So here we are in January, the traditional month of self-loathing, regret and big promises made to be bigly broken.
I think we can safely forget that idea.Eat less meat? Well now that’s a thing that’s doable. The craze for stuffing massive amounts of minced beef in a bun down your throat seems have subsided, as does the idea of drinking ramen stock so full of fat you could stand a chopstick up in it.
Now Instagram is full of people crowing about their’plant-based’ diet and how they feel so much better and cleaner. It’s a good thing of course, less meat is in general a good idea, although there are complicated issues too, such as land clearance to grow soya beans, for example.
I eat very little meat myself, it’s not a big thing with me I just don’t do it. I don’t want to be a vegetarian or a vegan, I just found myself gravitating to mostly cooking meat-free dishes at home.That I still eat meat in restaurants is really down to the fact that there has been usually little other choice.
This year though sees what was last year a slowly growing trend in restaurants – less meat options and more vegetarian/vegan ones – really start to be something of note.Bills, started by Bill who was once a greengrocer in Lewes, has always had a focus on British produce with 21 restaurants in London, 81 around the UK.
This January they’ve gone particularly hard on the veg front with a special menu – a two and three course menu exclusively for January and February that will be served Monday – Friday until 7pm and will launch on 10 January across all Bill’s restaurants at £12.95 for two courses and £15.95 for three courses.
So officially being’a bit of a veggie’, I popped over to the press launch at the Soho branch.Firstly I met Bill, a very unassuming and engaging man, and we talked about our allotments and vegetarian stuff in general. The man is the real deal and it was a pleasure to meat (sic) him.
The fixed starter, the Vegan Duck Salad’s name might annoy those people who object to vegan dishes’masquerading’ as meat, but I don’t see a problem as it all helps encourage meat eaters who might otherwise be hard to reach.
Made up of vegan duck (which is some kind of seitan I think) with chilli, coriander, spring onion, cucumber, carrots, cabbage and baby gem tossed in a miso dressing with sesame seeds and lime, it was really rather good.
The’duck’ looked the part and was even a bit chewy in a good way; vegetarian food can often literally have nothing to get your teeth into. A generous mound of food too with those fresh chillies really adding some spikiness.
For mains there was aubergine, lentil and chickpea dhal with cherry tomatoes, coriander, toasted almonds and grilled flatbread, or butternut squash, turmeric and coconut stew with chargrilled red peppers and onions, mixed grains, kale and seeds.
All very acceptable although lacking a bit in texture, although certainly not in taste.There are three vegan specials on the menu throughout January, which are not included in the set menu.
The Moving Mountains Burger with lettuce, tomato, red onion and mayo in a bun served with fries looked just like a burger and even tasted a bit like one, a rather clever dish. You can add a slice of vegan cheese, which worked well, Excellent fries, too.
Black Bean Chilli with vegan chilli with freekeh, spinach, smashed avocado, red chilli, pickled red onion, coriander, soy yoghurt and grilled flatbread I liked a lot.
Plenty of separation of great flavours on the plate for diners to mix at will, which kept it interesting to the end. The soy yoghurt was surprising in that I actually did not find it a poor relation to real yoghurt,The set menu is rounded off with a Coconut Ice Cream with a mango sauce and coconut flakes or on occasions that may instead be Chocolate Fondant with coconut ice cream and hazelnut crumb.
Both work well being apparently rich and decadent, but in fact very mindful and’healthy’.
If you’re into sharing, then off the menu there are plenty of other options, some of which I also got a taste of, such as Crispy Fried Cauliflower with a red pepper dip and Bill’s Spiced Tortillas with avocado, tzatziki and red pepper dip
With its quirky decor Bill’s is a place that rather defies fashion and trends, and despite its many outlets (or perhaps because of) tends be rather overlooked by the foodie elite and influencers.
That’s their loss really, because those of us looking for reliable grub enjoy a bit of Bills and with the Veganuary menu there’s even more reason to pop in.