As stated here many times, sometimes it is easier to choose a chain restaurant over an independent when it comes to dining out. With our reviews of nationwide eateries Zizzi, Bella Italia and Las Iguanas, we’ve shown that their clear menus help allay the fear many who have dietary requirements feel. That said, our recent trip to Giraffe made us realise that not all understand or care to invest the same effort in their vegan offerings as others, which is incredibly disappointing.
While in Durham for the Fire and Ice event we decided to give Bill’s a try over some of the smaller veggie-friendly restaurants we’d normally frequent in the city. It also gave us a chance to us the ‘In Durham’ loyalty card we were very kindly sent, which gives the bearer discounts in a host of establishments in the area. You can find out more here. We were told that we’d get a 20% discount off our meal just by producing the card, which costs just £5 and lasts for 12 months.Having checked the menu in advance I felt comfortable there were a couple of vegan options available at all times. We were also told by the incredibly helpful staff there were also dishes that could be veganised on request, which was good to know. Keen to try their Parsley & Chickpea Falafel, I asked if this was SFV and was told it was.
Bill’s have an offer running from 12 until 7pm Monday to Friday which offers two or three courses for 10.95 or 12.95 respectively. The Soup of the Day featured was Wild Mushroom, which also happened to be vegan, so it was decided that Mr. Canny would go for this deal. Admittedly it was hard to excited about the choice of Mango Sorbet to finish the meal off (seriously, do you think that’s all vegans eat for dessert?!), but at least there was something.
The soup was comforting on such a brisk February day, and its creaminess led us to ask if it was definitely suitable. The meat eating MIL also chose this as part of her lunch and said she enjoyed it too. Disappointing the soup wasn’t served with any bread, but I suppose this was on account of the offer.
The Piadina with Tomato Hummus also ordered was a bit of a letdown, it has to be said. The bread to dip ratio was completely out of kilter.
My Seasonal Allotment Salad was far more balanced, although based on initial appearances I wasn’t bowled over. The root vegetables were hiding underneath the mass of rocket, but once I discovered them I felt the dish was more sustain than a mass of greens. The menu states this can be served with a Marinated Chicken Skewer, but they were more than happy to substitute this for their Falafel. I’d recommend they mention this addition on the menu to cater for vegetarians and vegans in future as it ‘beefs up’ (if you pardon the expression) what is a fairly standard option many eateries offer those who don’t eat meat.
The Roasted Aubergine and Chickpea Dhal packed a real punch with the chilli it was adorned with.
Vani order Panfried Sea Bass, which was served with an avocado salsa and a rosti. She gave a resounding thumbs up to her main, along with the Warm Pecan Tart she had for dessert.We decided against Mango Sorbet to round off our meals, sticking to just the 2 courses. It had taken nearly two hours for our meal and we were in a rush to catch the last Fire & Ice performance before we headed home. The staff were so lovely we felt loathe to mention the delays (35 minutes between starter and mains), and it seemed strange as the restaurant wasn’t particularly busy or short staffed from what we could see. We’d not be deterred from visiting Bill’s again, but we certainly wouldn’t go if we had plans for elsewhere afterwards.We felt the food was decent and we certainly couldn’t grumble over the prices, especially with the discount.
I have two complaints, however. When a menu is well labelled for food I am at a loss to understand why the Wine List is bereft of info about suitability for drinks. Restaurants and bars need to understand that not all beers and wines are vegan or even vegetarian friendly. We can use apps and Google to discover what to drink, but this is incredibly time consuming for us and can mar our enjoyment of the meal. Imagine trying to have a chat while another person pours over their phone before they can even order a glass of wine? Second is the lack of a dessert option other than sorbet. Even if Bill’s and other restaurants bought in dairy-free ice cream like Alpro, Swedish Glacé, etc. it would open up a few more possibilities on what pud could be served up to those who are dairy free. Those poor kids who have dairy or egg allergies, growing up thinking they can’t have cake when they dine out. I’m more than happy to provide advice on alternatives if such restaurants want to start thinking outside the box for those who avoid animal products for whatever reason.
Thanks for reading,