Traditionally a bistro serves simple French food, but a restaurateur could use the philosophy of a bistro to serve a menu of rustic, British dishes.
The word bistro is believed to come from the Russian word meaning quick, so a meal ordered in a bistro is one that should be served swiftly.
What to serve
Rustic, hearty dishes are key. In winter, this means soups and stews that have been slowly cooking for several hours and can be served straight from the cooking pot, or a quickly grilled piece of meat or fish; while in the summer, large salads that can be assembled at the last minute and tossed with a dressing are ideal.
Simplicity is important too, so plates of charcuterie or cheese with rustic bread, or a selection of fresh vegetables crudites and hard-boiled eggs accompanied by a dip of garlic mayonnaise would be acceptable menu items.
Regional dishes feature heavily in French bistros with the likes of chicken à la bourguignon (chicken cooked in red wine with bacon and mushrooms) from
British regional dishes suitable for a bistro include
Desserts should be straightforward and include a variety of tarts (apple, plum, lemon), ice creams and sorbets, while a British bistro could include traditional hot puddings in winter such as date and ginger pudding and the likes of Eton Mess in summer.
· Onion soup topped with cheese croutons
· Pea and ham soup
· Salad niçoise
· Salad of roast beetroot and goat’s cheese
· Steamed mussels with white wine sauce
· Chicken liver salad with redcurrant dressing
· Poached eggs Florentine
· Venison terrine with an apple chutney, red pepper and brie tart
Main course suggestions:
· Grilled lemon sole with tartare sauce
· Matelote (fish stew in red or white wine)
· Smoked haddock fish cakes
· Confit de canard
· Coq au vin
· Calf’s liver à la lyonnaise,
· Pot-au-feu braised oxtail with herb dumplings
· Ox tongue with gherkin sauce, wild and fresh mushroom fricassée
· Crème brûlée
· Crème caramel
· Tarte tatin
· Lemon meringue pie
· Almond and amaretto cheesecake
· Bakewell tart with custard
· Apple and cinnamon crumble
· Sticky toffee pudding and butterscotch sauce
· Vanilla rice pudding with poached Bramley apple
· Gooseberry fool
The dramatic improvement in pub food in recent years has occurred at every level. From gastro pubs, serving food akin to the best restaurants around, down to the simple boozer offering little more than a ploughman’s, the care and consideration being given to the quality of the food on the plate is paramount.
The relaxed atmosphere of pubs is best suited to simple foods, although many pubs operate separate dining rooms than can allow for more complicated food and service.
Top-notch ingredients are coming to the fore, with freshness and seasonality now a major priority. It would be ideal if the supplies can be sourced locally too, with meat from nearby farms, game from local estates, fish from the nearest coastline and vegetables from local growers.
A feature should be made of regional ingredients, whether it is a platter of local cheeses such as
Pubs are reacting to customers’ demands to eat freshly prepared dishes, rather than commercially produced ones that are standard across an entire chain.
One-plate dishes are ideally suited to pubs, such as a sausage casserole or a black pudding and bacon salad with a poached egg.
While some pubs flirt with international flavours, the quintessential British pub is probably best suited to indigenous flavours and dishes, such as crispy pork belly with Bramley apple sauce.
Pub menu dishes
· Roast tomato and fennel soup
· Butternut squash and chorizo soup
· Smoked haddock chowder
· Potted shrimps
· Half pint of prawns with mayonnaise
· Crab and grapefruit salad
· Sautéed herring roes on toasted brioche
· Terrine of ham hock with spiced pineapple chutney
· Chicken liver parfait with date and apple chutney
· Black pudding and red onion tart
· Cod fillet with a
· Beer-battered plaice and chips
· Slow-cooked lamb shank with mint and saffron sauce
· Roast suckling pig with mustard mash
· Pork and Stilton sausage with parsnip and honey mash
· Rib-eye steak with garlic tarragon butter and chips
· Steak and Guinness pie
· Gressingham duck breast with apple and potato rosti
· Smoked bacon macaroni cheese
· Sweet potato and mushroom chilli with herby yoghurt
· Bitter chocolate mousse
· Lemon posset
· Rhubarb and ginger syllabub
· Hot apple tart with a Calvados sauce
· Pear and frangipane tart
· Chilled lemon tart
· Walnut and treacle tart with clotted cream
· Brioche bread and butter pudding
· Fig and almond cake