After seeing this eatery raved about on TripAdvisor (at time of writing it’s the number 2 restaurant in Montpellier), I knew I just had to try and get a table at this little gem, which is run entirely by the owner, whose name I’ve since found out is Nicolas.
When I arrived at Le Petit Bistrot, I was delighted to see a few free tables outside, but when I asked the owner informed me that he was fully booked for the whole night – sacré bleu! He then mentioned that there was one, very small table right next to the kitchen inside but warned me it would get really warm and stuffy as he was cooking. But I would not be deterred and was dead-set on eating here – especially if it meant I got to see all the dishes going out.
So I was seated at my little table and the first thing that struck me was how absolutely tiny the whole place was. Le Petit Bistrot seats, at full capacity, about 12 people at a time and the kitchen is equally petit. Behind the mirror in the picture below I think there are a few hobs and a microwave, so we’re talking about a cooking space smaller than most domestic kitchens. And when I said the owner ran everything, I meant it. It was amazing to see him juggling pouring drinks, cooking, washing up, serving food and dealing with bill payments in such an unfazed manner – it’s understandable that he shuts the bistro at the weekend because he must be knackered!
Nicolas really took the time to explain to me (and every other customer) exactly how he made each dish on offer. There are three main courses to choose from and, if you like the sound of all of them, you can have a Gormound Bistro – which is a platter comprised of smaller portions of the three options. It won’t surprise you at all that this is what I opted for. My main course briefly consisted of:
- Duck, fried with duck fat and slowly cooked, sandwiched between two layers of fluffy, creamy mashed potato.
- Pan-fried chicken, served with a little glass of ratatouille topped with goat’s cream cheese – which can be served hot or cold (he recommended cold, so that’s what I did).
- Lentils, which are fried in duck fat, shallots and lardons – topped with two scallops.
All of this was served with a basket of bread, and a medium bodied red wine (he wanted to find out exactly what sort of red wine I liked and based what he served me on that). Where do I begin? The duck and mashed potato was like the best Shepard’s Pie you’ve ever had, creamy and rich with the flavour of the duck enhanced by the fat used in the cooking process. The chicken breast was moist and delicious, especially with a sprinkle of the stuff pictured below, which is a mild chilli powder mixed with other spices (another recommendation from the owner). The cold ratatouille was absolutely divine on bread and the richness of the goat’s cream cheese was cut through by the acidity of the tomatoes and veg. My favourite element of the whole plate was the lentils and scallops – firstly, because the scallops were cooked perfectly and secondly was because I have never tasted more delicious lentils in my life. Combined they went perfectly together and on bread the lentils were fantastic on their own.
After tasting how good all three dishes of the main course were, I knew I had to have dessert. And at just 6 euros for the Gourmond Dessert I figured it was good value for money too. On my dessert platter were three French classics: Chocolate Fondue, Creme Brûlée and a white peach crumble.
All were executed to perfection, especially the oozing chocolate fondue. Was also lovely seeing my Creme Brûlée torched in front of my own eyes, which formed a hard top that nicely cracked when attacked with a spoon. The creamy goodness underneath was heavenly and strong with vanilla. Also served with this was an espresso – my first one ever (if you exclude the odd – well, quite frequent – espresso martini). I’ve always assumed I wouldn’t like it but, in fact, with a teaspoon of sugar it’s a very nice way to round off a meal!
All in all I had a fantastic night at the Le Petit Bistrot – with the added benefit of being able to chat to the chef all evening. He gave me loads of tips about cooking and made time to chat to me despite the fact he was clearly run off his feet! If I ever find myself in Montpellier again, I’ll be sure to ring ahead and book a table at this lovely little eatery. – especially as in the 2 hours I was there the owner turned away about 6 groups of people.
Le Petit Bistrot offers amazing value for money and an intimate setting to enjoy tasty, home-cooked food – elevated to a higher level by classy presentation and amazing ingredients. If you’re visiting Montpellier, you simply must spend an evening in this delightful little eatery.
My Montpellier adventure didn’t stop there – I also had a wonderful meal in a slightly larger restaurant in the Old Town, a wine bar in the north of the Old Town and enjoyed loads of the historic sights! For more stuff like this follow me on Facebook!