At The Terrace bistro in Saltaire, Amanda Wragg finds a cheerful welcome and a little corner of rustic France.
Am I the only greedy guts who finds food in France disappointing? Sacrilegious though this viewpoint might be, each time I’ve taken the trip I’ve had perhaps one or two decent dinners, but that’s all. Breakfast and brunch are always good – there are few better pleasures worth recording that don’t involve sitting on the edge of The Marais in a pavement café in weak spring sunshine, making a coffee and croissant last an hour watching the beautiful people waft by.
I’m not saying that the good people of Saltaire aren’t beautiful but you might struggle to recreate the Boulevard Saint-Michel on Gordon Terrace as the traffic roars by on the A650.
There’s a whiff of ‘Allo Allo’ about The Terrace, a café, bar and bistro in the middle of the row of, variously, estate agents and charity shops. Maybe it’s the jolly red awning and café tables & chairs on the road side, an old bike propped up in the window, the pile of cheeses in a cabinet on the counter or candles in bottles on red checked table cloths.
During the day it’s very much a café, and if TripAdvisor is to be believed, a firm favourite of a number of regulars who drop by for Croque Monsieur, Oeufs Florentine or a breakfast baguette.
The place shuts up at 3pm-ish then morphs into a full-on French bistro in the evening.
The maître d, Peter from Le Mans, is unremittingly cheerful and upbeat, so not like Rene Artois at all. He’s been on since half nine this morning and isn’t showing any signs of dimming. He works the room, chatting, teasing, recommending – he’s got just the one gear and if you’re anticipating a quiet dinner a deux, forget it – but if you give yourself up to it and don’t mind industrial amounts of piped accordion music, you’re in for a good night.
Choose from several menus; a la carte, prix fixe, several more options on a chalkboard and an A4 sheet of “specials”. The usual suspects are there; foie gras terrines, bouillabaisse, escargot, boudin noire and French onion soup. And yes, frog’s legs. But we go for the slightly soft option of pigeon breast “rustique” and fish (and, perhaps unnecessarily “seafood”) cake, which is nicely cooked, full of flavour. It’s also laced with homemade tartar sauce which provides a sharp kick.
The pigeon, on a board, comes with deeply satisfying stewed red cabbage and while it’s properly gamey there’s a toughness about it which indicates a bit too long in the pan. The first mouthful is full of tiny bones and is spat out unceremoniously. Our lovely waitress (Georgia, not French) can’t help but notice and comes over anxiously prepared to perform a Heimlich Manoeuver (not required). Peter arrives, all bonhomie, then goes and asks chef. It’s the leg, not a mistake, and traditional. Perhaps in Le Mans, Peter.
We fare better with boeuf bourguignon, a deeply dark dish of tender as you like meat in a wine reduction, with creamy mash (sorry, pommes puree) for the soaking up of. Cassoulet de Castelnaudary is a classic Toulouse and morteaux sausage stew with haricot beans and various other bits and pieces, unidentified. It’s properly seasoned, sticky and hits the spot on a nithering February night. Pan-fried lamb rump arrives at the next table and it’s a contender for another night, as is braised pigs cheeks in Saltaire Pale Ale.
Puddings seem a bit of an afterthought; mousse au chocolate, trio de glace maison and, er sticky toffee pudding – we should have had crème brulee (or the magnificent sounding chariot de fromage) because the lemon and mango tart was a bit so-what-ish.
This is genuinely rustic food, no faffery, not a jus or tower in sight. Chef/owner Toulousian Eric Poli has hit the spot; his dishes are simple, crowd-pleasing and good value. You don’t have to be a gastronome to enjoy the food here. In fact it’s probably better if you’re not. But if you’re up for a rattling good, noisy night, impossibly fruity French accents and Edith Piaf, head for Bingley Road.
The Terrace Café Bard & Bistro, 83 Bingley Road, Saltaire, Bradford, BD18 4SB. 01274 533084, www.terracecafebar.co.uk. Open seven days a week, Monday–Saturday, 9.30am–2.45pm & 5.30pm til late. Sunday 10.00am–2.30pm & 5.30pm til late.