Restaurant review: Le Bistrot Pierre
PUBLISHED: 13:44 14 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:07 13 December 2016
For Katie Jarvis good food and good value at Le Bistrot Pierre stirs memories of life-and-death zebra crossings and reclusive, curtain-twitching neighbours
These are the nuggets I pass on to you about France. (De rien.)
1. French zebra crossings – which look confusingly like English ones – were initiated by someone looking to use up an overspend on white paint. The only way to get a driver to stop at one is:
i) Firmly to establish eye-contact, as you cross the road;
ii) Within that glance, strongly to convey that you have a ruinous secret about the approaching driver, which you’ve left with trustworthy friends, in an envelope marked: To be opened in the event of my death.
2. It’s considered insane to go round introducing yourself to neighbours, particularly if you live within 30 minutes of Paris. I made this mistake. Once. When I cheerfully did the rounds, explaining, “Hello, I’m Katie! Do come round for coffee!”, one next-door neighbour rigidly replied, “May I thank you infinitesimally,” before enthusiastically slamming her door (which she almost certainly double-bolted while wedging a chair under the handle).
3. This is still point 2 but it was getting a bit long. My French teacher later told me – after I’d brought her back to full consciousness with smelling-salts – that she herself had only met her neighbours after 10 years, and that was through a combination of bad luck and ill-timing.
4. French people know more than you do. This is a fact. My rigid neighbour later thawed and invited us round to a cocktail party, where one of the indigenous guests informed us, “Oh, you’re English! Of course, the English don’t have central heating.” He brushed aside our polite demurrals with an unequivocal, “I’ve been there.”
I also have important things to say about jelly, but I’ll leave that for another time.
On the food front, I will admit that I’ve had my best-ever meals in France, including several days I spent in a public hospital, where the waiters were prompt and the wine had mellow tannins with hints of red fruit on the palate and an attractive freshness.
So it is that we take our friends, Patrick and Julie, with us to Bath to dine at Le Bistrot Pierre, only partially in the hope that it will revive happy memories of psychopathic drivers and neighbours aggressively peering through locked windows.
Patrick is incredibly sensitive to Ian’s medically-induced gluten-free diet. Each time an ambulance shot past (Bath was full of them; evidently, a high-risk place to live), Patrick would suggest its mission: “Clearly carrying a coeliac who’s eaten a Jammie Dodger. The doctor will be in the back, urgently asking, “Was it a whole one?”, while a wide-eyed patiently silently nods.”
Bistrot Pierre is even sympatheticker. Every dish is labelled for gluten, and most are free of this most pernicious of proteins.
It’s also jolly good value. We’ve booked for the Soirée gastronomique, a six-course set dinner for £22.95, which is laid on each second and fourth Tuesday of the month. I mean, really good value. So much so that the rest of this review will be taken up solely by the menu: on our evening (it’s a different menu each time), we get soupe aux poireaux et… I’ll do it in English. Leek and potato soup (very nicely flavoured); smoked haddock risotto with peas, leeks, lemon and mint butter; overnight slow-roasted shoulder of lamb or slow-braised Scottish pasture-fed beef with shallots, red wine, mushrooms and bacon (with potatoes and veg); a Baileys crème brûlée; a rustic French cheese-board; and then coffee and chocolates. (And there’s a veggie option.)
All of that!
Oh, and French bread is included. Now let’s not be toffee-nosed about this. If it were just average, it would be good. But it’s not – it’s tasty, with generous portions.
And the staff are generally lovely, too. (Bar one, in Exeter the other week (I’ve been several times now), who – when, after waiting a while, I got my own menus – snapped, “Look – I was at that table over there, in the middle of serving someone when you came in.”) (There are several branches around the country, but it’s privately-owned.)
So when, the morning after Patrick, Julie, Ian and I dined, I realise we were charged for some drinks we never had, I ring up. And they apologise profusely and instantly do a refund without question.
Eh voila! It is what it is. A nice meal. Good value.
And with a gastronomic menu so full that I haven’t room to tell you about the Accidental Burial of Patrick’s Cat. Another time, mes amis. Another time.
Value for money: 9
Le Bistrot Pierre, Princes Buildings, 4 George St, Bath BA1 2ED, 01225 321840; bistrotpierre.co.uk