French Kissing in Millstone Lane

Great Scott! Is it really five years since I last reviewed Le Bistrot Pierre? It’s been a busy old time for them, the chain having expanded rapidly and now occupying over 20 locations UK wide after significant investment in 2015. I think there were probably 3 or 4 when the Boy and I first came to Leicester and experienced dining there for the first time.

However, they had a good model and they have stuck with it, which is no doubt the reason they have been invested in and continue to delight diners around the UK. I have always been a fan of their slow cooked meat dishes (as you would hope in a French restaurant) as well as their reasonably priced lunch offering and this still holds true. The only major discernible change is that they have dropped the ‘Le’ from their name. I presume that’s a Brexit thing šŸ˜‚

Leicester’s Bistrot has recently undergone a refurbishment, which has left it somewhat tidier, but still atmospheric and pleasing on the eye. It retains its versatility in that it is bright and airy in the day times for a welcoming lunch but also intimate and cosy in the evening for a more secluded tete-a-tete.

It was noticeably quiet when we arrived – during that magical transition time between the daytime and pre-theatre menus – but for us this wasn’t an issue. It was pretty early to go for dinner, but needs must sometimes and I was really quite pleased we could be accommodated. The service was pleasant and our waiter was full of helpful recommendations, which is particularly useful when it comes to The Boy. I think he would die of starvation before settling on a menu choice sometimes.

While we chose our meals, we were brought a bottle of 2016 Les Mougeottes Pinot Noir (I just discovered if you mispell pinot you get pinto… Sure I can do something with that knowledge one day) which we both really enjoyed. Not overly heavy, but enough tannin and structure to please The Boy and plenty of layers of complexity to satisfy my inquistive palette. However, also it had a light enough character to match with a variety of dishes which was all part of my cunning plan.

The meal was well paced, without waits for courses being overlong or feeling rushed and we chatted over our complimentary bread basket while waiting for our starters to be presented. I still get giddily excited with free bread in the UK. I don’t get why it’s so impossible for other venues to provide, or why they feel charging Ā£3 or more is acceptable. I feel like providing bread with a meal is pretty much the same as providing salt and pepper if required. Maybe that’s a Brexit thing too.

The Boy ordered the Terrine Rustique, and I’ll be honest this was probably the most disappointing dish of the set. It looked pretty enough, served with sourdough bread and cornichons on a board (yeah, they’ve fallen in to the boards over plates thing here too, but happily not all the time), however the terrine – purportedly of rabbit, chicken and pork with pistachio – was a bit of a free for all, almost as if the meats had been blended rather than laid and compressed into a terrine as you would expect. The Boy wasn’t keen which gave me the chance to have a good taste and it was a little bit like soft tinned meat and the separate meat flavours were not discernible at all. So we’ll probably leave that one next time to be honest.

We’d already been back since the refurbishment, hence why I have a photo of the table we were sat at!

It’s all uphill from here though dear reader, so stick with me! My starter was the Brioche et Champignons. That’s mushrooms on toast for you Leavers. Gosh, I’ve really got Brexit on the brain today, haven’t I? Must be tired. Anyway, this dish wasn’t much of a looker – you’d have to get up pretty early in the morning to put a fricasee of mushrooms on a slice of buttery brioche toast and make it look fancy, but who cares? It was delicious – creamy and earthy mushrooms with piquante, salty lardons of Alsace bacon and an underlying richness from both the mushroom sauce and the brioche itself. It was marvellous. I’ve made myself frightfully hungry just thinking about it.

Romping through to the mains, and The Boy picked the duck dish from the specials menu – a pan fried breast served with cherries, which was pretty much made to match with the cherry notes in the Pinot Noir we had ordered. This was served with green beans, full of colour and perfectly cooked. Sadly I didn’t get the opportunity to sample this one and was met with low growls and snarls when I suggested it. So I presume it was good.

Of course, the mains are always served with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Our waiter also insisted we try the mushrooms with our mains too, although I’m not sure why he was positively gushing about them. They were OK, but not particularly garlicky or otherwise of note.

My main was also duck – this time a confit leg served on a bed of Toulouse sausage cassoulet. Unbeknownst to me, there was a big ole hunk of Toulouse sausage hiding under the duck leg which I didn’t find until quite a way through the meal, by which time I was quite full. But I soldiered on and managed to eat it. It was a LOT of food though – and I was really pleased with how everything was cooked – crispy duck skin, with the soft yielding beans melting into the cassoulet with the sweetness of tomato and sausage. Ah yes, this is the stuff of pleasant dreams indeed.

We were offered dessert, but politely declined as we would both possibly have exploded had we eaten any more. Overall the standard I expected from Bistrot Pierre was met. Big protein, a generally high standard of cooking and perfectly passable, although not pristine presentation. With starters in the region of Ā£6 and mains coasting around Ā£14 on the a la carte menu, this is a very similar price point to pretty much every major restaurant chain on the high street but I would definitely choose Bistrot Pierre over your Coast to Coast or, heaven forfend, TGI Fridays and their ilk as the food feels more real. Actual meat, vegetables and the like – you know what I mean…

So many thanks to Bistrot Pierre for inviting us along to trial the new look Leicester venue, a thoroughly enjoyable meal was had and we will continue to visit this comfortable restaurant and enjoy the friendly service from your team!


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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