I KNOW Bill’s is a Sussex institution and success story.

It started in Lewes and has branched out so much there are 21 Bill’s in London. There were 79 in total the last time I checked.

I have to admit though, when I first went to Bill’s a year or so ago I remember seeing everyone tucking into burgers and chips and thinking “is this much more than a tarted-up version of McDonald’s or Burger King?”.

Once I’d eaten there I soon saw how wrong that impression was.

Just how silly was that idea?

Well allow me to indulge myself a little by remembering the 2004 documentary film Super Size Me: Morgan Spurlock, an American independent filmmaker spends 30 day eating only McDonald’s food.

The film documents this lifestyle’s drastic effect on Spurlock’s physical and psychological wellbeing and explores the fast food industry’s corporate influence, including how it encourages poor nutrition for its own profit.

He ate there three times a day and the effect on his health was disastrous.

The then-32-year-old gained 24lb, a 13 per cent body mass increase, increased his cholesterol to 230 mg/dL and experienced mood swings, sexual dysfunction and fat accumulation in his liver. It took Spurlock 14 months to lose the weight gained from his experiment using a vegan diet, apparently.

Contrast that to the lovely food I ate at Bill’s this week.

To compare with some of my recent reviews in the area, I decided to try the set menu, a great price at £13.95.

My grilled Asian chicken salad was fantastic. The juicy chicken tasted barbecued – in a very good way – and there was plenty of it among the slaw-filled bowl, the toasted almonds complementing it all.

Talk about tasty and healthy – there was shredded carrot, cabbage, spring onions, peach, toasted almonds, red chilli, sesame and ginger dressing. I’m sure there was some nice pineapple in there too.

In fact I wished that was a main so I could finish off a nice big serving. There was plenty there mind, it’s just that I could have eaten more.

My minute steak incurred a £2 charge on top of the set menu price, fair enough I thought.

It was a nice big slab of meat and not overcooked – great value for a minute steak. The chips have their skins on which makes them healthier and tasty. My one moan is that I asked for ketchup and mustard and was left hanging until I asked the front-of-house woman.

I shouldn’t have bothered really though as the garlic butter with parsley topping on the steak went really well without them.

Two others I was dining with gave their set mentus the thumbs up too.

The garlic king prawns with parsley butter and stonebaked flatbread and watermelon and feta salad were the other starters – and were both winners.

For mains my fellow diners chose roasted aubergine, lentil and chickpea dhal and the crispy cod burger.

The dhal was not too spicy and again tasted very healthy. It came with cherry tomatoes, coriander chutney, toasted almonds and grilled flatbread.

The crispy cod went down well with a sweet apple slaw, onion marmalade and the skin-on fries again.

So in answer to the question how silly was it to compare Bill’s to fast food chains like McDonald’s and Burger King: it was very silly.

The food is in a different league. It is delcision AND healthy and I would happily eat three meals a day at Bill’s for 30 days.

My latest visit gave us plenty of time to relax and take in the newly refurbished and redecorated surroundings.

That was the initial reason for my visit, by the way, to try out the new-look restaurant.

The Argus reported on this big spruce up so I wanted to see it in person. Very bright and attractive it is too.

The old bus depot in North Road is a beautiful big space with a high ceiling. Not sure about all the visible wiring for that modern feel but it is a beautiful social space and the staff really are very nice.

If you do go soon there is a summer menu with Bill’s summer salad with baby kale, freekeh, sprouts, blueberries and watermelon to start with or seared salmon salad with mango and cucumber.

I did not indulge but the new cocktail menu features the lemongrass margarita with fresh chilli and Bill’s signature negroni.

l The Gourmand pays for his meals.


Food: ★★★☆☆

Service: ★★★☆☆

Atmosphere: ★★★★☆