Oscar’s Bistro

Tuesday night is ‘Auberge Night’ at Oscar’s French Bistro in Leamington: a set menu of three courses for £14.50 in a delightfully authentic restaurant which was deservedly awarded the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand in 2008 for its good quality, reasonably priced food.

The restaurant has two small dining rooms with a larger room available for large parties, each decorated in a style that is noticeably French, from the ‘Café Parisien’ paintings to the intimate and elegantly laid tables boasting fresh roses and the promise of fine food. Following a genuinely warm welcome from Pascal, the provençal patron, we were seated and given complimentary olives and saussicon, a basket of French bread and the extensive wine menu. ‘Oscar’s’ is recognised as having a particularly good cellar, and although it would have been amazingly decadent to try one of the £195 bottles of red, we settled on the house merlot, a plummy, spicy wine with a two year-old vintage and a much more affordable price tag! It was delicious and different, although I am by no means a wine expert; for the purposes of this column, I apologise for not being particularly savvy when it comes to wine! As it was early May, the season for asparagus had just begun and the chefs at ‘Oscar’s’ produced a treat of deliciously creamy, lightly seasoned soup that was garnished with croutons. It was evidently very fresh and coupled with the seemingly endless supply of bread, it all felt wonderfully French.

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Our main course of Roast Corn Fed Chicken with Chorizo Basquaise Sauce was equally tasty and left me feeling extremely smug about my choice of wine as the spiciness of the chorizo seemed to be complemented by the merlot. A generous portion of chicken rested on rocket and boiled potatoes and was surrounded by a thick, subtly spicy tomato sauce. The chicken was beautifully cooked so that it was tender and the skin crispy. Having no previous experience of a basquaise sauce, I discovered that it contained heaps of parsley and chives, a few modest olives, sweet red peppers, onions and lots of garlic (to be expected in Leamington’s very own Little France) and had a hot, Spanish feel. Aaah yes, ‘Basque’ – all is now clear… It was extremely good; simple, yet slightly more adventurous than a typical provençal ratatouille.

I should just say now that the service at ‘Oscar’s’ is great. They are friendly without being pushy, they leave just the right amount of time between courses and there appears to be a genuinely good rapport between the staff. Having been slightly disappointed at the prospect of ‘New English Strawberries and Cream’ (we’d been in the south of France until this point, not drizzly Wimbledon), they came as a pleasant surprise. The strawberries were so sweet, juicy that they tasted like something out of an Enid Blyton book (jolly good fruit old chum, lashings of cream). The cream was thick and so full of vanilla that it looked like ice cream. Preferring to savour the lingering taste of our puds we skipped coffee and paid the very reasonable £40 bill. ‘Oscar’s’ is ideal for couples seeking romantic escapism and friends looking for an evening in a relaxed and friendly restaurant. The à la carte menu also looks very tempting so doubtless I’ll be back.

_Oscar’s French Bistro, 39 Chandos Street, Leamington Spa, CV32 4RL – Open for lunch (3courses à la carte for £15.95) and supper (3 courses à la carte for £26.00)._

_It is advisable to book in advance for the Tuesday night ‘Auberge’ evening._

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