The dining scene in Altrincham has been going through some big changes lately. Some of them are regrettable: Francs restaurant, a go-to local favourite since 1992, closed without warning in October. On the other hand, the recent resurrection of Altrincham Market as a bustling hub for decent food and drink has given the town a serious shot in the arm. So it wasn’t a total surprise when quality French cuisine chain Bistrot Pierre announced that it was opening its 17th branch here. The question is, though, will it flourish like the market, or struggle like Francs?

On the face of it, this deserves to succeed. It certainly brings something new to the centre of Altrincham. It’s situated in an accessible spot which could dearly do with some new blood. A former neighbour was a particularly manky McDonalds, and an actual, real-life lap-dancing club still lurks over the way. By way of contrast, Bistrot Pierre is like a slice of turn of the century Paris has landed unannounced: warm, subdued lighting, wooden and leather furniture and ornately framed vintage design posters decking the walls. The interior is a positive riot of posh rustic décor, then, but tasteful and unfussy at that. The atmosphere during our visit was relaxed and lively, with virtually every table full.

Altrincham Bistrot PierreThe menu, as you’d expect, covers a whole panoply of French dining classics. As a starter, the moules – rope-grown mussels, steamed in a light creamy Normandy cider sauce – were pretty much perfect. A hefty portion was served in a tall pot with every mussel open. The brioche et champignons – light, toasted brioche with fricassée of mushrooms and crunchy Alsace bacon – was excellent too, whetting the appetite nicely.

Among the mains, there was another mainstay of French cuisine: boeuf bourguignon maison, Bistrot Pierre‘s own take on braised beef with shallots, red wine, mushrooms and bacon. And yes, they certainly know what they’re doing here. It’s delicious stuff, combining tender meat and a rich, flavoursome sauce. A lighter main option was the tagine de légumes – roasted root vegetables, chickpeas and apricot tagine served with cous cous tabbouleh and green harissa in a mint yogurt dressing. In practice, for all its appeal, this wasn’t actually all that light. The side vegetables were rather outfacing, but regardless, the variety of delicate flavours in the tagine itself, with stuffed vine leaves and succulent apricots, hit the spot squarely.

It would seem churlish to point out that the size of the desserts was pushing it a bit, but then they were pretty blinkin’ hefty. The pain perdu brioché – French-style bread and butter pudding with warm spiced blackberry compôte, served with vanilla ice cream – was the lighter of the two, and a right tasty confection it was too. On the other hand, the gâteau au miel – warm Burgundian sticky honey cake with ginger ice cream – was effectively a Gallic sticky toffee pudding, and for all of its considerable sweet charms, there was quite a lot of it.

Overall, the staff were friendly, discreet and courteous to a fault, though it has to be said that service wasn’t always as swift as it might be. A couple of dishes turned up after a considerable wait and were far from piping hot when they arrived. But fair’s fair – the place only opened less than a week previously, so possibly things hadn’t quite got up to speed yet.

The food itself certainly delivers, though, and in all it’s to be hoped that Bistrot Pierre manages to connect with the local clientele, because it could fill a gap in the market here with a dash of élan. And let’s face it, tickets for Eurostar aren’t going to get any cheaper.

By Andy Murray

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Altrincham Bistrot PierreFor more information on Altrincham’s Bistrot Pierre, click here.