[Hexham, Northumberland] Bouchon Bistro

There’s a nice vibe to the Bouchon. You could almost imagine yourself in a small French town - with French music on the playlist, art nouveau posters on the wall and the attentive Gallic service.

OK, so the menu isn’t what you’d find in a bistro in small town France, but it’s probably everything you expect from a French bistro in small town England. There’s a number of classic French dishes, and others which could have appeared on any British bistro menu but here gussied up with some French words in the description. Or a description mainly in French with an occasional word in English thrown in as, for example “plateau de fromages with pain de noix”. They do a very well priced and well constructed midweek fixed price menu but we went straight for the carte.

Comte is a lovely melty cheese so no surprise that it appears in an excellent twice baked soufflé, surrounded by more cheese in the sauce. And chicken liver parfait is never going to be other than a rich and indulgent way of starting dinner. It’s served with a mini baguette, cornichons and onion compote

Confit duck leg followed the rich and indulgent theme. Very flavoursome with the meat falling off the bone, literally at the touch of a fork. There’s dauphinoise potatoes, green beans wrapped in a rasher of bacon and a red wine sauce that brought the plate together. Stone bass was more a pan-European affair than traditionally French. It had been pan fried so the skin was crispy and the flesh still moist. Saute spuds provided the carb and there’s a scattering of chickpeas, samphire for crunch and a drizzle of pesto. It’s all very enjoyable, although the pesto could have stood more basil to give it some oomph.

As often the case, desserts were not as good as the savoury dishes. Profiteroles had been split and filled with ice cream (not an improvement on the traditional whipped cream) and were served with a jug of chocolate sauce. They were fine but nothing to shout from the rooftops over. Which was a pity, as customers were invited to have their desserts on the roof terrace. We’d declined – a climb of two flights had been vetoed by our elderly knees. . The other dessert was a tarte tatin. . The classic preparation sees caramel in the base of the pan, followed by apples, with the pastry tucked in over the top. It’s then baked and inverted “right side up” onto a plate. Here, they serve it in the pan it’s been cooked in, so it’s always “right side up”. Which means the pastry is at the bottom of the pan and doesn’t get crispy. Tasted delicious in spite of this.

So, it was a pleasant enough evening. If we were locals, I’m sure we’d be regulars.