Le Bistro in Lynmouth on the North Devon coast is one of the best restaurants in Lynmouth or Lynton, and indeed the whole of the Exmoor National Park. It specialises in fresh local fish and seafood, and all their fish suppliers operate a responsible and sustainable fishing policy.
Tawny owls were hooting in a tree right over our heads as we walked the dark path that zig-zags down to Lynmouth from right outside the North Cliff Hotel, where we were staying in Lynton. We could hear the owls hooting loudly, but they were hiding in the thick tree branches and we couldn’t spot them, even though a bright full moon was beaming in the sky. The path was well-lit enough to see your way, but dark enough to be atmospheric, and make you feel you’re walking an old and secret smugglers’ route down to the harbour.
Le Bistro was atmospheric too, but in a cosy and very romantic kind of a way. It certainly captured the feel of a Parisian bistro, the kind of place we love dining in when we’re in France, though the 120-year-old building with its timbered beams in the ceiling also had the air of a friendly English inn. The tables were well-spaced and we were lucky enough to get one of the three booths that run down one side of the room (left). They were the kinds of booths that most places would squeeze four people into, but we noticed that all three of them were set for an intimate dinner for two. The place was pleasantly busy, but not noisy, most customers obviously looking for a quiet night out.
Le Bistro uses local produce, in particular the fine fish and seafood caught off the North Devon coast. All their fish suppliers operate a sustainable fishing policy, and the owners can even tell you where your fish was caught, and by which boat. The blackboard with the specials changes daily, depending on the catch, and we both wanted the special starter of scallops in parsley butter. They were deliciously plump and tender, obviously fresh from the salty sea, and perfectly cooked. Our appetites had already been whetted by an amuse-bouche of four juicy stuffed olives, and a bite of the obviously freshly-baked herb bread, with rosemary, thyme and basil in it – one of several different rolls on offer.
The starter was easy, but choosing our main courses was impossible. It was the kind of menu where you want to eat every dish. Just to begin with, there were four temptations on the daily fish specials. We really wanted to try the bouillabaisse of north Devon fish, but instead Donna chose the pan-roasted monkfish with chorizo and tomato, which was excellent. Being more of a meat-eater Mike was tempted by the venison but in the end had the pan-roasted fillet of pheasant wrapped in bacon with a sherry and mushroom cream sauce. It was mouth-watering, the pheasant gamey yet tender.
We were too full to try the local West Country cheeseboard, but did manage the Bistro’s baked figs in honey, and a lemon tart. Both were brilliant, the tart not quite as mouth-puckeringly sharp as they make them in France, but instead nicely creamy. With a small but affordable wine list, and excellent, friendly service, Le Bistro definitely gave us one of the best meals we’ve had on our travels in and around Exmoor. Now all we had to do was tackle the steep hike back up to Lynton, to work off the calories, with only the man in the moon for company. The owls had moved on.
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