Nothing fancy but classic French cuisine hits spot
LE BISTROT Pierre serves the best lunch in Derby, if you believe the Derby Food and Drink Awards 2012, and there's no reason not to.
But how does it fare in the evening? Your Spy was determined to investigate. And we were not the only ones.
The restaurant was busy but it is spacious enough to not feel cramped and imposed upon by your neighbours.
The menu is not extravagant: three grills, seven plats and four vegetarian options, plus a couple of specials – confit of duck and a wild mullet fillet on this particular evening. But this was a little piece of France in Derby so my companion and I were going for meat.
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That decision made, we chose our wine from an inviting list – a Corbieres, to be precise a Cuvée les Crozès Château Montauriol Rigaud Grande Résèrve 2010. A good choice. And, as we were being French, we chose the most Gallic starters on the menu. My companion picked the moules mariniere and I chose the Toulouse sausage.
The mussels were "good", a healthy portion. My starter was a delight – full of flavour without being overpowering, the pan-fried sausage came with a soft poached egg and warm tomato dressing. The mix of textures and flavours, the richness of the egg and the fruitiness of the tomato had me purring.
It was only on finishing and wanting to mop up my juices that I realised we hadn't been served any bread, a faux pas quickly corrected.
And on to the meat. My companion had plumped for the pave steak, an 8oz rump, medium rare. And it was cooked perfectly. She chose the wild mushroom and shallot sauce but asked for it on the side – a wise decision as it was a little too shalloty for her taste, the mushrooms overwhelmed. She also asked for the Dauphinoise potatoes rather than the frites.
This was going to be a deal-breaker as it is my companion's signature potato dish. They turned out to be excellent, creamy yet firm enough that they didn't fall into a mashy mess – a big plus.
I had the beef slow-cooked in red wine, leeks and mustard. I had a moment of worry when I initially attacked it in that it didn't come apart as easily as I expected but, once inside, I came to enjoy that outer crunch. The sauce had just the right amount of mustardy oomph – it actually made me smile. My dish also came with the Dauphinoise spuds, plus a serving of broccoli and braised red cabbage.
Our plates spotless (apart from the little pot of mushroom sauce), we were satisfied. And yet, after a brief discussion, we accepted the invitation to look at the dessert menu. My companion finished off with sorbet, the apple and calvados being the pick of the bunch.
Your Spy chose a platter of three of the five cheeses available – all were excellent but I was particularly taken with the Sainte Maure goat cheese.
The service was attentive and efficient (the bread debacle aside), apart from one brief moment of over-familiarity from one of our waiting staff – darling is not really an appropriate term of endearment for restaurant diners.
It had been a fine meal in a relaxing atmosphere, nothing fancy, simple classic French cuisine executed well and full of flavour. Now, how about lunch next week?
WHAT: Le Petit Bistrot
WHERE: Friar Gate, Derby
MEAL FOR TWO: Moules mariniere £5.75, saucisse de Toulouse £5.75, pave de steak £15.50, boeuf a la Violette de Brive £12.75, sorbet £4.75, plateau de fromages £5.90, bottle of Corbieres £18.95.
TO BOOK: Call Derby 370470. Menus available at www.lebistrotpierre.co.uk.