pesto, walnuts and courgette, from the specials board. Our other friends had the steak sandwich and a jacket potato with home-made houmous and roast pepper spread respectively, all of which were pronounced delicious. Granny T and Munchkin Granny even took a dessert home with them - the portions are so generous that we have never once in 4 years managed a dessert although they always look amazing.
My lusciously creamy scrambled egg

Wandering about afterwards, we reflected on how much we miss Lewes. We do really like our new town, and we love our new house (and my commute to Oxford has certainly become a lot more manageable!), but we're small-town people at heart. I miss the feeling of being part of a community, the prettiness of the place, and the number of small independent shops. As we drove home that afternoon though, I realised that I was happy to see the Georgian buildings of Leamington again, and as we pulled up to our little house with a cat sitting in the window we definitely felt we'd come home. It's just a shame Bill doesn't have plans for the West Midlands.


Rhiannon said...

I remember going to Bill's when we visited you in Lewes! Have been reading your blog and it makes me wish I had more time for cooking. Sadly I am back to work next week boohoo.

Lysy said...

Hello Rhiannon!! What a lovely surprise to get a message from you and I'm glad you can endorse the splendours of Bill's. I hope going back to work goes ok, and that C and Z make the transition ok too!