Wandering into Bill’s Spinningfields feels a little bit like somehow drifting into an exotic tropic. A contrasting celebration of texture and colour, plush velvets are complimented with smooth leather in the same way that rich jewel tones are softened by pastel hues.
All sortes of eclectic trinkets are artfully dotted around the restaurant, whereby a pair of teal geese share their shelf with a colourful print that features an art nouveau toucan.
While the shelf above is home to an ornamental cow, the one below is occupied by an abundance of plants and chicken statues.
As part of their grand opening in the city centre, One Manchester were invited to spend the evening at Bill’s Spinningfields with Bill himself.
As a British restaurant and bar chain, Bill’s was founded by Bill Collison in 2001. Its story starts with humble beginnings as a greengrocer’s, however, after a flood, a café was added to the shop. This led to an expansion of the business, as Bill followed his café concept by exploding a plethora of 81 restaurants around the UK – all featuring locally sourced produce and menus for breakfast, lunch, dinner and teatime.
As the sharing starters are brought to the table (halloumi and hummus plates, with fried halloumi, smashed avocado, tzatziki and toasted focaccia) we toast our cocktails and the conversations get underway.
Spending time with Bill is unexpectedly magical. His demeanour is charming and he has a sort of glamorous sparkle in his eye. When asked about the surplus of ornamental chickens dotted about everywhere, Bill replies, “Well, don’t you think they’re sexy? In a kitsch, plush kind of way?”
Don’t hold it against us, but we see where he’s coming from. It’s in the plucky lavishness of their feathers. They’re sassy, if you will.
Bill continues, “We always had chickens on my father’s farm, so it makes sense in that way too. When we were decorating the restaurants, I’ve tried really hard to take inspiration from my heritage, so that’s probably where all the animals have come from. I hope it’s all come together really well… do you like it?”
Opulent, intricate and over the top – we love it. Draping foliage fills every corner and the entire venue benefits from the subtle, conscious lighting that dispels from crystal chandeliers. Somehow, it just works.
Bill goes on to explain that the move to Spinningfields was something to do with the building works which were taking place over at the old John Dalton site, and as the mains arrived (we opted for Wednesday special, pan fried salmon with long stem broccoli, herb rosti and smoky tomato mayonnaise) the topic of conversation turned to food and drink.
One Manchester believes that a lazy menu is very telling, especially when it comes to catering to various dietary requirements. With a vegan story recently hitting, wherein a chef refused to update his menu to cater to a vegetarian or vegan diet, we asked Bill for us thoughts.
“In today’s climate, you simply have to do your best to keep up with the way the world is changing. If your customers want vegetarian or vegan options, you’d be a fool to turn them away through poor menu options. We did a whole veganuary menu last year and people loved it. One of the dishes that did the best was a soya pulled duck substitute, which was really interesting.”
Enthusiastically, Bill prides himself on the flexibility of his menu.
It’s the sort of restaurant you know you could bring the entire family to. Starters feature crispy calamari, creamy mushrooms on garlic focaccia, fried halloumi and prawn cocktails; mains feature pan fried sea bass, chicken green curry and beetroot/glazed goat’s cheese risotto; there’s an entire salad menu; daily dinner specials; burgers; steaks. The dessert menu dances around chocolate dishes, ice creams, sorbets and meringues.
Towards the end of the evening, as the table is graced with dessert (warm triple chocolate brownies, served with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream) the topic of conversation turns to music, and we learn that Bill has been friends with Norman Cook (Fat Boy Slim) for a long time, and he and I share a big love of David Bowie. I imagine they would have been great friends. With a special kind wisdom, it feels as though Bill has an innate way of reading people; “You’d love our venue in Brighton. It’s exceptionally bohemian.”
Bill’s Spinningfields is now open and taking bookings for Christmas and beyond.