Café Pistou is a new all day Provençal brasserie on the old Strada site in Exmouth Market – a street which is far from short of good places to eat.
It’s a pretty and quaint restaurant; the type that makes you walk past and take a double look. The inside sees tightly packed tables against the edge of the room all gravitating round a central bar which creates a lively atmosphere.
We started with the pissaladiére (£4.50) (a puff pastry tart) topped with fig, sunblush tomatoes and gorgonzola and some ‘Barbajuans’ (£4) which were deep fried wontons filled with goats cheese served with a honey dip. Anything deep fried and cheesey is always going to get on well with me.
Burrata with basil and tomatoes (£7) was a simple dish which allowed the quality of the ingredients to do the talking – and what a lot of talking they did. The same could be said for the Pistou Baked Tomatoes (£7) which were stuffed with a really strong and delightful goat’s cheese. The salt cod croquettes (£6) were divine; a comforting fishy mashed potato encased in the crispest breadcrumb coating imaginable – proper tasty stuff.
The Provençal shepherd’s pie (£9) was slightly less successful. Perhaps it was because it was a vegetarian dish or because it bore no resemblance to a shepherds pie or the fact the diced vegetables were topped with a chewy, aggressively paprika’d pastry top. It didn’t eat particularly well to put it politely.
Getting things back on track the lamb cutlets (£18) which were chargrilled to pure perfection and the grass fed Duke of Buccleuch English rib-eye steak (£18.50) were cracking pieces of meat. The cutlets had the right balance of soft succulent flesh yet crisp and thoroughly cooked fat – something which sounds simple yet so often isn’t the case.
The spatchcocked poussin (£14) was an interesting one as it was topped with a seriously strong sweet and sour dried apricot and mint dressing which was most unusual. Once my mouth adjusted to the flavour I couldn’t get enough it.
Sides of French fries and dauphinoise potatoes (both £3.50) were both brilliant with the latter being as rich and creamy as you could possibly wish for.
The standout pud for me was the hot chocolate and caramel mousse (£5.50) which was no looker but one of the tastiest desserts I’ve eaten in a long time. The meringue with raspberries and vanilla cream (£6) was chewy, gooey and the kind of sweet treat I love to end a meal on.
It can’t be easy opening a restaurant on a street which has places like Caravan, Moro, Morito, GB Pizza Co and Blackfoot just a few doors down but Cafe Pistou seems to be up there with the best of ‘em. On a damp and miserable Thursday evening a touch of Provence is just what I needed.
I dined as a guest of the restaurant