If I had a criticism of a couple of restaurants in France, it would be that they teetered on the verge of taking themselves a wee bit too seriously. Our first meal in Provence at Le Bistrot de Pierrerue initially felt a bit like that.
Le Bistrot de Pierrerue is located in the tiny village of Pierrerue just outside of Forcalquier in Provence. It’s a Bistrot de Pays, a type of high quality village pub. The Bistrot de Pays tag is a recognised label that guarantees good food made from local produce in a setting that it is also a social hub of the community. Le Bistrot is highly recommended by folks who live in the area.
First impressions were that, with its chequerboard floor, ebony table and chairs, lush red linen and eclectic knick knacks, Le Bistrot was exactly how we imagined a French Bistrot would look. It was warm, inviting and very French.
It was a good start. Things took a nosedive when Andy asked one of the owners, Maryvonne, who was actually American, whether they had wifi. I’m pretty sure there was an audible sniff.
“Don’t you have wifi where you are staying?” Came a reply that was teetering on being haughty.
Andy explained it was so we could Tweet about eating at the Bistrot.
“There’s a long password upstairs,” Maryvonne told us. “I may be able to get it when I have a moment.”
There were no other diners in the Bistrot at that time. Needless to say, the wifi code never appeared.
British/ American relations didn’t thaw when we ordered as Andy committed a cardinal crime and ordered dessert at the same time as she ordered the main course.
“You’re ordering dessert… now?”
I felt tempted to ask Maryvonne if she needed to sit down and maybe have a brandy at that one.
By this time I was getting paranoid and felt, as obvious plebs, we were being tested (I blame Andy’s craving for dessert). I’d ordered fish and had paid no attention to the cutlery in front of me. When my fish arrived Maryvonne tutted “Oops, wrong knife,” and swapped my steak knife for a fish knife.
I kicked myself under the table for not spotting that one before it was pointed out. At least I hadn’t started sawing away at the fish with it.
The Food at Le Bistrot de Pierrerue
A dining experience, however, has many ingredients. One look at the menu and any misgivings about the restaurant dissolved. One page listed local ingredients and their suppliers (a nice touch) whilst the other showcased a select but imaginative menu.
It took a pastis aperitif (complete with bowl of ice and carafe of water) to decide which dishes to try.
I could have chosen any of the four entrées but black figs and goat cheese coated in pistachio and drizzled with caramel and walnut liqueur sauce screamed ‘choose me, choose me’.
Andy, determined to save space for the dessert, opted out of having an entrée.
It was a relatively simple dish but looked tantalisingly good and tasted even better; the flavours coming together as one and then exploding to go their own delicious ways in my mouth.
When food tastes as good as those figs and goats’ cheese, you can be as haughty with me as you like… well, up to a point.
For main, Andy ordered Provençal lamb whilst I went for sea bream braised with herbs. It was a close call between those and the guinea fowl with goats’ cheese gnocchi or Charolais beef with porcini mushrooms.
They weren’t life-changing dishes but both were cooked perfectly; the lamb tender whilst the moist fish flaked from the bone effortlessly – using a fish knife of course.
By this time there were a few other diners in Le Bistrot and the atmosphere warmed up; helped along by a carafe of silkily smooth vin rouge – oh French wine, what a joy to have you cavort with my taste-buds.
Andy’s decision to hold out for the dessert proved a wise one; a fondant of hot and dusky, dark chocolate contrasted with a cooling ball of vanilla ice cream was pure seduction on a plate.
It was a triumphant finale to one of the best meals we enjoyed in France. We left Le Bistrot de Pierrerue feeling that our initial, stuttering start to our first dining experience in Provence was a blip that had been completely overshadowed by the quality of the food.
We’d have no hesitation in recommending Le Bistrot to anyone. Just don’t ask if they have wifi.
Le Bistrot de Pierrerue; Rue de la Ferraille; +33 4 92 75 33 00; open daily (except Monday) lunch and dinner during the season; out of season it gets really complicated with Le Bistro opening some days for lunch and dinner and others for only drinks during the day; main courses average €16 with set menus from €25. Credit cards not accepted.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+