This week we visited the Le Bistro Pierre in Nottingham for their “Soirée Gastronomique” a six course set dinner that is served on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. Luckily this month that fell on my Mother’s birthday so perfect timing and an unmissable opportunity. Le Bistro Pierre describe the Soirée Gastronomique menu as ‘These specially designed menus embrace all that’s great about dining in France – hearty and robust provincial cooking, great variety and outstanding value”. Well that all sounds quite promising.
The first course was the “Soupe à l’oignon” described as ‘French onion soup with Gruyère croutons.’ This was some of the best French onion soup I have had for quite some time, I have a vague possible somewhat romantic memories of some that I ate in the falling snow on an Alpine slope some years ago, and thinking about it this may well have been it’s equal. The soup had a deep rich onion flavour which permeated throughout the light thin onion broth. Thick slices of soft tangy onion were swimming around the bowl and they melted in my mouth. I tried to eat this too quickly and in my haste I was in danger of burning the roof of my mouth, but it was so good it was hard to stop. Luckily I had a nice glass of red wine to save me from myself. The soup was topped with a large Gruyère crouton which was probably crispy when it hit the soup, but by the time I was cutting into it with my spoon it had turned into a lovely soft slightly soggy cheesy delight, the cheese topping was both sweet and slightly salty and had a great bite texture as it pulled apart with each bite in a gooey chew. Really very good soup indeed.
The second course (which appeared really quickly after the soup) was the “Fromage de chèvre”. This was described simply as ‘Deep fried goat’s cheese with frisée salad and spiced tomato chutney’. I was quite surprised how big a piece of cheese this was, It was really quite nicely done, a firm crisp coating all around a soft creamy cheese. The frisée or endive salad, and the chutney fought slightly with the powerful cheese, but the cheese easily won. This was a good dish but way too big for a six course menu
There were two options for the main course and I chose the “Medaillons de Bouef”, they describe this on the menu as ‘Roasted medallions of Scottish pasture-fed 21 day-aged rump steak (served pink) with green herb and roasted garlic butter’. This was a good looking and well prepared dish with the meat cooked perfectly pink, having said that overall I was left feeling a little flat, I was hoping to be amazed but it was not quite there. It was still a good dish but for me I felt that it was the weakest on the menu. Subsequently we have spent some time debating the pros and cons, where’s and wherefores of this and I think that this dish suffers from the two dishes that preceded it. Both the soup and the goat’s cheese dishes were so powerfully flavoured that after eating those two courses I felt that the beef really could not compete with those strong flavours. It may well have had a really good flavor, but to be honest I did not get that as I was eating it, I could barely taste anything beyond ‘meat’ and I would not have been able to discern that it was 21 day aged at all. A shame really as I am sure that on its own or with more appropriate company it could have been a winning dish. A case in point was that the main courses were served with a dish of Dauphinoise potatoes which were really quite excellent. They had such a super creamy cheese and garlic flavor that they ended up being the best thing on the main dish. Is that because they were truly excellent? or is this a case of the beef just not being able to stand up the power of their flavor? A bit of both I think. The main course should have been the star of the menu, but it ended up coming in a distant third.
The other option for the main course was the “Canard au jus de groseille” this translates on the menu as ‘Pan-fried duck breast with mashed sweet potato and redcurrant jus’. I had a slice of this and a taste of the sauce and sweet potato. The duck did have a really good strong and deep flavor, but it was a tiny bit chewy. The sweet potato was creamy and had a nice sweet taste that was not too sweet for a savoury dish. The jus was quite decent too and could just about stand up to the duck. Even though I only sampled a little bit of this dish I could tell it was a rich dish and it probably fitted into the menu better than the beef, but it also was struggling slightly to be the star of the menu, but it did have a better chance and if it had not been chewy then it might have come in a good second place behind the soup. As with the beef to be honest in my opinion the best thing on the plate were those Dauphinoise potatoes
The fourth course and the first part of the desert options was the “Gâteau au caramel” which is a ‘warm sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream’. Now I am really not a pudding person, but this was truly delicious, I ate every scrap of it even though I was getting dangerously full. Everything on the plate worked like a pudding symphony, the pudding was as described, warm, sticky, covered with and and full of lovely toffee sauce. The vanilla ice cream was the perfect accompaniment sitting on top of the sponge it assisted with creating an unforgettable desert course. At this point in proceedings, I would have been happy if the meal could had ended here. I did not need anything more and it would have been a perfect finale. Again for a six course menu this was really a bit too big a plateful, but am I complaining? Not at all, if you have to squeeze more food into my expanding body then this is one of those dishes that make it acceptable. Having said that at this point in proceedings I was starting to feel some sympathy and affinity with Mr Creosote from Monty Python
The fifth dish was the “Plateau de fromages” detailed on the menu as ‘our typical rustic French cheese board of Brie de Nangis, Fourme d’Ambert, and Saint Maure served with biscuits, celery and red onion confiture’. I was beyond full by now and I really did nothing more than briefly taste the cheeses (there was very little room left). Of the three cheeses on offer the milder and buttery Brie de Nangis was probably the one I liked the most, it is creamy and smooth and was aged well, essentially it was very fluid practically running off the plate. However ,sadly I was too full by now to really do any justice to the cheese course.
The sixth course was the coffee, which lets be honest, that isn’t a course, but it came with a very nice chocolate so lets just let that one lie.
All in all the Soirée Gastronomique menu is good value at £22.50 a head. It is a really nice way to try the different types of dishes that you might be able to sample at Le Bistrot Pierre. I was asked if I would eat here again, I would but probably not one of the Soirée Gastronomique evenings. I think I would restrict myself to the a la carte menu and choose carefully to get a better balanced selection of starter and main course. They do have a “Dine with Wine” option which is 2 courses for £22.50, or 3 courses for £27.50 each course being accompanied with a ‘specially chosen wine’. I am thinking that might the way to go on another occasion.
The food highlights of the evening were the “Soupe à l’oignon”, the “Gâteau au caramel” and I cannot end without praising again those Dauphinoise potatoes . There were a few hiccups, but they were all overcome with some excellent and enthusiastic service from our waiter who was knowledgeable about each course, had clearly sampled and tasted all the dishes and was able to give good suggestions and advice. Interestingly he also had some clear enthusiasm for those Dauphinoise potatoes.
Le Bistro Pierre in Nottingham is located at 13-17 Milton Street just across from the Victoria Centre. It is in easy walking distance of the tram stops in the Old Market Square and at the Royal Centre. It is worth booking as there is usually a queue outside the door before it opens, which you have to stand in anyway, so book ahead to avoid a wasted queue.