Review – Billie’s Cafe
Today was the first day of my holiday. Unluckily for me, we had builders coming over at 8.30 this morning to do work on our kitchen. With this part of the house being out of bounds, I hastily decided on taking myself out for breakfast. I checked to see if my first choice was open but sadly, the Seven Bee’s Cafe is closed on a Wednesday, giving the owner, Ian, a much needed day off. Great news for him, bad news for me.
Arranging to meet a friend in town, by the time 10am came around, I’d decided on Koba for a much needed brekkie. When we arrived, I was dismayed to find it closed for refurbishment. Cursing myself for not Tweeting them first, I frantically racked my brain for somewhere nearby. My friend suggested Bills which I hastily rebuffed as I find their cold, canteen-esque atmosphere not the most appealing place to be on a fairly breezy mid-May morning.
However, the mention of the name did remind me of Billie’s Cafe which wasn’t situated too far from where we were. I’d heard mumblings of this being an amazing breakfast place from friends at work and was suddenly keen to try their famous hash based menu.
Situated on the corner of Hampton Place and Upper North Street, Billie’s is a throwback to the wonder years of cafe’s. Raised slightly from street level, the first thing you notice about Billie’s are the laminate blue and white checked table-cloths and range of Heinz condiments adorning each table. Billie’s prides itself on being independent, family run and of course, is famous in Brighton for their range of home made hashes.
We parked ourselves in a corner seat next to a large window, great for people watching. Our menus were presented to us, large and laminated, proper cafe style. I had a huge hankering for a fry up but was told by my friend to try a hash, as that’s their signature dish. I decided on the Farmhouse Hash – sausage, bacon, baked beans & mushrooms pan-fried in butter with homemade hash browns and topped with a fried egg & grilled cheese (£7.70) and a Grapefruit Juice to wash it down with.
Upon ordering from a waitress who seemed slightly rushed, it dawned on me that we were sat near a group of 10 college students, loudly talking about last nights exploits. I don’t usually mind students, they’re good for the city, but when there’s ten of them practically shouting at each other, I put my head in my hands at the thought of spending a good half an hour listening to their inane babel. Billie’s isn’t a large cafe and there was no escape from this point.
Trying to drown out the hollering happening behind us, we started to feel impatient. The wait for food was a good 25 minutes and when you want to get out of somewhere as quickly as possible, each minute felt like an hour. After lots of toe tapping and thumb twiddling, our hashes were served.
This was gigantic. I was astounded as to how large the portion size was, I knew straight away I would struggle to finish the lot.
The hash was certainly cooked fresh to order as the steam rising from the plate was endless, this was one hot plate of breakfast. I added some seasoning and a drizzle of tomato ketchup on the side and got stuck in.
I’m not going to give a wordy description to each element of the dish but I particularly enjoyed the thick, well cooked chunks of sausage I found strewn about my plate and cracking the yolk to see if saturate into the potato was heavenly. The whole hash was well mixed and well cooked. However, I found the large quarters of mushrooms unappealing and slightly greasy. Upon ordering, I neglected to take into account my dislike for baked beans and found them in practically every mouthful. There was also an hefty amount of potato, partly why the breakfast was so filling.
The portion size was also an issue as I found myself over eating. I felt like I had to at least attempt to finish my super sized plate of Farmhouse Hash due to deploring waste of any kind. The amount leftover between my friend and I would have fed a third mouth, easily.
Overall, I found myself not particularly enjoying my breakfast. Sure, I’d head back to Billie’s but only if I was suffering from the worlds worst hangover, hadn’t eaten for three days or was on a much needed carb binge. However, I was after none of those things. I found the cafe noisy, cramped and for £7.70 there are far better breakfast based meals about the city. I winced when our bill came to nearly £20 and couldn’t help regret my flippant decision to head over to Billie’s Cafe.
Words by Claire Beveridge