The people of Middlesbrough are clearly delighted to have this continental bistro in their midst. It’s in an on-the-up part of town that is currently undergoing a visual revamp, but also upping the ante in gourmet terms with streets devoted to artisan food and drink and its very own cool Orange Pip foodie market. So, this little corner of France should fit in nicely, whatever your Brexit view. Ooh la la, we say!
The food newbie looks super-classy with its expensive decor and luxurious feel. There’s shiny brass, there’s dark wood, there’s jazz in the air and pâté on plates. It’s a big place, but the deep paint colours give a cosy touch and mean it becomes super-twinkly and convivial at night. Outside it adds a real something to the area with an outside seating area overlooking the majestic town hall, the Bottle of Notes sculpture and MIMA gallery.
A glass of champagne at £6.50 is a welcome way to end your working day, or start the weekend celebrations. We loved that they have tapped in to the local Three Brothers Brewing Co for on-draught honeysuckle beer. A nice touch is being able to buy good wines by the carafe – mostly French, for obvious reasons, well-chosen and a good variety. We enjoyed a gentle Les Mougeottes pinot noir Vin de Pays D’Oc – a supple raspberry-luscious red, ridiculously easy-drinking (£17.50 for 500ml).
Well, it’s all about the French. Bistrot Pierre in Middlesbrough is one of a number of restaurants in the chain, mostly in the north-west and Midlands. They do a take on French classics with a goodly range of dining options throughout the day, such as speedy steak frites for lunch, or petit dejunner for a coffee, croissant and ‘oeuf’ fix. Go Gallic to the max with a roasted bulb of garlic, which you can smear on artisan bread or just feel the love for poulet chasseur. The set menus are excellent value and there are some tasty-looking supper club-style menus planned regularly.
We dined one Saturday evening and the place with heaving with happy people in their new-found bistro paradise. The specials’ board was having its first outing a week after the bistro opening. We hit the a la carte menu, first off devouring a not-that-French dish of the yummiest teeny chorizo sausages roasted in honey (£3.95) – a much recommended appetiser – we don’t blame them for veering over the border for these morsels. Our starter was a chicken liver parfait (£6.25) which came with onion jam and sourdough. It had a moussey, velvety texture and was rich in flavour – buttery and intense. Very nice. We had a bit of confusion over our other starter of goat’s cheese, but when it arrived, the salad of crottin de chèvre (£5.95) was pretty good – in fact, just like one you’d get in a French bistro. The neat goat’s cheese was baked to be subtly oozy, then scattered with toasted walnuts and served with beetroot, chicory and a grain mustard dressing. Classic, light and lovely. Main course one was from the specials’ board. Filet de morue au jambon de Bayonne; cod wrapped in Bayonne ham with béarnaise sauce. A good chunk in its salty overcoat of crispy ham. Plenty of flavour and richness from its puddle of creamy sauce, too. We ordered a side of dauphinoise potatoes (£3.50) just to up the ante in the butter/cream/carb stakes, but gave it some green balance with a tasty dish of bite-right green beans and almonds (£3.25). Main course two was médaillons de porc (£14.25); slow-cooked, marinated medallions of pork with a honey mustard glaze, Morteau sausage, caramelised apples and Dijon mustard beurre blanc. Savoury and satisfying and a neat portion (thought we could have done with more apple) of flavoursome pork with its rich flavours. The little nuggets of sausage added a nice bite. One criticism would be that the dishes had stayed a fraction too long under the lights on the pass. The plates were alarmingly hot and the food had lost a bit of its zip as a result. Though we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt – it’s a new kitchen team and this was a very busy Saturday night. We couldn’t fault the staff, who were smiley and enthusiastic and, when it came to puds, it was vive la France. Tarte au citron (£5.95) was zesty and light with its caramelised topping – lovely with the zippy raspberry sorbet alongside. A trio of sorbets and ice-cream (£4.95) offered up a good fruity and creamy combo. Judging by the buzz of the place and the happy diners therein, this is going to be a real pull for Middlesbrough, bringing something different to the town. Food is reliable and the specials’ menus in particular offer up great value in very nice surroundings from an accomplished team.