Even the name of the building is alluring and appetizing.
The Butter Market, whose facade is appropriately decked out in a subtle dairy cream, has been welcoming traders in Chichester since it was first built 210 years ago by John Nash.
The first floor extension 100 years later added a dash of creativity with an art school and technical institute.
Today, that top floor with decor which blends chic comfort with a hint of the rural mechanical industry that inspired the early traders is creative in a culinary sense as the home to Bill’s restaurant
The buiilding, owned by the city council, underwent a massive restoration exactly 200 years after the foundation stone was laid and this renaissance has kept it at the heart of North Street.
Bill’s itself could not be a more appropriate custodian of the first floor - being itself a business that grew in Sussex from honest trading roots and whose expansion has been driven by customer demand.
Founder Bill Collison said: “We opened the first Bill’s Café in 2001 and really none of us could have imagined how successful it would become. We’d talked about it for long enough and we hoped that people would like it, but what we couldn’t have guessed was that people would love it, that they would go out of their way to come to the café and then go and tell all their friends about it. It was fantastic.”
The formula is pretty simple: good produce, locally sourced whenever possible, and an ethos that empowers local staff to offer service that is not obviously restrained by corporate bureaucracy.
I’ve been a fan for many years - visiting Lewes, Horsham and Chichester restaurants whenever I’ve been in town.
It’s good value for a start. No gimmicks. And food you want to come back for.
To prove the point, we reviewed on this occasion as the guest of Bill’s.
It was so good, that the next day we returned as customers and ordered it all again. And our second visit, incognito, was just as impressive as the first.
There was a choice from the value two or three course menu and an All Day a la carte too.
It was great to see some terrific veggie and vegan options with comprehensive allergen and nutritional information available too.
Our highlights were the Ancient Grain Bowl (£5.75) as a starter - mixed ancient grains, avocado, red peppers, roasted cherry tomatoes, charred broccoli, mixed seeds, red pepper tapenade and purple basil & pinenut pesto - and the pan-fried sea bass (£15.95) for main served with an avocado, cherry tomato & caper salsa and herb rösti.
We had a couple of sides and were simply too full to do much justice to the dessert selection, limiting ourselves to the ice cream (there’s normal dairy and vegan).
Shopping centres are rarely defined simply by the shops and restaurants that line their main streets.
The architecture and its history permeates the very essence of a community - and the more distinguished the provenance of a street the more visitors are inextricably drawn to it.
The Butter Market is one of those iconic buildings that just keeps giving.
Although we were invited to Bill’s as their guests, our review is independent of them.