A couple of months back the Bistrot Pierre chain introduced an interesting little promotion whereby they would post a recipe of the month and encourage people to cook it, take a photo and email/tweet it back. Then they select  one entry to win a free meal for up to  four people.

 There’s nothing too taxing and I’ve finally got round to giving it a go, cooking the June dish of toulouse sauages with poached egg and warm tomato dressing.  It’s very straightforward and obviously depends a lot  on the quality of your ingredients but it made a very pleasant light supper indeed. Here’s how mine turned out:

toulouse sausage

A little detail then.  The toulouse sausages are from Archer’s on Queen’s Road, expensive but very lovely indeed. They are cooked in the oven for 15 minutes, then chilled in the fridge, sliced on an appealing diagonal and put in a hot pan for 2 minutes to colour before serving. The poached egg is a duck egg – they are that bit bigger and richer than chickens and not much more expensive. Maybe it’s psychological but they always feel more of a treat.

My favoured way to poach is to tear of a sizable piece of cling film and put it loosely over a mug or glass to create a pocket. Add a little dash of oil, seasoning and maybe a preferred flavouring – a dash of balsamic  or some finely chopped herbs.  Then add the egg and carefully bring the sides of the film up together and tie little knot to create a sealed bag. This can then go straight into a saucepan of boiling water for about 3mins (or a bit longer for a large duck egg).  It’s straightforward to then pull it out and cut the bag open – it peels off very easily.      

The warm tomato dressing was something of a treat. Peeled and diced tomatoes, mixed with lemon juice, olive oil, finely sliced, garlic,  parsley, rosemary, salt and pepper. I added the lemon zest to beef it up. Then it’s just lightly warmed through – I found this  kept all the flavours strong and distinct. It was lovely – I’ll definitely try this again. 

Oh and  I’ve sent it in to Bistrot Pierre.  Wish me luck  – if I win I’ll report back.


January 18, 2011

A quick word in praise of our leader. When Svennis was appointed boss of Leicester City you could be forgiven for thinking he’d spend as little time as possible here, swanning off in his helicopter to  more exotic climes – Monaco, Rome, Stockholm, Market Harborough. To give him his due, he is not only achieving success on the pitch  – I write before tonight’s cup replay in Manchester – but is doing his bit for the local restaurant trade.

Sven backs Leicester restaurants

For some time San Carlo on Granby St used an image of him and old flame Nancy stepping out at one of their branches.  Now he’s a proper local, he is popping up all over the place. The newly-opened Lanna Thai on Rutland Street had him in – I think the city’s Thai community are, understandably, trying to make the most of any clout with the club’s Thai owners – and he was in Bistrot Pierrre at the weekend. In both cases it  sounds like he was a most gracious guest, telling Lanna Thai that the Mercury should have given them five stars and writing excellent all over his feedback card for Bistrot Pierre. 

I’m not suggesting we follow him as food critic – let’s face it, the man is a skilful politician and he’s not going to be rude about them. But I give him every credit for going out and being seen to support local businesses.

Let’s see where else he turns up. If he comes into your restaurant or you spot him in a city or county venue, make a comment to this post. If we get  a few, I’ll make a new post rounding up in a couple of months. I’m particularly interested in hearing should you see him sharing a pizza with David Beckham/Thierry Henry/Lionel Messi.

Oh and while we are here – well done to Hambleton Hall and The Olive Branch for retaining their Michelin stars for 2011, and to the Red Lion at Stathern and Jim’s Yard in Stamford for keeping their Bib Gourmands. No new awards in our region this time, and – despite the increasing  clamour –  no second star for Sat Bains in Nottingham.

Le Bistrot Pierre

June 20, 2010

If I say about Le  Bistrot Pierre that it’s as least as good as it should be, it might sound like damning with faint praise. I don’t mean it like that at all.  The thing with chains – even smallish, independent ones like this  – is that they not only clamp down hard on the bottom line, but in producing formula food they bland out dishes so that none of their target group could be offended by an unusual or even just unfamiliar taste. Bistrot Pierre  is, needless to say, hardly the Fat Duck,  but at least its simple French menu offers reasonably classic food that actually tastes of  its ingredients and is not afraid to be the way it’s meant to be.

There were 12 of us there for Chris’s birthday meal. I was having too good a time to note what everyone was having, but it seemed everyone was happy. I can report my sardines were excellent – crisply grilled and dressed with sweet, confited red peppers and a spiky salsa verde laced with pernod. Well made, grown up food. Main course of free range chicken breast was  juicy and its lightly creamy, white wine sauce, flehed out with seasonal broad beans and smoked bacon was very tasty.  Veg was of the bulk, comfort food variety but I did really like the dauphinois and the slightly spicy red cabbage. My desert of a cranberry frangipane was well made and would have been great with mid-morning coffee though perhaps I should have ordered something lighter  – the espresso creme brulee and the caramelised lemon tart received good reviews. 

Food was served swiftly and staff were friendly and seemed well-versed in dealing with a large group. Wine list is reasonable. So while it’s hardly groundbreaking, Bistrot Pierre exceeds expectations of  a frenchified chain restaurant in a provincial city that trades on being good value. They do “soirees gastronomique” twice a month offering five courses plus coffee and chocolate for £20.90, and  having reminded myself that they really do a pretty decent job here, that now sounds irresistible.

Restaurant round-up

May 29, 2010

This post is mainly about expanding small chains. Keralan restaurant Kayal will shortly be opening its third branch in Leamington Spa and should attract people out from Western Leicestershire and Brum as well as the students and lecturers from University of Warwick  who inhabit this leafy town. I’m pleased they’ve closed this deal because I know they’ve been trying for a while to expand, having been close to opening in Newark before the credit crunch closed in.

Bistrot Pierre is starting to outgrow its East Midlands origins. It also has a Leamington branch and opened its first new build premises in Sheffield. It is now due to open its eighth site in Harrogate later this month with another in Ilkley not far behind.

And love him or loathe him, you can’t keep Jamie Oliver down and he’s now breaking into the East Midlands to open a branch of his Jamie’s Italian franchise on Low Pavement in Nottingham. I tend to think he’s a good thing, despite cringing at menu items labelled “My amazing chicken salad”.  I suspect the food will be better than most Italian chains and he’s very welcome to take over Prezzo in Leicester if he wants.

Entropy isn’t expanding – yet – but they are continuing to come up with some novel marketing ideas. It’s not a cheap bar – which is fair enough – but it is making an effort to do something for its core audience. There’s a post-work happy hour from 4.30 to 6.30, but more intriguingly they are trying to pull in punters on a Monday night by offfering the chance to toss a coin whether you pay or not. You’ll have to book and I’m not sure how long it ‘s going on for but it’s got be worth a go eh? Look out too for their occasional scavenger hunts, where the first people to come with a specific rare object – this week it was a half-penny coin – get rewarded with a free meal or drink.

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