The menu could disappoint those expecting things to be, well, 'French'. There are none of the things that you would order as a joke, no frogs' legs, escargots or andouillette that are fine when you're in France but on the rare occasion you do find somewhere brave enough to put them on a menu for squeamish rosbifs they're inevitably frozen or tinned and dropped, half-arsed, on a plate like the culinary freak show that they are in Britain. What there is instead is a lot of things that appeal to the appetite; buzzwords like 'smoked garlic sausage' make up dishes that are an assortment of French components rather than straight-up copies, like brioche and mushrooms with crispy Alsace bacon or Burgundian honey pudding with double ginger ice cream. This all seems fine though, because you're in a newly gentrified Georgian listed building instead of a gilded but scruffy yellow-lit dining room sat next to Hemingway. The lights are what look like railway sleepers and there are semicircular booths, perfect for the couples that you just know the place targets, out for a special occasion.
But it is the food that matters. A fantastic pâté de campagne was rammed full of thyme and pistachios, with warm baguette slices and cornichons to cut the fattiness - it was just a shame I had only the one slice to go for. A not very French honey-glazed chorizo spat orange fat at you as you bit it and chasing the juice in the bottom of the dish with a shard of baguette crust was well worth it. I'm happy to excuse a long wait as we were a group of 9 and a risotto will never be ready as quickly as a pâté, a waitress did come to apologise and let us know how long we'd be waiting (which was right, down to the minute) and they were busy on a Monday lunch. My braised beef with brandy and green peppercorns was what I'd expect from somewhere charging £12.95 for three courses - the beef was a bit dry and stringy, and not the melting and oozy mass I was expecting. The sauce, however, balanced creamy and sweet with umami notes and the pommes frites were fantastic: crisp on the outside and somehow fluffy in the middle, but served in a fake brass pot with a greaseproof paper collar. I need to pour them into the plate, the restaurant has to pay for the pots and throw out the collars that can't be recycled and they're almost certainly a pain for the front of house staff. I just don't see the upside.
Having ordered before one, it was nearing three by the time our order for desserts and coffees was taken. My chocolate mouse was heavier and grainier than I expected, but the crisp meringue sweetened everything and a vanilla chantilly lightened the texture just enough. Burgundian honey cake was dense, sweet and sticky but the real high point was the immense ginger ice cream: the palest ivory and perfectly smooth but charged with a serious hit of ginger to counter the sweet pudding - for once I got dessert envy. The classic crème brûlée changes flavour every day, and is served in a wider and shallower dish than the ramekin it more usually comes in. This is actually a brilliant idea - the ratio of all-important caramel shards on top to custard is vastly improved. There's no more hunting down bits of caramel to sweeten the rest of the dish and you get to crack the top more.
So, Le Bistrot Pierre isn't a reproduction of a French style bistrot and tweaks old stalwart dishes to suit. When a lunch is £12.95 for 3 courses, a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet is £17.50 and the bar does nice looking cocktails and uses enamelled metal signs as tables, there isn't much to complain about. Yes, the service was slow but we were a table of 9, and yes, a couple of dishes were a bit hit and miss, but there was nothing really wrong with the place. I probably wouldn't go in the evenings for regular service, but check their website for details of good looking and well priced multi-course themed evenings. It's well worth a visit for lunch and you can sit outside to watch the Yard do its thing. With offerings like Seco Lounge and Las Iguanas close by, Le Bistrot Pierre is a worthy addition to the Yard and holds its own against other restaurants. Go and book yourself a lunch, frivolously, and ask a friend. You'll have a good time.