Victoria Moffman savours a taste of France at Bouchon, Hexham
Having studied French and lapped up the country’s charm during seasons in the Alps years ago and during numerous visits since, it’s a lovely surprise to walk into Bouchon and be taken to, well… France!
French bistro music strikes a chord the minute you step in to a warm welcome from the French owner, Greg Bureau, whose warm smile and convivial hosting style is a constant here.
When we last went for dinner, it was busy, guests dropping the odd ‘merci’ to the French waiters and the veal flying off the menu, both an illustration of the very loyal group of foodie Francophiles who follow all Greg and his team do in bringing the classic French country food of Greg’s home region of Centre-Val de Loire to the Tyne Valley.
The menu is undeniably French, a beautiful little slate with a perfect disc of unsalted French butter, sea salt and mini French rolls the first of the dishes to reach our table, followed by flavoursome seared scallops presented as a work of art might be.
Bouchon is all about French country food, hence our braised rabbit salad with crispy croutons and crunchy leaves, and a dish of tenderest sauteed veal, its pinkness evidence of a happy life, the meat complemented by buttery fresh pasta, exquisite morel mushrooms, vivid green peas and broad beans. Our sea bream, meanwhile, was happily partnered by a tomato concasse and braised Little Gem, while the duck fat chips were sublime. No-one minded when we asked for vinegar to go with the last few. Such indulgence…
Griottines (that’s boozy cherries to you and me) clafoutis and pistachio ice cream made for a hearty pairing for a blustery autumn night, while the cheese board included a pretty tete de moine presented like a frilly pencil sharpening, beautiful ashed goat’s cheese, ossau-Iraty ewes cheese from The Basque region, and another from Auvergne for a genuinely good selection of five cheeses with nutty bread.
The service was excellent – unobtrusive, professional and timely, and Bouchon is just the sort of place you want to meet a friend for a French trip down memory lane. Mind, you do need to book… the francophiles of the Tyne Valley keep this place full.
Bouchon Bistrot, Gilesgate, Hexham, NE46 3NJ, www.bouchonbistrot.co.uk