Winter’s here, that’s for sure, and it’s time for some warming, calorie-laden meals. With things getting so busy in the run-up to Christmas (not helped when you disappear on holiday for a week lol), taking time to catch up with your nearest and dearest is even more important, and how better than over a bowl of food and a glass of wine. A few weeks ago mum and I managed to squeeze in a little catch-up and toddled off to Bistrot Pierre in Leamington Spa to do just that.
It’s somewhere that always looks quite appealing, parked on a corner just behind the Royal Priors with a fair bit of outside seating that look like the perfect place for moules mariniere and a glass of white wine on a summer’s day. I’ve been once, and I think I did indeed chow down on some summer scran, but it’s not somewhere that would ever have sprung to mind as a winter dinner destination. Turns out I was wrong.
These pictures don’t really do justice to the interior, I have to say. On a dark, cold, winter’s night it felt warm and cosy. It’s a big old space but is cleverly divided into different areas that are a bit more intimate. We were presented with a whole load of menus – a la carte, an early dining set menu, wine list. Slightly overwhelming at first, but good to have choice I guess.
We agreed to share a starter and opted for one of the warm, comforting dishes on the menu – ricotta and truffle ravioli in a light cream sauce with garlic and truffle oil. I’m glad we shared, because it was definitely one of the more substantial starters I’ve been served. Three big fat pillows of pasta stuffed with cheese, served in a glistening creamy, garlicky sauce with the telltale aroma and taste of truffle. I’m not sure how much I could taste the truffle inside the ravioli but it was definitely there in the sauce thanks to the little pools of truffle oil.
We struggled to decide on main courses, with several sounding pretty appealing. You can always tell how good a main is by how much you’re willing to share and despite agreeing to go half-half, we were both rather reticent to hand over our respective dishes once we’d tried them.
For mum, it was slow-cooked marinated medallions of pork with a honey mustard glaze, Morteau sausage, caramelised apples and Dijon mustard beurre blanc. Of course, pork, apple and honey are a winning combination anyway and it was great to see the use of textures in the dish, something sometimes reserved for slightly higher end establishments, with soft caramelised apple contrasting with the meaty pork and crispy garnish. The pork itself was tasty and tender and the sauce added the piquancy needed in an otherwise fairly rich dish.
Despite being impressed with the pork, I have to declare my Navarin of lamb the winner. Another hefty portion, it looked and tasted like everything a winter warmer should. Substantial, hearty, rich, and full of flavour. The lamb was tender as tender can be and came with leeks, roasted root vegetables, baby onions and rosemary in a red wine jus. Again, rosemary and lamb – a winning combination so why not capitalise on what is a tried and tested flavour. The baby onions and root veg brought sweetness and while the sauce for me was more a gravy than a jus, it hit the spot, wrapping everything in a rich, meaty hug.
It would be remiss of me at this point not to mention the vegetables we were brought on the side. So often, veg is an afterthought, a grey, lifeless mess shoved in a bowl as some sort of token gesture to make up the numbers. I’m so glad that wasn’t the case here. Crispy roast potatoes that were the right amount of fluff inside, buttery carrots that still had the crunch, and broccoli that still had its fresh green colour rather than having turned grey and floppy from lack of care. Bravo Bistrot Pierre for doing your veg justice.
After such substantial mains, we decided to share pudding and went for a combination dish that included chocolate brownie, macaron, caramel profiterole and ice cream. Again, I found myself rather impressed. The brownie was a tiny bit too dry but tasted of real chocolate which is a refreshing change from some desserts. The caramel profiterole was also enjoyable as was the ice-cream, but the macaron was a real winner. A crispy mirror sheen on the outside with indulgent gooeyness on the inside and a surprising taste of real berries rather than a fake flavouring equivalent.
We left feeling both pleasantly surprised at the quality of the meal we’d just had. Yes, Bistrot Pierre is a chain. Yes, it’s producing crowd-pleasing favourites. But it’s doing it pretty well from what I can see. Its winter menu was well thought-out, with all the dishes you want on a freezing evening. The food was well cooked and full of flavour, the atmosphere was relaxing and enjoyable and the service we received was good. It’s also pretty affordable – I think our meal would have worked out around £20 a head and included wine too.
I’ve said this before on my blog. Not everywhere has to be tasting menus and fine dining extravaganzas. There are times when you just want a catch up with your mum in a quiet corner with a plateful of warming food and a glass of wine. And that, ladies and gents, is exactly what we got.
I was invited to dine at Bistrot Pierre and our meals were complimentary.