If you can’t think of anything more pleasant than sipping on good wine, canal-side, at a French restaurant, in a grade 2 listed building, then you should probably be aware of one of Birmingham’s latest openings, Le Bistrot Pierre. Part of a small chain, Le Bistrot Pierre has recently opened its doors on Gas Street, situated perfectly between the Mailbox and Brindley Place. There has been a definite buzz around this new place, and I was recently invited for a meal to see what all the fuss was about. Read on to find out if the Bistrot Pierre experience is as pleasant as it sounds!
The interior of Le Bistrot Pierre is definitely one of its stand out qualities. I can only describe it as having a subtle wow-factor, which I’m aware is a complete contradiction of terms – but it is so classy and has been so tastefully rennovated that it really makes an impression. We visited on a warm summer’s evening and they had opened up the glass panelling of the restaurant onto the courtyard, which gave the illusion of dining al fresco. Unfortuantely the restaurant was very busy so I didn’t want to go photographing everybody, but picture leather seating, open brick-work and white lights strung across the courtyard.
From perhaps the best aspect to the worst – the service on our visit wasn’t quite up to scratch. All the servers were very friendly, but unfortunately the service was very slow, which detracted from our enjoyment of the meal. Whether the front-of-house team are still having teething problems, or whether they were simply understaffed on this occasion I don’t know, but either way it let the evening down. Our first drinks order was forgotten, we had to wait a long time for all courses, particularly dessert which took an age, and there was an overall lack of attentiveness which left us wishing for another drink or the dessert menu for a fair length of time.
To start, Jack ordered a couple of appetisers: marinated olives and the ‘gousse d’ail rotie’, artisan bread served with a roasted garlic bulb, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. These went down very well; there was a generous portion of olives and the bread was clearly very fresh. The whole garlic bulb was a nice, unusual touch, and certainly got us in la mood de francais. I went for the crab ravioli, which was served with a shellfish and white wine sauce, asparagus and petit pois. The sauce was described on the menu as ‘light’, but it was actually very thick and overpowered the flavour of the crab. It was still a pleasant dish, just a little stodgy for a starter in my opinion.
For his main, Jack opted for the salad nicoise with salmon. The salmon was simple yet stunning – a real melt-in-the-mouth texture and bursting with flavour. The poached egg was done to perfection and the salad tasted incredibly fresh. We both ordered fries as a side, which were also very nice. As Le Bistrot Pierre is traditional French cuisine, you won’t find much choice for vegetarians. There are three options, all in the ‘lighter dishes’ section, including risotto, salad, and a vegetable tart. I went for the tart, which included spinach, asparagus and gruyere cheese, served with dressed leaves and herb aioli. This dish was quite underwhelming – the tart was fine, if not a bit overdone, and the side of leaves and dip were pretty boring. It wasn’t unpleasant, but for what it was I thought it could have done with a couple of pounds being knocked off the price.
In terms of my meal, things certainly picked up with the dessert. I went for the chocolate torte with blackberry ice-cream. The torte was rich and decadent, served with a thick, warm chocolate sauce which we couldn’t get enough of. The sourness of the blackberry ice-cream and puree cut through the sweet torte to create a really harmonious dessert – I’d definitely order this again! Jack ordered the sticky toffee pudding (not exactly a French classic) which was beautifully sweet but not too stodgy, which we were grateful for by this point (I say ‘we’ because who sticks to their own dessert?)!
For drinks, Le Bistrot Pierre have an extensive wine list, many of which can be ordered by the glass. I began with a Zinfandel and Jack had a Pimms which we both enjoyed. They have a very limited selection of cocktails, that are all fairly simple, but I certainly enjoyed my Kir Royale, and at £4.50 it was very reasonably priced.
Overall, our first experience of Le Bistrot Pierre was a bit of a mixed bag. If they can iron out the service issues, then this new restaurant has great potential. We felt that the setting and the atmosphere carried the evening, as though there certainly were some highlights of the meal, the food didn’t blow us away. Having said that, our pescatarian experience of this French restaurant was quite a limited one, so I’d definitely say if you’re a meat eater do go and try this place out, as I’ve heard good things generally. I will certainly be returning at a later date to see how this restaurant settles in, as I’d love to see it really come into its own! Thank you to everyone at Le Bistrot Pierre for having us!