Go and book your table at Littlefrench now. Look, here’s the link- I’ll make it easy for you.
Book here or call 01179706276
You can always come back to this later. I’ll try to make it worth your while. But really- book. Now.
All done? Lovely. Let’s continue.
I left Littlefrench frustrated. Not because it didn’t come up to scratch- it’s a gem- but because there’s a very real fear of missing out on so much of this menu, particularly as it seems as if they’ve just transcribed the muttered ramblings of my fever dreams.
It’d be a sad day when I could make some flip decision between a roasted scallop and some milk fed Pyrenean lamb chops, or between oysters and crab salad with lemon mayonnaise, or seared pigeon breast. Some- most- restaurants struggle to put that much temptation in front of you in one sitting. That’s a hard enough list to choose from.
And those were just the starters.
Mains? I had to say no to bouillabaisse, to onglet in red wine; and that’s without reckoning with their sharing dishes- a cote de boeuf with béarnaise, guinea fowl with aioli or a whole turbot.
Let’s leave aside for a moment my poor track record with resisting temptation. This is a menu guaranteed to excite and satisfy, to hook you in to repeat visits. If you are immune to this promise, seek help.
Freddy Bird (I don’t know what they put in the water round here, but he went to school with Bar 44’s Owen Morgan) brought what he learned in London at The Square and Moro and built a devoted following with The Lido, just a few miles from here. It was yet another of those Bristol restaurants which dazzles reviewers and seduces locals, and he has done the same here. Littlefrench specialises in big gutsy favourites, as emblematically French as Serge Gainsboroug and his Gitanes on the toilet door.
The fascia is gold on dark green, banquettes a deep blue, subtle good taste. A shaded courtyard, a twinkle of lights, cosy and inviting, all within sight of parkland. It looks like the kind of place where good things happen.
My well-spaced table is alone atop some little steps. ‘You can pretend it’s a throne,’ jokes my waiter. ‘Mind you,’ he warns, ‘we are next door to a church so you might have to deliver a sermon at some point…’
(Later I notice a Bible propped up by the door. If it’s another warning to mend the error of my ways it’ll have to wait until after lunch. The trouble with the straight and the narrow? It lacks good roadside restaurants.)
A reassuringly bitter couple of negronis for that early afternoon buzz, and I get to work on an oyster,punchily fresh and plump, with a classic mignonette dressing.
Lamb chops are delicately trimmed, set against a robust sinus-clearing mustard and plenty of it, the flesh smoky and pink, with slim bones to gnaw at, the jewel that is the kidney tender and free of farmyard taint.
Queen scallops next. Tomayto, tomahto: on a Spanish menu you’d call these zamburiñas, here drenched in a slightly sharp Sauternes garlic butter, dotted with shallots; five of those gems with roes intact, these little things sweeter and more intensely flavoured than their larger cousins and needing only brittle-crusted sourdough to dredge through the juices.
Confit duck (how could this not be on the menu here?) is exemplary. The flesh is achingly tender, just easing from the bone, a side of frites crisp and just salty enough, burnished gold and rustling.
The whole thing is dressed with a lick of cassis. Green beans are served in the way all vegetables are at their best: fresh, firm and slicked with animal fats.
Figs have been cooked into jammy sweetness, until they lie slumped over the duck skin. Simple things in isolation, maybe- but oh so much more than the sum of its parts, and worth the trip alone. A glorious plate of food.
Even when moated with cream, the chocolate mousse somehow manages to feel too cloudlike, too airy, to be an indulgence. It’s served at room temperature, all the better to appreciate the bittersweet chocolate. Silky and dark, it’s soft, voluptuous: it’s ivory silk on caramel skin. Wonderful.
I’ve had salads that felt more self-indulgent than this. Clearly not that many from the shambolic state of me, but you get the idea.
This isn’t the kind of place you make some vague resolution to amble along to ‘next time we are in the area’. It’s a place you plan your day, your weekend around. You get on a train for this stuff, because coming here and not leaving in a glow (in part due to the wine list) would be a waste.
Look, I know I’m babbling, in full-on love letter mode, but this was easily one of my meals of the year. It would be easy to preach that sermon my waiter mentioned after all: this is somewhere which will feed you with unshowy brilliance. I’m already looking forward to my next couple of visits. It would be a shame to deny yourself an experience as life-affirming, as seductive, as Littlefrench.
Monday – Friday 12pm – 10pm
Saturday 9am – 10pm
Sunday9am – 4pm
2B North View
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.