Why and how and where should we celebrate Bastille Day in Bath on 14 July? Melissa Blease consults with experts in the sector and provides some delectable local options
Bistros, boules and boulevards; locally produced bubbles, our very own Brie… and the Sally Lunn Bun, originally introduced to Bath by a Huguenot refugee. Is Bath the French capital of the UK? Nous le croyons, mes petit fin gourmets. Here are some ideas on how to mark Bastille Day this year from the French experts.
YANNICK LOUÉ, LE VIGNOBLE
All of our french foods are 100% authentic to Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) standards, coming from artisan producers based in small villages and towns in France, rather than factories who mass-produce. As a result, we often hear people say that they had the same food when on holiday in the places our food is sourced from, which proves we’re serving up the real thing.
French food is uniquely tasty, and small plates are great for a social lunch/dinner to share with friends. The majority of our dishes involve French cheeses and charcuterie – some of the best French produce ever. When it comes to pairing food with wine, the food must not overpower the wine and vice-versa; they must both work in perfect harmony, as having one more powerful will kill the flavour of the other. We always say to people, if you treat yourself with your food, you must also treat yourself with your wine as it’s equally important. A great tip is to enjoy a dish and wine from the same region – some of the best combinations are regional neighbours, as well as those on your plate and in your glass.
12/13 Milsom Place, Bath; levignoble.co.uk
PIERRE KOFFMANN, KOFFMANN AND MR WHITE’S
I believe Bath has a close affinity to Paris: it shares the French capital’s love of socialising around simple but well-prepared food and good-quality wines.
My own style of cooking is grounded in rustic, French cuisine, which is all about uncomplicated recipes and working with the best ingredients. The menu at Koffmann & Mr. White’s includes French and British dishes, so diners will see continental favourites such as escargots à la Bourguignonne (snails) and poussin grillé (grilled poussin) alongside dishes that Marco Pierre White has grown up with, all with our own stamp on them.
My favourite French dishes are those from the Gascony region where l grew up. In winter, there’s nothing more satisfying than a hearty cassoulet or tarte aux pruneaux (prune tart), while in the warmer months, I choose lighter dishes such as a Bayonne ham tart with garlic or oeufs à la neige (poached meringue). My grandfather was a farmer and the food we ate included meat, fish and lots of different types of vegetables.
When it comes to wine, I have a classically French taste palate and typically recommend French varieties to complement my dishes. Marco and I selected all the wines for Koffmann & Mr.White’s to enhance the dining experience rather than intimidate with grandiose descriptions. Bon appetit!
Abbey Hotel, North Parade, Bath; mpwrestaurants.co.uk
LAURENT COUVREUR, LE CHEF PRIVE
Bath is a very cosmopolitan city (and it’s twinned with Aix en Provence), so French food is a natural fit for Bathonians. It offers a lot of variety from different regions, but it’s all largely honest, rich, tasty food.
With the access we have to such great produce here in the south west, I have the perfect opportunity to recreate authentic French food right here, right now. Coming from the south of France where fish is so abundant, my favourite dishes are fish soup, bouillabaisse and any fresh fish and seafood cooked in different, delicate ways. But I also adore rabbit stew and ratatouille which originally comes from my city where I learned to cook.
With French wines, most of our clients provide their own wine for Le Chef Privé events and we produce the menu together so it’s always tailored to their tastes. Client favourites are Picpoul de Pinet, Chablis and most reds from St. Emilion, and if you’re opting for rosé it has to be Provençale.
DAN BROD AND TRAVIS RILEY, BECKFORD BOTTLE SHOP
Wine is quintessentially French, and bestows an instant feeling of joie de vivre. In Bath, there’s something about the way the light strikes the beautiful Bath stone buildings that feels particularly Provençale, during the summer months at least. But while our wine list is predominantly French, there’s now great wine from every corner of the globe which we celebrate, too.
