October 23 2021

Pig Guide review: Night Fever at Bill’s, Cheap Street

Disco: according to 70s-era disco supergroup Ottowan, she’s Delirious, Incredible, Superficial, Complicated… and don’t forget oh, oh OH!

Bill’s: a British restaurant and bar chain, founded in Lewes, East Sussex, by former greengrocer Bill Collison, which currently has around 78 branches around the UK.

Put ’em together and what have you got? Brace yourself for a smidgeon of gentle surreality here, but… Bill’s Night Fever takeovers every Thursday-Saturday until 13 November, featuring cocktails ‘inspired by’ the disco era (the Disco Inferno Passionfruit Martini; the Super Freak Strawberry Margarita; etc) and a food menu that boogies along to a similar theme pushing dishes such as Studio 54 Steak au Poivre and Funky Chicken in the direction of the dinner time dance floor.

Would The Pig Guide like to boogie on down to Bill’s and get funky? Now there’s an offer we couldn’t refuse…

It’s a miserable Thursday night, but Bill’s is buzzing – not, however, with glammed-up revellers in search of a glittering beat, but simply with the cheerful crowd that this easy-going British diner/brasserie tends to attract: smoochy couples, friends reunited, visitors to Bath cooing over nearby views of the Abbey (which is looking spectacular in its night-light glow) and families revelling in the delights of Bill’s ‘something for everybody’ menu: a contempo-European/globally-inspired affair that starts with breakfast/brunch, segues into lighthearted lunch and, post-sunset, brings an array of sharing platters, salads, steaks, burgers, chicken and fish to the party, with classic comforters such as Bill’s legendary Fish Pie, Mac’n’Cheese and Steak’n’Eggs and plenty of veggie/vegan options ensuring all bases are covered at distinctly down home prices.

We were, of course, in search of a taste of Night Fever so, a couple of those disco-themed cocktails in hand (the super-sweet Super Freak Strawberry Margaritas, since you asked), we opted for the Studio 54 Sirloin Steak and the Le Freak Vegan Burger (nice contrast going on there, don’cha reckon?). There aren’t any starters on the Night Fever menu, but the Crispy Chicken and Sesame Dumplings and the Crispy Calamari on the main dinner menu were doing a very tempting, attention-grabbing Hustle… and they didn’t disappoint, both dishes proving to be a very well-matched partnership with lots of crunch, lots of chilli heat and a couple of very saucy sauces turning up the groove at our table for two. And the beat went on…

I’m not entirely sure that anybody ever went to Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s legendary 1970s Manhattan night club Studio 54 in search of a good steak, but if they had, I’m sure they would have been very happy with the one Bill’s is serving up in honour of S54’s infamy: it’s big, it’s juicy, and it comes with a bangin’ rosemary jus and very good fries. My vegan burger freaked me out (in a good way) too: super-juicy, served with nuggets of smoky vegan burnt ends, an excellent vegan cheese and rosemary salted fries that leapt straight to the top of my chip-hit charts.

And even after all that, who could say no to the Sundae Night Fever? Not Mr Pig! And it proved to live up to its name, topped with a chocolate glitter dome that, when drenched in hot salted caramel sauce, melted to reveal a tumble of chocolate brownie chunks and waves of vanilla ice creama disco inferno in dessert form indeed.

The thing is, though, Bill’s doesn’t need any attempts at extra-added glitter and sparkle to make it feel Mighty Real. The hospitality industry has been turned Upside Down of late, but Bill’s is very much Stayin’ Alive and still topping the high street chain Billboard Charts two decades on since the first branch opened, thanks to a winning formula of well-balanced, well-priced menus served up in a warm, welcoming environment by people who are clearly very happy to be doing what they’re doing… and with a commendable charitable initiative going on behind the scenes too.

Unlike Ottowan’s of Disco, here’s nothing superficial or complicated about Bill’s – and oh oh Oh! Why would anybody want to rock that boat?

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