I am fully aware that I can be quite down on the food scene in Preston, but so often I am left disappointed. Take for example the Preston Food Festival that I recently visited, Samlesbury Hall and their poor quality Afternoon tea, every visit I have to The Ferret and the less said about Turtle Bay the better. Of course, that’s not always the case, as I have had the pleasure of having some great food in this city, curry goat at Coco’s, the simplicity of Slice of Sicily, and quality pintxos and tapas at Duk Bodega.
The following blog post was the result of disappointment, but does it end that way? You’ll have to read on to find out!
A few days ago my dad and I decided to go out for food the following evening, and I suggested the new tapas restaurant in the Guild Hall, Mundo Tapas. I’m quite excited about the development of the Guild Hall, after being bought by local entrepreneur, Simon Rigby. Not only is there a push on having more theatrical events (Avenue Q is coming!!) but since taking it over recently, a coffee shop has opened there, and a tapas restaurant. There are plans for another The Villa to open in the Guild Hall, too. I may not have been massively impressed with The Villa, but compared to the other city centre Italian restaurants, it’d be an improvement.
We arrived and were shown to the table we had pre-booked to be greeted by a laserjet printed menu of about 10 options on the table. We decided to book on the strength of the 6 dishes and a bottle of wine for £20 offer (I wasn’t expecting much on the wine front at that price, but I don’t care for wine with food any way and would have ordered a beer to have instead.) The only problem was, there was no mention of this being from a restricted menu on the website, so we questioned if that was the case, and it turned out they weren’t doing that offer as it was graduation week. It would have been a great idea if they mentioned that this offer wasn’t available between a specific set of dates, not being a student or having any friends graduating I wasn’t aware that it was graduation ceremonies week!
To be fair to the staff at Mundo Tapas, they offered to do the same deal from the restricted menu, sadly this menu didn’t have the gambas pil pil and manchego and chorizo croquettas that I had my heart set on. With this in mind we politely declined this, and set off to find somewhere else. It was then I suggested we try this new French bistro that recently opened in Preston.
Les Rost Boeuf is a “rustique French bistro” which now occupies the space previously occupied by Duk Bodega, which my girlfriend described as a “tasty basement”, so it was interesting to find out if it could keep that title! The only way to find out was to descend the stairs and make our way into the restaurant.
I feel it worth noting that as I descended, I could smell garlic and butter, which is surely a great sign for a French restaurant!
Inside very little has changed since it’s Duk Bodega days, not that it needed to. It was always a charming sub-terra, cosy little space. There is something about this restaurant that feels like I’m not in England, let alone not in Preston!
Les Rost Boeuf is the work of Craig Bottomley, who is our brilliant host for the evening. Craig spent a few years living in France where he fell in love with the local cuisine and has returned to open a French bistro! Craig is clearly passionate about French cuisine and enthuses about how ingredients are locally sourced, and specialist ingredients are imported from France.
Whilst we wait for our starters, Craig brings over some complimentary olives. I struggle with olives, sometimes I hate them, sometimes I don’t mind them. These ones, I actually liked and could happily nibble on a bowl of these.
Craig also sells French beers, so it was great to try a beer I’ve never had before. It was hoppy, but slightly malty, with the sourness that I would associate with a lambic beer. Perfect and thirst quenching.
We also shared some homemade bread, the wholemeal bread was particularly excellent.
My dad’s starter was the Paté Maison, a smooth bacon and chicken liver paté, with caramelised red onions and crumbled candied walnuts scattered over the top.
For my starter I struggled to choose between escargot or frog’s legs, I decided to go for the Frog’s Legs as I knew I like these, and had never had them in a classic French style. These legs were swimming in garlic butter. It was glorious, they were just cooked, perfection. I started trying to eat them with my knife and fork, I don’t know why Britishness suddenly came over me, thankfully Craig brought me to my senses and said “just use your fingers, it’s easier”
I’ve never used cutlery to eat frogs legs before, I’m not quite sure why I started then. A little suggestion would be to bring the frogs legs over with a finger bowl, this will be a silent prompt to suggest people eat with their fingers, and also it does get a bit messy so that would help avoid having to nip to the loos to wash my hands afterwards.
For mains my dad went for the Navarin of Lamb, which also came with a potato croquette (not pictured because I only took one, and it was a dreadful photo!) A classic French braise of lamb shoulder with veg.
Some simple veg accompanied the main courses.
I opted for the Poulet, a supreme of corn fed chicken, on a bed of lentils with carrots and pearl onions. The skin on this chicken was super crispy and golden brown, just how I like it. One improvement to this would have been a jus to accompany it, just to bring everything together.
My side dish was a very rustic potato dauphinous, and when I say it was very rustic I can’t stress enough that it’s not a bad thing. These potatoes were delicious, and even when I decided not to eat any more so I had room for pudding, I kept munching until Craig came to clear our plates away.
My dad’s pud was the super classic Tarte Tartin, caramelised apples with puff pastry cooked in a pan and then turned out. My dad said it tasted of toffee apples, which is how I suppose this should taste. I thought it could do with a darker caramel colour, however.
If it had been available, I would have gone fo the Creme Brulee for my dessert, sadly a busy spell earlier in the day had cleared them out of these, so I chose the Tarte de Citron. A tiny niggle was that the pastry was a touch burnt in one area, but it’s worth bearing in mind that this is a rustic bistro. The flavour was, however, excellent, and it was a lovely light way to finish off the meal. Another minor negative was the ice cream that came with the desserts. It was a bit icy, I think it had molten and refrozen and therefore formed large ice crystals. I would recommend a simple Chantilly cream, whipped cream sweetened with sugar and flavoured with vanilla, the simple things are so often the best things.
After desserts were cleared away Craig asked if we wanted to go for a cheeseboard, unfortunately we were absolutely stuffed and running out of time on the car’s pay and display ticket, but I am definitely planning on a return visit just to finally try the escargot and sample the cheeseboard (and I’m going to be trying all 8 of the cheeses!)
It’s quite sad that the restaurant was empty when we were there, and I hope to see it do well as Craig really does have passion for this food, but sometimes people tend not to go to the small independent restaurants and instead visit places like Nandos, where for the same prices you pay at Les Rost Boeuf you have to go to the tills to place your order, get your cutlery and drinks yourself, and possibly even get your pudding yourself! It’d be great to see more people get out of their rut when it comes to eating out, and thankfully Les Rost Boeuf is another Preston eatery I can recommend!