One of the great joys of food and drink is its ability to transport us to different countries. This joy is apparent at Bar Buvette, which brings a feel of France to central Bristol. Set up by Peter Taylor and Mark Osoki as a seasonal pop-up while their idyllic Auberge in France closed for the winter, Bar Buvette now has a permanent site on Baldwin street. Here, in a light-flooded former insurance building, Buvette evokes a continental charm through its wood-panelling, red-topped tables and vintage French posters.
The focus is on organic, biodynamic wines from small French producers, with staff happy to talk and taste you through the latest menu. Unlike the wine we are accustomed to, which has extra sulphites and chemicals added to ensure a uniform flavour, the natural, organic fermentation process allows the taste of the grape to differ from year to year, even from field to field. The result is unusual, but delicious and intriguing: redolent with the smell of soil, full with the flavour of fruit and often with a slight, cider-like fizz.
These well-rounded wines need little accompaniment, apart from perhaps a simple cheese board or charcuterie platter - both of which find excellent form in the kitchen at Bar Buvette, where the emphasis is on quality over quantity. There are also excellent toasties, which have gained quite a following for their magnificent, molten centre oozing with cheese and leeks.
The chalk-board menu promises a number of other quintessentially French plat du jour, from a side dish of celeriac remoulade to a hearty coq au vin. On a recent visit, we enjoyed a gem lettuce salad soused in rich, mustard-spiked vinaigarette, studded with lardons and crowned with the golden yolk pouring from a soft-boiled egg.
An evening at Bar Buvette ends with seasonal fruit… and a side of pudding. Perhaps there will be apricots baked into a frangipane tart, cherries perched beside a pot au chocolat or a gooseberry compote to spread on delicate madeleines. Such desserts are the final thread in the tapestry that cloaks a busy Bristol street with the image of southern France.