Hexham's Bouchon Bistrot has brought a taste of French country cooking to the north of England with a straight forward, un-stuffy approach. This stone built, characterful restaurant offers a simple set-price business lunch menu with the addition of classic French country dishes on an evening.
Situated on Gilesgate in Hexham, Greg, its French-born proprietor as well as head chef Nicolas Kleist, both hail from the Loire Valley, and serve straightforward country style French cuisine based on their expertise from working in Michelin starred restaurants throughout France. With their wealth of experience, when it comes to traditional French country cooking, they are totally in their element.
In fact, established in 2007, Bouchon was one of the original French restaurants to open in the North East, making Greg and Nicolas pioneers in a region which has only recently started to fully embrace the cuisine. This expertise has been formally recognised with the restaurant appearing in both the Michelin and The Good Food Guide which is certainly no mean feat. It also won Best Local French Restaurant in the UK on Gordon Ramsay’s F Word programme – but in this case, the “F” definitely stands for “French”. Continental cuisine and especially the French variety, can intimidate some people but what you’ll find on the menu here is straightforward and instantly recognisable. These simple lunchtime offerings rub shoulders with more classic a la carte French dishes, the details of which our knowledgeable and friendly waiter quietly explained without fuss or embarrassment.
Following a fantastic business week for the magazine, I took a new contact with me as he is a committed Francophile and very knowledgeable about French cooking so I knew I would get an honest opinion from him. To start we chose the crab mayonnaise mousse drizzled with a Citrus fruit vinaigrette which was a superb way to begin. My guest meanwhile opted for the Assiette of Charcuterie, comprising Bayonne Ham, Rillettes & Saucisson. A typically rustic dish, this was lapped up with true French panache with homemade bread and a very good bordeaux.
In fact, established in 2007, Bouchon was one of the original French restaurants to open in the North East, making Greg and Nicolas pioneers in a region which has only recently started to fully embrace the cuisine.Michael Grahamslaw, Northern Insight Magazine
For mains I chose the seared stone bass with saffron potatoes and chorizo, luxuriated in a rich cockle cream whilst my guest chose the lamb rump with garlic pommes croquettes and wild mushrooms. Très bien!
After a suitable digestive break, we thought it would be churlish not to try a pud and rounded a superb meal off with plateau de fromages as well as the more adventurous prune & Armagnac clafoutis with walnut ice cream.
For such excellent food, prices are very reasonable with starters around the £6-£8 mark, most mains £13-£16 and desserts £4-£6 but at lunchtime between 12 noon and 2pm, there is a choice of a two course menu at £15.95 and a three course menu for just £1 more. Wine prices too are very reasonable with house wines from £16.95 a bottle and half litre carafes also available from just £11.70.
With each dish prepared and cooked in a simple fashion, Bouchon Bistrot is the ideal place to enjoy an excellent business lunch or an informal, laidback and family-friendly dining on an evening. This unassuming French restaurant ticked all the boxes especially for my dining companion, who said he would never have found such a great place without my invite. Some places are just worth the effort to travel to, even on a busy work-day lunchtime and this is one of them. Job well done, I think!
Hexham’s entente cordial with French cooking continues.