Wednesday 20 August 2014

Le Bistrot, Pujada de Sant Domènec, Girona, Catalonia

An old-school restaurant in the heart of Girona, Le Bistrot seems almost unmarred by the tourists flowing through this atmospheric city. It serves traditional Catalan food to tables in a timeless dining room and laid out on a terrace at the foot of ancient stone steps leading up to the city's venerable university. Le Bistrot fills up quickly on an August weekday lunchtime and the tables outside are hard to get. If you end up in the sprawling dining room indoors, try and secure a table next to one of the tall handsome windows overlooking the verdant pot plants on the balcony. The three-course lunch menu, including a drink and decent bread, for 15 euros is great value. To start, you can have a big plate of mussels. Although a few of the black shells may be closed, most contain fresh, juicy morsels.  The selection of starters also includes a plate of roasted vegetables (tomato, onion and artichoke), decent salads and good macaroni.

Most of the main courses on the menu are meat-based Catalan dishes, but there is salmon option. The pork cheeks, cooked in beer and served with large sweet carrots and fine chick peas, is very generous and very good. The veal stew, with mushrooms, green beans and carrots, is rich, full of flavour and well seasoned. The pork, with manchego cheese, rice and asparagus, looks a little dry, but gets good reviews. The deserts are also substantial. The chocolate mousse has a deep, cocoa kick, while the strawberries and cream is large and alluring. The coffee-flavoured egg custard also hits the spot, but comes with too much shaving foam-style cream. Be warned the cheese cake isn't the kind of rich creamy dish you would get in the U.K. or the U.S - it's more of a flan. The health-conscious might prefer one of the several fruit options.

To drink, the velvety house red wine is very good, while the pilsner-style beer is also a notch above the standard fare. And you can get bottles of premium fizzy or still water included in the menu.  The waiting staff take the time to explain the dishes to diners and there is no attempt to hurry you out of the door, despite the evident demand for tables.  Le Bistrot is well worth seeking out. 8/10