REVIEW: Bistro 1709, a French-inspired gem in the heart of Lichfield
A red letterbox stands just the left of Bistro 1709 in Lichfield. As we paid the restaurant in Lombard Street a visit, I wondered whether, at the end of our meal, if I’d feel like posting a love letter or one expressing disappointment.
The signs were certainly promising. Bistro 1709 is set down a quiet road and looks quaint from the outside while the name has an air of sophistication about it.
Bistro 1709 is a French inspired restaurant serving fresh, chef prepared dishes, owned by restaurateur John Ashmore along with chef Mark Medley.
They promise to provide a relaxed dining experience and my first impressions on entering were positive.
The lighting and a little music in the background offered a nice, chilled vibe and my partner Amy and myself were made welcome as we were shown up to the second floor to our table.
We were placed in an attractively lit room with a rustic charm to it and we were settled at our table by our warm hosts.
Having ordered some drinks, we chose our starters for the evening. We were choosing from the a la carte menu, which the restaurant offers on a Friday and Saturday evening.
Incidentally, they also have a lunch menu during the week - Tuesday to Saturday,12pm-2.30pm, which can include two courses from just £12 and three courses from £15.
On the menu for our Friday evening trip were a number of attractive options for the starter and I was tempted by the mixed mushrooms.
They were sauteed in chilli oil with thyme served in a filo basket and topped with rocket.
My partner, Amy and I, were also temped to share the baked box camembert with a rosemary and garlic crust, balsamic onions, bread sticks and charred bread.
In the end, though, I plumped for chicken liver and smoked bacon pâté, served with granary toast and apple and walnut chutney.
It proved to be a delight – light, fresh and fragrant.
You wouldn’t think toast would be something you would wax lyrical about but I couldn’t help but enthuse about the bread as I added some of the pâté.
Amy opted for the Thai style fishcake with a cucumber and mange tout salad with watercress mayonnaise.
This was delicious and light, with traditional Thai flavours like lemongrass, coriander and a hint of chilli bringing a melody of flavours to the white fish.
The salad is usually something of a garnish with these dishes but would have made a decent starter all by itself with the vegetables softened to perfection in their delicate dressing.
The watercress mayo added a peppery coolness to the dish, and my dining partner said that she wished she could eat it a second time.
For my main course, I decided I would try the char grilled rib eye steak.
I opted for mine to be cooked medium and this proved a good choice as it meant a nice combination of the char grilled outside and, for my taste, perfectly cooked, rich, deep, and juicy inside.
The steak was served with a delightful Bearnaise sauce which really added to the fantastic flavours while parmentier potatoes and sauté green beans added to the wonderful tastes and textures on the plate.
Amy opted for roast rump of lamb served on apricot, potato and chickpea tagine with saffron yoghurt dressing.
She is a huge fan of lamb, but when coupled with the Moroccan-style flavours of a tagine this dish was already a winner and did not disappoint on tasting.
The lamb itself was cooked until it practically melted in the mouth, which flawlessly brought out the meat’s naturally sweet flavours.
The balance of the tagine was also expertly executed, with the sweetness of the apricot coming through and really complimenting the meat.
Finding the chunks of potato were a real treat as they had absorbed all the flavours from the pot.
My dining partner said she honestly struggled not to gobble it down in an unseemly fashion – this was a dish that deserved being savoured (however keen you were to get your next flavour hit).
On the basis of how much we had enjoyed the starters and mains, there was no way we were going to turn our noses up at the dessert menu.
The 1709 Black Forest sundae – dark chocolate sponge soaked in cherry liqueur, black cherries, dark chocolate sauce and whipped cream – appealed but I opted for something lighter.
I decided on vanilla crème brulee with homemade shortbread biscuits.
This was a pleasant finish to my evening, the crème brulee was deliciously light but it was the buttery shortbread, with a light dusting of sugar, which really made this dish for me.
Amy opted for the dark chocolate torte with orange and whiskey compote.
It was no shock to me that my chocoholic dining partner zoned in on the dark chocolate torte for their dessert.
After her clear enjoyment of the previous courses, the excitement was building for the crescendo of the pudding.
The smooth, dense chocolate of the torte was complimented by the orange flavour, with the whiskey compote giving it a slightly sharp edge.
Not too rich but with enough chocolatey sweetness to round off the event, this course again proved a success.
Being someone with a renowned sweet tooth and for whom the dessert is the main attraction, Amy surprised me by saying this was her least favourite course because she had enjoyed the others so much; I think that reflects well on the meal as a whole.
As we left the restaurant, very content after a lovely meal in pleasant surroundings we passed that red post box again.
If I’d had a pen and paper with me, I’d have popped in my love letter to the restaurant there and then.
It had been a real treat and we’ll be definitely paying a second visit.