My partner and I visited Le Mistral on a Saturday evening. We had been once before a year or so ago, when we found it to be average but as we only live a few miles away we thought we should give it another try and went with open minds.
First, the good stuff. The restaurant is quite appealing in a 'shabby chic' sort of way. It is housed in a small retail unit opposite the market place in the historic part of town. There are a handful of tables at ground floor level although there is also a basement where the bulk of the covers are situated. We dined in the basement which was a comfortable temperature and had a nice lively atmosphere.
The staff were friendly and the service was good. The printed menu offered a good choice in addition to a decent range of dishes on the specials board. We chose garlic mushrooms and blue cheese on toast and moules marinieres as starters followed by entrecote steaks with the optional black pepper sauce for mains.
The wine list also offers a good range of wines, not just French even though this is a French-themed restaurant. We had a bottle of Chapel Down Bacchus as an aperitif and with the starters followed by a Chilean Pinot Noir with the steaks. Both wines were served at a good temperature and were very nice indeed.
However now to the not so good stuff, which was the food. In fairness the mushroom starter was ok. However the moules were very disappointing, and it should be remembered that this is a French-themed restaurant. The dish was very under-seasoned, the moules themselves were lacking in flavour and the sauce had no flavour of wine or garlic and just tasted like thin, watery cream.
The steaks were very average. Again they didn't taste like they had been seasoned and both were slightly over-cooked, although not so much as to be worth complaining about. The peppercorn sauce was too thin, too little of it and again pretty tasteless, I think due to (again) a lack of seasoning - and peppercorns!
The dishes came with fries which were the (now ubiquitous) frozen 'skinny fries' which would have been ok if they had been in the fryer for a couple more minutes. As it was they were pale and a bit soggy.
By this stage we were so disappointed by the general standard of the food we didn't order desserts.
I'd love to be able to give Le Mistral a higher rating because the service, ambience and wine list are all strong points. If I could give it two and a half stars, I would. But when we go out to dine we really go for the food, and that's what lets this place down.
Shame because we so wanted it to be good.
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