Our menus are continental, but we celebrate the best of British produce too. We always have Petite Madeleines on our menu, and we recommend dipping them in coffee, tea or a glass of cold Sauternes for your own Proustian moment in the heart of Bath.
In terms of wine, our staff pick at the moment is Chéreau Carré, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, 2016. This is a classic Muscadet from the Loire Valley, refreshing and pure, with white fruit and citrus characters combined with a crisp acidity and a bright minerality on the finish. Our own BBS Rose is made from a blend of Cinsault and Syrah grapes from the Languedoc-Roussillon region: soft, elegant, incredible value and perfect on a summer’s day.
Classic food and wine matches, such as a new season lamb and tannic Gigondas from the Côtes du Rhône work well because the combination of salt and fat on the lamb will smooth the tannins and make the wine softer and smoother. Everyone probably already knows that big reds from Bordeaux almost demand hunks of red meat, while Muscadet or Champagne are classic matches for oysters. Finally, high-acidity wines such as Chablis and Sancerre are a safe bet for sipping with your shellfish.
5-8 Saville Row, Bath; beckfordbottleshop.com/bath
CHRIS TABBIT, CHEZ DOMINIQUE
Who doesn’t love French food and wine? Ris de veau, beurre noisette and capers is my all-time favourite dish, preferably accompanied by a Burgundy wine such as our Nuits-Saint-Georges.
Our restaurant manager Julien Cade has a real passion for French wine and food, and is always spot-on with his pairings. Julien is a huge part of Chez Dominique’s charm and success. Generally speaking, it’s important to choose a wine that won’t either overpower a dish or be lost by it; while there are no set rules, it is worth giving this some thought.
Our fish dish on the prix fixe menu at the moment, for example, is grey mullet with samphire, saffron beurre blanc, mussels and clams. This would pair fantastically well with a white wine from our list that has some minerality such as the Picpoul, Gruner Veltliner, Sancerre or Chablis.
15 Argyle Street, Bath; chezdominique.co.uk
STEFANO FRIGERIO, COMPTOIR+CUISINE
France is home to a large variety of regional plates that results in a very diverse, interesting offering, while French wines further allow us to fully appreciate and enhance the French savoir faire: the history, the quality of the terroir and the regional diversity.
Comptoir+Cuisine blends tradition with a bit of innovation, proposing a mix and match of French tapas across a menu that we’ve recently extended. My personal favourite dish at the moment is skewer of duck with homemade chutney served with fried celeriac and truffle mayo, paired with a glass of red wine from Médoc.
We’re passionate about growers’ Champagne (from small independent producers) and believe it’s the best pairing with food, especially cheese. It’s light enough to not overpower delicate cheeses such as goat’s cheese or nutty Comté, but it has enough acidity to cut through deeply savoury, funky blue cheese, or creamy baked Camembert. Served at the correct temperature, the effervescence of the bubbles scribble the palate between each bite – it’s a very pleasant, refreshing sensation.
5 George Street, Bath; comptoirpluscuisine.com
KATE ROBINSON, GREAT WESTERN WINE
The huge range of styles, price points and history behind so many of the wine regions are key to the enduring popularity of French wines. Our most popular French wine by far is Les Mougeottes Chardonnay: it’s beautifully packaged, tastes delicious and is great value at £9.95. Picpoul de Pinet is also very popular at the moment, as is Provençal Rosé – they’re both perfect summertime tipples, while a delicious sparkling Cremant de Loire is perfect for any kind of celebration. Fans of red wine should try a lightly chilled Beaujolais.
When you’re looking to pair food and wine, a general rule of thumb is to cook or choose a dish from the region the wine comes from; matches made in heaven include Sancerre or Pouilly Fumé with a Chavignol goat’s cheese salad; Boeuf Bourguignon with pinot noir; or a traditional Provençal fish stew with rosé.
Wells Road, Bath; greatwesternwine.co.uk
Main image: The classic French dish, Coq au vin