Bistro Lotte, Frome
Scoff steak-frites, moules-frites, bouillabaisse, galettes, tartes and other French comfort classics – no passport required.
Say bonjour to this grocery store turned buzzy neighbourhood French cafe/restaurant with rooms above, in super cool Frome, the town bearing England’s most commonly mispronounced place name, according to a team of top linguists. Lots of people rhyme it with ‘home’, apparently. Duh.
On the top of the hill on groovy Catherine Street, with all the independent shops going down Catherine Hill and beyond.
Totally unpretentious and busy on a Tuesday night with tables full of cheerful diners, there’s a frisson when you enter the warmth of the restaurant and the staff are genuinely friendly and efficient. A cocktail bar on the left opens out a large room, simply decorated with hanging pendants and some original Victorian floor tiles. A window on to the kitchen beyond (where owner Lottie was in full force with her team of chefs) provides the theatre with pans sizzling and flames flying. Tables on the pavement out front are good for brunch or lunch.
SCOFF & QUAFF
First an Aperol Spritzer and a glass of Vedett, a slightly citrusy Belgian beer at the bar.
Choose from a specials menu (sadly the lobster frites had run out) or from the regular menu with a variety of French faves like steak-frites, moules-frites (served with white wine, garlic and parsley, or creamed curry sauce or lemongrass, ginger, chillis and coriander), galettes, boeuf bourguinion, escargots – you get the picture. Meat comes from local farms via Cayford’s the butcher next door. Although French cuisine isn’t famed for its vegetarian/vegan grub, the menu here has a good selection of both, plus gluten-free dishes.
For starters, we ordered the classic crevettes Marie Rose and a rich chicken liver parfait which came with homemade sourdough toast and a lovely spicy house chutney.
To follow, a huge bowl of comforting bouillabaisse – sea bass, sea bream, king prawns and mussels – in a tasty stock served with saffron potatoes and, in true Provencal tradition, some rouille.
Roasted poussin with frites (mais oui), fresh mustard mayonnaise, vine tomatoes and a green salad. Both the chicken and stew were perfect.
A bottle of white wine Saumur 2018 went well with both the seafood and the chicken.
Desserts: French apple tart served cold as they do in France (though you can have it warmed if you prefer) with ice cream and a creamy crème brulee with a fine sugary crust.
Up above the bistro in the Frome Town House are six comfy but boutique B&B rooms with super king beds (nice), all en suite, and four family rooms a few doors up the same street, available pour le nuit ou le weekend and come with a French platter breakfast whenever you’re ready.
OUT AND ABOUT
You’re in the centre of Frome so the town’s myriad delights – independent shops, Westway cinema, art galleries, the Frome Independent market (first Sunday of the month) and more – are all there for the taking.
Good for: classic French bistro fare, served fast and honest. A few doors down, Lottie will be opening a new wine bar and wine shop. Watch this space.
Not for: anyone wanting roast beef and Yorkshires or a full English.
The damage: Pas mal: Starters:£6 – £7.50; mains: £13.50 – £21.95 (for the grass-fed fillet steak); puds: £5.50 – £7.50. Rooms from £130/night for two sharing. Family room, 2 adults and 2 kids from £140/night. Autumn offer: 2-course dinner, bed and breakfast for two £130. Snap that one up.
Opening hours: Mon to Thurs 9am – 11pm; Fri to Sat 9am – 11pm; Sun 9am – 3pm.
Bistro Lotte, 23 Catherine Street, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BD. Tel 01373 300646 bistrolottefrome.co.uk