The Breakfast Menu Breakfast reviews from the South Coast and beyond

19Dec/103

Bills Produce Store, Lewes

Bills Produce Store, Lewes [map]
56 Cliffe High Street
Lewes
East Sussex BN7 2AN
Tel: 01273 476918
www.bills-website.co.uk

Last  Visited: June 2011

Breakfast times: Monday-Thursday: 8-11am, Friday: 8am-11:30am, Saturday: 9am-11:30am and Sunday: 9-10:30am

Even on a cold, grey, damp November morning the Sussex town of Lewes looks nothing but idyllic and the quintessential Sussex experience.  It’s quirky set-up contains many concentrated features which add to the character of the town and demonstrate what there is to offer.  Within the boundaries of the small town there is a castle, a brewery reminiscent of the factory from Charlie and the chocolate factory, numerous boutiques and a unique football ground.  But more than this, in amongst all these features there is a Produce store which provides a breakfast that can rival any other in the county and beyond.

TeaMilkOneSugar:
Up far too early this morning (forgot my mates band were playing last night, and had a couple of Harvey’s (quite apt really)) to head over to Lewes for breakfast at the legendary Bill’s. Yeah, we could’ve got up a tad later and gone to the one in Brighton, but it’s good to venture further afield sometimes, as will become apparent later.

I won’t describe the decor as MrNoEggs will have posted multiple photos here and on flickr. However it is clearly a very popular destination for the Independent/Gaurdian reading population of Lewes (that’s probably most of them to be fair, Tom Paine lived here after all) and it was getting busy even though we arrived just after opening. By the time we left it was almost full and it’s a fair sized establishment. The menu offers a nice range of stuff, from porridge to bacon sarnies to a full English. I wasn’t sure what to go for as the veggie breakfast sounded good, but then a full English arrived on the table next to us. Decision made.

First things first, drink. Orange, Carrot and Ginger juice. Freshly made and lovely, vitamins in a glass. Unlike other devious establishments they didn’t scrimp on fruit and pad it out with ice (oh yes, Real Eating Co., I’m talking about you).  Then the food arrived. As you’d expect from a good deli the quality of the ingredients was very high, and also really well cooked. The garlic mushrooms were spectacular, the grilled toms good (mine weren’t as pesto-y as NoEggs’ but mighty fine indeed).  Sausages seemed to have a dusting of chilli, but not overpowering. Nice thick bacon, perfectly cooked eggs (even NoEggs attempted to eat a little bit of one of his!). All served on two thick chunks of white toast. Ace. Probably best breakfast of the year so far. If you could add the hash browns from Real Eating Co. it would be frankly awesome.

So, why is it necessary to go beyond the realm of Brighton in search of breakfast? Because Bill’s in Lewes is opposite Harvey & Sons Brewery. So straight out from breakfast and straight into the Harvey’s shop to purchase some locally made beer. Bonza.

Postscript: Sweet Sussex and Nutty Brown are particularly fine ales.

Mr NoEggs:
Located opposite the Harvey’s Brewery and just a stone’s throw from the River Ouse, Bill’s Produce Store is reminiscent in location and style to that of a Parisian café set along the banks of the River Seine and is one of the main reasons that people visit this town.  As with the store in Brighton despite the early opening time of 8am in the week and 9am at the weekend seats very quickly fill up and a queue down the street is a common sight.  Luckily, whilst waiting for a seat to become free there is the produce section of the store where you can wait in line and browse the menu and even make a purchase from their deli.  If the queue is big, please don’t be put off as the service is friendly, efficient but not pushy, and there are plenty of tables available even if the majority of customers  decide to relax and take in the daily paper whilst dining.

The breakfast menu is one of three offered by Bills and is served until midday each day, when it is superseded by the brunch and warm sandwiches menu.  The menu will appeal even to the most picky party and therefore your selections, as we found, may take a while. With choices galore on offer in a blink of an eye you will switch your allegiance from the ‘All day breakfast’, to the classic childhood favourites (but not mine!) 'Boiled Egg and Soldiers', all the while being enticed by the temptress 'Eggs Royale' (poached eggs, smoked salmon, hollandaise & mixed seeds).  The sight of bubble & squeak with fried eggs, ham and hollandaise or buttermilk pancakes with syrup & mixed seeds will confuse you further so I suggest hiding the menu and putting blinkers on to avoid being swayed again by another sight of the menu or other customers choices.

In the end, and due to the sight of passing breakfasts, our choice was simple; two all-day breakfasts, one bacon sandwich and one porridge.  But as with all things in Bills what seems a standard fare, is served with a twist and style that sets it apart from the competition.  Served on two slices of fresh thick crusty bread, each item cooked with care and thought was heavenly to devour, so much so that I even attempted to eat the eggs.  The streaky bacon lying atop of the sizeable portion was full of flavour unlike how the flavourless deep-fried US version is served. The two sausages provided though small in size, more than made up for it with each juicy bite, which showed how quality ingredients can enhance a breakfast and was in contrast to the locally produced, but dry sausage we found at Farm.

Hidden under the eggs were the two key items to this breakfast, the mushrooms and tomatoes.  Usually the additional items to bulk out the breakfast and fill in the gaps between the more prestigious items fail to add anything to the breakfast experience. However in this case due to some creative cooking they rise above the usually more regarded meaty counterparts. The pesto added to the grilled tomatoes was heavenly and really brought out the natural flavour of the tomato which is usually left neglected when a breakfast is constructed. The mushrooms, flavoured in garlic were also as far from a bland tinned button mushroom as can be.

 

It really is the little touches, such as the pesto tomatoes, that really set Bills apart from its many rivals. Individual selling points such as freshly squeezed orange juice, daily changing smoothie flavours, to the integrated deli layout and high standard of food preparation, leads it to score highly under all review categories. It's the overall quality that each visit exudes which takes Bills beyond the standard breakfast experience. With the chain starting to expand into London to a premium spot in Covent Garden, and receiving rise praise from the broadsheet food reviewers, the word of Bills is starting to spread to a much bigger audience.  I can only hope that the qualities which make this friendly and relaxing café so popular remains and the sophisticated and highly recommended breakfast experience is not replaced by a generic substitute which blends into the mainstream.  If you are ever in Lewes pop in and see for yourself, you won't be disappointed.

 

Ingredient Quality: ★★★★★
Portion Size: ★★★★★
Value For Money: ★★★★½
Service: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★★

  • Paul Beck

    Been a fan for some years however the visit before last was poor as the food was flat and unexciting. Everybody has their bad days so went again today for breakfast, awful,Bills full was cold and had been standing around, waitresses were very apologetic, I spoke to the chefs who just shrugged. Loosing the plot, too many branches !!!

  • Mr. No Eggs

    June 2011: Another great trip to Bills in Lewes, with the standard of the food and service as high as we experienced on our first visit. We arrived at 945 and by 1030 the store, inside and out, was near capacity.

    Mrs NoEggs had ‘Bubble & squeak mustard mash with fried eggs, ham & hollandaise’ and I went for ‘Grilled vine tomatoes, basil pesto, rocket & balsamic on toasted ciabatta’ (and I had a bit of hers too!). The balsamic tomatoes were heavenly against the fresh basil and the mustard mash did enough to tempt me on my next visit. I also saw a portion of the pancakes and they were HUGE!

    We both went home happy, though we were tempted to stay for lunch too!

  • Mr.B

    Visited for breakfast this morning after hearing many great things about this place. Top marks for atmosphere, service, the food itself & value for money. Will definitely be visiting again!!