The change of the seasons is always an exciting time in the restaurant industry as menus are tweaked and changed to accommodate lighter or heavier dishes complimenting the season ahead. Summer is one of my favourite times as lighter dishes are added and an array of cocktails designed to enjoy in the sun with friends. In recent years menus change less and less with just a few dishes tweaked for the season ahead. This has been the case at Bills Restaurant a few times over the last couple of years so I was interested to see what had changed on my latest visit.
I am pleased to report that not only are there lighter dishes and pretty salads on the summer menu but also lots of new cocktails and tweaks to winter classics making them more summer friendly. Vegetarian and gluten free diets are also well catered for with a number of options to choose from in each course.
Firstly, let me introduce the cocktails. The menu is much longer than it was before with refreshing and fruity drinks that still pack a punch. They are also reasonably priced with the majority being £6.95. The Bee’s Knees was too Manchester themed for me not to try and I was expecting the combination of Bill’s gin, honey, lemon and pink lemonade to be really sweet but the floral notes from the lemonade shine through and there is enough bitterness from the gin to balance this out beautifully. The Summer Rum Punch was lovely with the caramel notes of Duppy Share rum bringing out the fruity flavours in the jasmine, orange and hibiscus tea balancing with the sweetness from watermelon juice. The Whisky Sour was much sweeter than it should be for a whisky drinker but I enjoyed it. Triple malt whisky with lemon and pink lemonade makes for a fruity rather than sour drink but it is certainly a good one for summer.
The Roasted Plum Tomato and Red Pepper Soup comes with the vegetables in a bowl, the soup is then poured at the table. This helps to keep the sweet and slightly crunchy peppers perfect whilst the almost fruity tomatoes in the soup itself add another layer of flavour that burnt my tongue as I was trying to eat it so quickly. I am a massive fan of a good tomato soup and this one is hitting the spot perfectly, I challenge any other restaurant in Manchester to beat it.
The Crispy Calamari isn’t new for the summer although it is a perfect summer dish so we thought we would give it a go. It was lovely to see a crispy batter rather than a light dusting which is so common in restaurants these days. The fish remained soft without chewiness and the dip was a lovely change, half tartare sauce half red pepper tapenade. We mixed the two together and that works well too.
Onto the mains and I knew my friend would choose the Steak, Butter and Chips before we even walked through the door. How Bill’s managed to fulfill his request of a minute steak cooked rare is beyond me but they did! The steak was soft with no gristle whilst the butter had a good hit of herb for added flavour. The Slow Cooked Beef Stew has been given a summer makeover, now being served with a pea, broad bean and pesto mash. The slow cooked beef is a lovely lean cut so no chewiness and the mash lightened with the addition of the summer vegetables. I am a big fan of this dish and I will return to eat it again. We added a side of Mac n Cheese, we seem to be touring Manchester’s restaurants trying these at the moment! The Bill’s version has a fairly light and runny sauce whilst the thick and stringy topping of cheese gave the gooeyness it needed. A big thumbs up from us.
There is no dragging my friend away from a decent slice of cake and he was weird enough to choose dessert from the afternoon tea menu! I loved that they still allowed this of an evening and the Victoria Sponge with Jam and Buttercream hit the spot perfectly with just the right ratio of cream to jam sandwiched between moist cake slices. I chose the Gooseberry and Almond Crumble and was so glad I did. It was slightly overcooked and some of the almonds had blackened but the tart gooseberries screamed summer with the rose petals sprinkled on top adding a touch of colour and a light floral flavour. It didn’t need the added pouring cream as the elderflower with gooseberry ice cream worked perfectly well on its own.
So a lovely summer menu, fresh new flavours and dishes that I need to try again – you best go quick hadn’t you?
I was invited to dine as a guest of Bill’s.