'You know, this building housed one of the seminal nightclubs of the 1990s UK dance scene', said the man standing in front of me, as he struggled to focus on something over my right shoulder, his hands grasping tightly to a half-drunk plastic beaker of champagne. I wasn't anticipating a history lesson before, after, or during my trip to Bill's, but boy was I getting one from this guy. Just smile politely, nod your head, and mutter pleasantries. Don't under any circumstances make eye-contact or, worse still, respond with a question.
To be fair, he was probably just a little drunk and a little sentimental with regards to this corner of Hoxton Square. Well, it was one of the seminal nightclubs of the 1990s dance scene!
Today, the building in question houses a branch of Bill's - that inoffensive chain of restaurants that sprang up in Brighton and has spread to the four corners of middle-class England, settling in the very best towns, where folks like their house prices high, their cars 4x4, and their menus free from excitement. I don't know if 'Bill' himself exists. I'll be disappointed if he isn't just the pure creative genius of some marketing suits, branding agencies, and corporate investors. A real life Tipsy McStagger.
I struggle to know what to make of Bill's. At first glance it's 'traditional' English fare - burger, steak, prawn cocktail, vol-au-vent - with a couple of 'continental' offerings for good measure - risotto, mussels, BBQ, and scotch egg. Dig a little deeper and we're in uncharted territory. Thai green curry? Halloumi? Hummus? I suppose they want to give those with 'exotic' tastebuds room to fly, but I'd question why, as for most people it surely plants a seed of doubt in their minds. A chef who is offering that variety can usually cook one dish badly, everything badly, or is reaching in to the depths of the freezer to search for a packet of 'Aunt Bessie's authentic thai curry mix'.
This isn't to say I didn't enjoy my meal, primarily as it was gifted to me by a friend, but also the company wasn't that bad, and the food was quite tasty - they just need to learn to lay off the salt on that steak and perhaps put up an English Heritage blue plaque to please the local historical society.