I loved Cafe Pistou when it first opened, a cute restaurant with tapas-style French dishes, at the beginning of Exmouth Market. With tickets to Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man at Sadler’s Wells booked (it’s bloody brilliant by the way) I thought we’d pop in for a pre theatre dinner.
At 6pm we were one of only a few tables taken which made the lack of service – I had to go up to the bar in the middle of the dining room to get menus and then again to order – even more annoying. It got to a stage where I felt like I was actually working there.
Food on the whole was as good as I remember; the smaller dishes which are served when they’re ready were lovely little nibbles. Barbajuans (£4) were little deep fried wontons filled with goat’s cheese. The accompanying honey dip was a great contrast.
Pissaaladiére, a type of thin, crispy pizza, topped with gorgonzola, fig and sun blush tomatoes (4.75) was a really lovely blend of textures and flavours. Fougasse (£3.50), which is traditional Provincal bread, was well made and the olive oil was of great quality.
Prawns in crisp feuille de brique pastry with tomato and basil butter dip (£7) were fresh from the frier with a crisp exterior giving way to soft prawn flesh. Our favourite dish was a simple plate of burrata and tomatoes (£7.50); the quality of the ingredients shone through.
Of the larger plates, the lamb shoulder with red onions and orange zest (£13.50) was a hearty dish. A salad of goat’s cheese, fig and bayonne ham (£13) was light and summery. Sides of fries (£3.50) and dauphinoise (£3.50) hit the spot perfectly.
All that’s very good but the service kind of ruined it for me. With restaurants opening in this city at twenty to the dozen, you have to wonder if we’ll run out of good staff – and I think that has happened here. If you can’t serve an almost empty restaurant well then the future doesn’t look bright.