Whenever anyone asks me about my favourite restaurant, I try not to look too horrified. How can I name just the one? It’s like asking a parent to choose their favourite child. One of the restaurants however, to make my top ten is Le Bistrot Pierre on Friargate, Derby.
I have been there before (check out my original review). It’s a magical place to be, in all its twinkly lights and beautiful ruby red décor glory. I am also booked into the restaurant for Christmas dinner, which I’m really looking forward to (as is the rest of the Derby BookCake Club) in a few months’ time. I might in fact squeeze in a review of Christmas dinner at Le Bistrot Pierre, so watch this space.
When I’ve bonded with a beloved restaurant, I often find myself wondering about its history. How was it when it first opened? What are the owners like? I was lucky to catch up with the brains behind the lean mean machine that is Le Bistrot Pierre, co-founders Rob Beacham and John Whitehead. This is what they had to say about Le Bistrot Pierre’s origins, their passion for food and Christmas dining.
How did the idea of Le Bistrot Pierre come about?
Rob: John, my school friend and business partner, and I bought a franchise of Pierre Victoire, as it was then known, in 1994 in Milton Street, Nottingham and, after two successful years, we decided to take on the Derby franchise as well.
John: The Pierre Victoire franchise model ceased a few years later but our restaurants were doing really well so we negotiated to keep them – becoming an independent bistrot group in 1998 and rebranding as Le Bistrot Pierre in 2005. Since then, the group has gone from strength to strength and, with 17 locations across the UK. we couldn’t be happier with the success and loyal following we’ve built.
You seem to have a natural love for all things French. How long did it take for you to come up with a menu that deliciously incorporates English and French influences?
Rob: Yes, we love all things French and have a real passion for France and its culture. I started working at Pierre Victoire as a waiter in the early 1990s whilst studying in Edinburgh. Eating at the restaurant is where my love of French food began, and so followed a two decade relationship with the country’s food and culture.
John: We update our menus regularly and travel to France as a business on a regular basis to gain inspiration and influence our menu dishes. From concept to implementation it can take a couple of months – while we refine the recipe and adapt it to fit our offering; it’s a fascinating and exciting job.
Have you always loved food?
Rob: I love food, of course and working as a waiter really helped me get a grounding in what it means to prepare, cook and deliver a great tasting meal.
John: I’m passionate about food and always have been; visiting France only helps solidify the affinity we have to the country and the regional tastes we discover.
How do you feel when you walk into a Le Bistrot Pierre restaurant?
Rob: Each bistrot is decorated to reflect its location – each and every one is unique. When we walk into a Bistrot Pierre restaurant there’s a real sense of pride and we’re delighted that we’ve managed to maintain a family feel across the group during our expansion.
John: I think that’s really important for us to know that each bistrot has its own independent identity but is part of a group which we’re very proud of. It’s always nice to walk into a bustling Bistrot Pierre restaurant, there’s always a buzz about the place – especially in Derby where we’re delighted to be celebrating 20 years.
How do you want a diner to feel when they walk into a Le Bistrot Pierre restaurant?
Rob: Due to being well established, particularly in the East Midlands, we are privileged to have a very loyal following of diners – some of whom have dined with us on our opening nights more than 20 years ago and still regularly visit today. These are the customers who have made our business so successful. The experience these diners have had is what we want to emulate for years to come, continuing to maintain high standards and excellent quality food.
John: We want diners to feel welcome and relaxed, giving them the option to enjoy great quality food prepared by professional and experienced chefs. Our Menu Enfant has helped expand our offering and we’re very pleased to see more and more families dining with us.
What can Le Bistrot Pierre fans expect from the brand in the next year?
Rob: We are expanding across the UK, thanks to our recent £9.8 million investment from Livingbridge, so our customers can expect to see Bistrot Pierre in more locations.
John: We will continue to design creative menus to suit the seasons, diners and locations we serve. Menu Enfant has done incredibly well since it launched in October 2015 so we look forward to welcoming more families and providing more children with healthy, delicious and – particularly relevant to parents – well-priced meals.
The Derby restaurant opened for the first time on Christmas Day last year. What brought this change about? (I think it’s a great idea for families to meet in a stunning setting and enjoy being spoiled, instead of slaving over a hot stove!)
Rob: We noticed that more and more restaurants were opening on 25 December and, in order to meet our own demand, we decided to offer diners what they wanted – and we certainly made the right decision.
John: The bistrot was packed – we were fully booked well in advance and it was a fantastic atmosphere. We’re looking forward to doing it again this year.
Your Tartes Flambées is very special indeed. (I originally wrote about it here). Name one of your favourite dishes or drinks off the Bistrot menu.
Rob: My favourite dish would have to be the hearty boeuf bourguignon and the zesty and fresh tarte au citron all washed down with a glass of Corbières Château de Vieux Parc from the Languedoc Roussillon region.
John: My favourite dish is the sole meunière – whole lemon sole with baby capers and parsley butter with a glass of Chablis.
Have you dined at Le Bistrot Pierre? What did you think of it? If you haven’t been and live in Derby, check out the gorgeous Friargate restaurant. For more information about Le Bistrot Pierre, or to check out their new menu (it was launched just today), hop onto their website now.