15th January 2016 7pm
We went to try some French cuisine down by the Shore. Bistro Provence sits happily alongside restaurants such as Kitchin on this strip. Apparently the venue has been a French restaurant in some form for many years. We were warmly welcomed to this restaurant. The staff kindly placed us near a heater as it was freezing outside. The restaurant itself is full of understated hues, with creams and classic French colourings throughout the restaurant and paintings on the walls. Classics were also on the menu, where there seems to be something for everyone. Set prices for two and three courses, with the three course one coming in comfortably under £30 but Bistro Provence also offers a tasting menu if you fancy letting the chef make the choices for you.
The menu had a good selection and I had a few choices I was toying with but went for roast pigeon breast followed by seabass. My friend, by coincidence, went for my second choices, roast pepper and chilli panna cotta followed by tagliatelle. Whilst the food was being prepared, we were given a couple of canapés; salmon and cream cheese blinis and a tomato and Comte cheese whirl. As my dining partner is a veggie (and becoming vegan) I had both the salmon ones which were delicious. My dining companion confirmed the pastries were also great and tasted almost like a pizza. We also were given some bread which was lovely.
The starters arrived on slates, which I’m not overly keen on eating from, no matter how nice they look. However, I soon forgot about the plates as I began to eat. My pigeon breast came with a shallot puree and walnuts. The pigeon was perfectly cooked, so it was delicate and soft. The red wine sauce and shallot puree worked very well with it, seemingly bringing out the flavour of the bird. I could have eaten tons of this dish. On the other side of the table, I was keen to hear how the panna cotta was. She said it was less chilli infused which allowed the flavour of the roasted peppers to shine through but maybe a bit more heat wouldn’t have been bad. She did encounter a similar problem to what I often find when I order pate, there is not enough accompanying bread/salad to panna cotta ratio, so a bit of the panna cotta was left. This is difficult to get right though and was really only a very minor niggle.
The mains followed. My fish looked lovely and I couldn’t wait to tuck in. The seabass itself was cooked perfectly. The accompanying mussel and aioli sauce was a real treat. The sweet notes in it made the fish dance on the tongue (not literally of course – that would be weird). The mash was smooth and the chives gave it a lift. The spinach pulled it all together. I’d eat that all again in a heartbeat. The tagliatelle also looked beautiful and almost Spring like. Whilst initially confused where the tomato sauce was, it was placed under the pasta ready to mix through. The pasta itself was delicate and well made. An enjoyable dish according to my friend.
So, dessert was definitely a go-er. My dining partner had been before, loved the crème brûlée so decided to have that again. I went for the bitter chocolate tart with salted caramel ice cream. Neither of us were disappointed. The tart was luxurious and rich but the accompanying fruit sauce drizzled on the slate cut through it to avoid any cloying sensation. The ice cream was light but creamy in equal measure. The crème brûlée was adored just as much the second time. The accompanying honey and almond madeleine was good too. Whilst the dessert was on the larger side, she soldiered on courageously and scoffed the lot!
Bistro Provence was a delightful surprise. I don’t really know what I was expecting but this really made me happy. The food didn’t try to show off but was really good, with no gimmicks. Bear in mind if you like your big portions this might not hit the mark for you but if you like eating all three courses and feel pleasantly full afterwards, this is definitely worth a visit.
Food – 9/10
Atmosphere – 7.5/10
Service – 9/10
Value – 9/10
Overall – 34.5/40
Cost complimentary but likely to be around £55 for two three course meals.
Please note that whilst this meal was complimentary, views expressed are my own. Thanks to Lisa from Crimson Edge PR for inviting me.