Sunday, 4 September 2011
Bistro Pierre vs Bistro Franc, Liverpool
A taste of France in Liverpool, but who is the best?
Does anyone remember the defunct Pierre Victoire chain from the 1990s? When that went bust, the gap for a French bistro in Liverpool was seized and Bistro Pierre was born, offering fine food at an affordable price. Frogs Legs and Escargots turn your stomach? Fear not, as Bistro Pierre is very accommodating and has lots of Mediterranean-influenced dishes for traditionalists and veggies. Bistro Pierre has since expanded and now has Bistros Franc and Jacques in its portfolio. All restaurants offer a lunch deal at approx £8.I visited both Pierre and Franc in the space of a month- here is my critique.
Staff, decor and ambience:
Pierre is located around the corner from Beatles heaven Mathew St and is slap bang on the tourist trail. Situated upstairs in an old warehouse building, it seems authentically French inside with some kitsch posters and wall murals thrown in for good measure. Both have a 'teach yourself French' tape playing in the toilets- original idea! Franc has the same kitsch posters and rustic interior, but is high-ceilinged with a balcony-style second floor, looking down on the main eating area. Minus points go to Franc's toilets though- considering this restaurant only opened two years ago, the toilets already look worn, dirty and broken. Merde. On the whole, I found the staff in Franc somewhat friendlier than Pierre's on the days I visited. As we entered Pierre, the lady serving me offered us a cramped table for two which was on the small side, sandwiched between the elbows of other diners, despite the restaurant being three quarters empty. The customer is always right and has power to take himself elsewhere, so I demanded a bigger table ('more than my job's worth') else I leave. After Miss Jobsworth consulted with her manager, I finally got my much needed bigger table.
Both bistros offer a 3 course lunch which changes weekly. This can be a good thing as familiarity breeds comtempt, yet it can also be bad as sometimes the only veggie dish on offer can be the much dreaded mushroom risotto. What is it with restaurants thinking all veggies like mushroom risotto? It must be one of the most bland, uninspiring dishes ever! Pierre's portions were definitely bigger than Franc's,in fact Franc's offerings were paltry. Both times, I ordered a starter whose name has surpassed me but the main ingredient was warm blue cheese- delicious. In Pierre, my main was a bountiful vegetable and cheese bake filled to the brim, with an eclectic selection of side vegetables like red cabbage, carrots, broccoli and potatoes. Heavenly. Franc's main course disappointed me, it was a mushroom stroganoff which was basically mushrooms with a type of gravy poured over, displaying a lack of presentation and to put it Franc-ly, a lack of substance. This wasn't a meal! This was like something I would imagine those purveyors of chav cuisine Wetherspoon's to serve up. Never mind, there was always dessert... Pierre won this round again, offering me a sumptuous rum and raisin cake, so big I nearly asked for a doggy bag. Franc's chocolate cake was measly, however they did raise a chuckle from me as they had written 'blueberry waffle' on the specials board, prompting various 'blue waffle' related jokes. (If you don't know what blue waffle is, please do not ask. This is a food blog after all).
Despite the initial impression of the jobsworthy staff, Pierre is the winner of the Bistro Battle. The other staff were really pleasant in there, and it just goes to show that this old dog doesn't need to be taught new tricks. On the other hand, this bistro should not grow into a nasty chain, as its good reputation will be diluted thanks to Franc and its broken bogs. Bon appetite!