After hearing about Bill’s renovation, Naomi and I were absolutely desperate to see how they could possibly improve their chic, colourful look and the delights of their buttermilk chicken burger and American-style pancakes! Upon arrival, our attention was immediately drawn to the beautiful flower feature wall just outside the doors – the perfect location for an aesthetic Instagram photoshoot of which we made full use.
The interior was even more impressive with luxe velvet furniture, chandelier fixtures and tasteful prints. The ambience created by the renovation seemed perfect for any meal time occasion, from a busy brunch to a romantic, candlelit dinner. We also noticed the surprising amount of plants dotted around the restaurant which created a fresh, botanical atmosphere and complimented the plant-friendly mains…but more on that later!
The charity dinner that we attended was the first that Bill’s Exeter has hosted, in aid of St Petrock’s: ‘a small local charity working to address the problems caused by homelessness in Exeter and the surrounding area’ (Mel Hartley- Project Manager). Prior to the event, Bill’s presented their customers with a ballot box and the option of three charities- Devon Air Ambulance Trust, Good Gym and St Petrock’s, pledging to support the winning charity over the coming year. The votes were cast over a series of weeks, with over 1000 votes totalled and St Petrock’s declared the winning charity. Though the event is the first fundraiser of its kind at Bill’s, the staff were keen to point out that it would definitely be the first of many, with potential future plans including sponsored sports events and a chosen signature dish with a charity donation attached to it.
Once we had been seated and presented with prosecco, an ambassador for the charity came to chat to us about the charity and the work that they do within the community. St Petrock’s is a much-needed charity in an affluent city like Exeter, as rising homelessness has seen an increase in visits by 36% to their services since 2011/12. The charity provides support in any way that it can, from survival services including showers and warm food, to mental health specialists and housing advisors. St Petrock’s housing and homelessness services worked with 463 people in 2017/18 and helped 243 of those individuals into accommodation- an incredibly encouraging figure!
The restaurant provided us with a specialised, condensed menu for the event which still offered a range of choices throughout the three courses, with something for everyone’s tastes. Naomi and I both chose the chicken and sesame dumplings for our starter. The starters arrived with a salad garnish and a delicious spicy chutney dipping sauce on a floral plate, which, alongside other ornate crockery, perfectly matched the décor. The dumplings were the perfect mixture of crispy and succulent, and the spices within them complimented the slight heat of the chutney faultlessly.
I took a leap out of my usual (classic chicken) comfort zone when choosing a main, deciding on the carrot, mushroom and cashew nut wellington- a vegan dish. Naomi went for the slightly safer choice of pan-fried seabass which came with avocado, tomato and caper salsa, and an herby rosti – safe to say, she demolished it and then stole some of my mash. Though sceptical about the absence of meat in my main, once it arrived, I instantly warmed to the rainbow coloured plate and the magical butterbean mash (which I will definitely attempt to make myself very soon). The wellington itself was packed full of flavour and the gravy was so delicious that I didn’t miss the absence of meat whatsoever!
The final and perhaps even favourite part of our meal came with the puddings. I ordered my go-to mini cinnamon doughnuts which were accompanied by the Ant & Dec of sauces: salted caramel and chocolate! Naomi went for the salted caramel apple crumble which came with vanilla ice-cream and custard… it was definitely the highlight of the evening for her.
As you can tell, we had a fabulous time and will definitely be returning before too long for more of those doughnuts!