LE BISTROT Pierre left Oliver in somewhat of a quandary.
For it perfectly summed up the challenge of trying to quantify different elements of a meal.
It’s easy to judge how good the service was, or to get a feel for the atmosphere of a restaurant.
But it was the distinction between the quality of the food and whether it was good value that left Oliver confused.
Sometimes, though the food is very good, it doesn’t live up to the cost being charged.
While on other occasions, the meals are enjoyable but the exceptional value means your opinion of the food is elevated.
That was the case at Le Bistrot Pierre, where Oliver and his dining companion tucked into a delicious and keenly priced Sunday lunch.
The eaterie is situated in one of the most well-known locations in Ilkley, the former Crescent Hotel.
This imposing building dating from 1861 is on the corner of the town’s main crossroads and was, until just a few years ago, a rather cavernous pub.
Last summer it reopened after a complete overhaul, with half of the ground floor occupied by the Crescent Inn, a traditional watering hole like its previous incarnation. The other half is dedicated to Le Bistrot Pierre.
Part of a small chain, with other branches in places including Harrogate and Sheffield, the “family of individual restaurants” aims to make “everyday dining feel special”.
The bistro is open not only during lunchtimes and evenings but also for breakfast, though it was for a late lunch that Oliver strolled into the light, bright restaurant.
Being a sometime visitor to the venue in its previous life, it was interesting to see how such a large space had been transformed.
Gone was the huge space lacking in atmosphere, to be replaced by light wood, convivial chatter and a relaxed ambience.
We were instantly greeted and shown to a table overlooking the courtyard behind the building (and bringing back memories of a beach-party themed night Oliver would rather forget).
Handed menus, we were told our waiter would be over promptly, which he was, to explain the specials.
At lunchtime the menu offers a traditional French prix fixe – two courses for £9.95 or three for £11.95.
Our waiter took our drinks orders, plus our request for nibbles of some mini chorizos roasted in honey (£2.75) and directed us to the specials board, pre-warning us that one of the options had already sold out.
Being a late lunch, we weren’t surprised or too bothered. There was still plenty to tickle our tastebuds.
While munching on the sweet and savoury chorizos, we perused the menu. While not huge, there were plenty of authentic-sounding choices.
When our starters arrived, we instantly realised the set price menu would not equal mini portions.
I had picked the sardines grillés – grilled sardines with confit red peppers, salsa verde and a dash of Pernod.
The fish was fresh and tasty, with the delicious salsa verde a perfect accompaniment.
Oliver’s companion had chosen brioche et champignons, a toasted brioche with a fricassée of mushrooms, topped with crispy Alsace bacon.
He was pleased with his generously proportioned plateful, the creamy mushroom sauce combining well with the slightly sweet brioche beneath and the salty bacon.
Mains continued in the same vein – after deciding against the Sunday roast, Oliver had gone for boeuf braise, slow-braised beef with green peppercorn and brandy sauce.
The beef was deliciously soft and tender in the mouth, though perhaps lacking in depth of flavour. Possibly the peppery sauce somewhat overpowered it, but it was still a pleasant dish.
Even better, potatoes and vegetables were included and came in two separate serving dishes with a tiny oven glove covering the handle of the mini pan containing the sautéed potatoes. Very cute.
My dining partner was impressed with his pavé de beouf, an 8oz rump steak which he chose to have with roasted garlic and green herb butter. Pommes frites and dressed salad leaves came alongside.
He enjoyed the steak, though commented that it was on the rare side of the medium rare he had asked for.
Onto dessert, after a slight interlude, which included all the classics such as crème brulee and tarte au pommes.
I went for the caramelized lemon tart with raspberry sorbet which was a superior example of one of Oliver’s favourite puds.
The satisfyingly crunchy top gave way to a tart, lemony filling below and the sorbet added another fruity dimension.
Across the table, the mousse au chocolat, flavoured with Grand Marnier and served with crème Chantilly was being tucked into.
Though it was a rather milky, sweet mousse rather than dense and dark, that suited the fact it was another generous portion.
We finished with an espresso and a chat with our efficient and friendly waiter, who told us they’d served a record number of covers the previous night.
It’s not hard to see why. Ilkley is the perfect market for an eaterie like this and though there’s plenty of money in the town, the good-value lunch and other deals mean it also attracts diners on a budget.
Our three-course meal, without alcohol but with nibbles and coffee, cost £36.85. The food wasn’t gourmet but was very enjoyable for the price.
For a good value French-style feed, you can’t beat Bistrot Pierre.
Address: Brook Street, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8DG
Opening times: Open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dinner Monday to Thursday from 5.30pm to 10.30pm, Friday and Saturday from 5.30pm to 11.00pm and Sunday from 6.00pm to 10.30pm.
Tel: 01943 811 255
SERVICE ........................................ ****
***** EXCELLENT **** VERY GOOD *** GOOD ** AVERAGE * POOR