Despite the fact that we have lived in Somerset for over a year now, I am still not completely familiar with the surrounding areas and what they have to offer. We have tended to find one or two places we liked and then stick to what we know.
With it being Ross’ birthday weekend, I wanted to treat him to a meal and I wanted to find somewhere special but different to the restaurants we had already tried. When Tristan’s Bistro in Taunton started following me on Twitter, I decided to give them a try.
We arrived on Saturday evening to find a parking space directly outside the restaurant. Tristan’s frontage is stylish and inviting and, despite being set slightly outside of the town centre among a number of takeaways, a launderette and a Tesco Express garage, this place is a rose among thorns!
We were greeted by the owner, Cris, who took over the Bistro in January 2012, however, the Bistro is run by their young Head Chef, Ashley, together with his partner Georgie (who had the evening off). Our table was booked for 6pm and we were the first to arrive but they had 52 covers booked for that evening without the potential walk-ins off of the street and by the time we had finished our meal at around 7.45pm, the restaurant was almost full.
We were shown to a lovely table next to a beautiful old fireplace. Grace and Ross chose the comfortable looking bench seat and I sat opposite on the chair. There was no children’s menu and, judging by the restaurant, it didn’t look like it attracted young families. That is not a slight on them I hasten to add, just an observation – although I did notice a few highchairs along the corridor in readiness!
The menu was not over-filled with choices. I felt it was just enough for me and exactly to my taste. Ross, on the other hand, doesn’t eat mushrooms and is not overly keen on fish dishes so was a little restricted but still found a number of excellent options. I was pleased to see that the specials board wasn’t overwhelming either.
For their starter, Ross and Grace both chose the Grilled French Brie which came lightly grilled until slightly melting served on a bed of green leaves accompanied by a cranberry coulis. I was in my element when I was able to choose a platter of smoked fish which included dill cream cheese wrapped in smoked salmon, smoked trout pate and a smoked mackerel fish cake, all of which were accompanied by a refreshing sauce containing a hint of horseradish (one of my favourites!). We also ordered a bread basket which helped Ross and Grace along with their brie.
My starter was well-presented. It was light and tasty and just the right amount. I also tasted a portion of the brie, which was grilled to perfection – and Ross and Grace agreed.
For the main course Grace chose the pan fried Barbary Duck on a bed of Dauphinoise potatoes with seasonal vegetables and a red wine and cherry reduction (rather an advanced meal for a 7 year old), Ross opted for one of the specials – slow cooked leg of lamb with sweet potato mash and mediterranean vegetables and I decided upon the Thai Style Crab cakes with came with sweet potato chips, mango, watercress and rocket salad and a sweet chilli and ginger jam.
All of the food was well-cooked, excellently presented and just the right size. I was astounded to see Grace polish off a majority of her main. We were also extremely proud of her. Her manners were impeccable and, once again, we caught a glimpse of Grace as a proper grown-up in how she presented herself.
With no room for pudding, we decided to ask for the bill but didn’t leave until we had had a glimpse of their beautiful extra seating/function room at the back of the restaurant.
From moment we walked in, I had a good feeling about this Bistro. Chris was knowledgeable and didn’t hesitate to assist with recommendations where we were indecisive. This included my love of elderflower and my new found appreciation of Orchard Pigs drinks (thanks Chris!). The staff were courteous, happy and unobtrusive. Unlike The Casterbridge, which we visited at the end of July, whenever the staff approached our table and saw us all in conversation, they went away to return at a more convenient time.
The food was timed well and brought out at just the right intervals. The menu was very reasonably priced at £20 for two courses on a Friday and Saturday evening, and £16 for two on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday with supplements on a few of the main dishes.
One of the things I always look for when visiting a restaurant is the feeling that I have had an ‘experience’ once I have left the establishment. Last week, Ross and I visited an Indian in Crewkerne and came away feeling very disappointed. Not with the food but with the overall attitude of the staff. It couldn’t have been more different at Tristans Bistro. Ross and I discussed the experience most of the way home and I can safely say that we will return.
Disclaimer: We were provided with complimentary main courses in return for this review, however, we paid for our drinks and starters. All words and opinions are our own and have not been influenced in any way.
You can find Tristan’s Bistro at www.tristansbistro.co.uk. They are based in Taunton, Somerset and you can also find them on Twitter and Facebook.