Angie Sammons hangs the apron up to enjoy cherished dishes from France
I BOUGHT a copy of Elizabeth David’s French Provincial Cookery last month. It is a master work, best enjoyed among consenting adults, and, published in 1960, it predates both pop music and the Magimix.
Classy and classic it perches on the shelf here amid dozens of modern recipe works that jostle less elegantly for position. Its 500 pages of solid text are broken up only by the odd pen and ink drawing, which means reading glasses for those of a certain age.
Grilled figs with Gorgonzola and honey bring the sunshine of St Tropez to the table
It also means there are no highly stylised photographs of free range pigs joyfully racing to the abattoir, no macro shots of carcinogenic artichokes over charcoal and no candid portraits of the modern celebrity chef and his array of perfect young daughters.
David is said to be the first author to introduce the notion of la cuisine terroir, sometimes interpreted as ‘what grows together goes together’ and no attention to detail is spared in this comprehensive volume of method, stocks, sauces, stews and technique.
I purchased it because I love French food with all its artery-silting butter, cream and wine and unless I can find excuses to make more trips to the masterly Dave Roberts’ Caveau in Woolton - surging Uber’s worth by several points on the Dow Jones - I am going to have to crack on here and do my own.
For with a few exceptions, we are (another) British city of quick fix cuisine, where the sizzle rather than the form is prized. The Gallic furies have no place among our restaurateurs.
A week later and signs of life were detected at 23 Hope Street, a Georgian house which sits in the row as gracefully as my book at home.
You may know it recently as the Clove Hitch, El Macho before it. Those with ancient memories will recall The 23 Restaurant, a name and a number to send conspiracy theorists, Illuminati fans and discordians wild. Google it if your head can take it.
Now it is Bread & Butter. Some sort of craft ale and sourdough cash-in? I wondered. Head chef and co-owner Stephan Sundermeier shook his head, No, we’re opening a French restaurant, he said. One that does classic provincial cuisine. Oh.
Genial zen practitioner Stephan - and yes he had thought of calling the place Bread & Buddha - hails from Germany. He was the kitchen brains behind Homebaked in Anfield, the Biennial-born social enterprise that happens to do seriously good award winning pies. The omens looked good.
She, the tour guide, and I ended up there on the spur off the moment last Saturday, a table facing onto Hope Street in one of three intimate, oak floored dining rooms. A long sunny conservatory houses more. All are dressed in starched white linen; flickering candles complete the sophisticated ambience.
The opening menu is pure village bistro which draws long cherished dishes from all over France: the Moorish influences of Marseille, the dairy riches of Normandy and Brittany and those such as chicken fricassee which date back to the 1300s. There are plenty of gluten free and vegan choices too. Price wise, it’s very reasonable, possibly too reasonable, with fixed price starters and desserts at £4.50 and mains just £12.50.
And what we have is all fairly flawless. I imagine the Galettes de Sarrasin - buckwheat pancakes with a creamy leek and cheese filling - are divine and I will let you know once the personal trainer at the gym allows me to.
Instead an intensely flavoured liver pate comes with springy Wildloaf Sourdough from the neighbours up the road and I am allowed to take half of it home in the borrowed ramekin.
Grilled figs with Gorgonzola and honey bring the sunshine of St Tropez to the table, sweet, fresh and pungent all at once.
The girl guide implores for aubergine gratin and this version, the slices well prepared and seasoned, are novelly constructed as a sort of overlapping pyramid that conceals an inner chamber of rich tomato and béchamel. It collapses all messy and wonderful.
And onto that staple braise synonymous with Le Cordon Bleu cookery since time immemorial - Boeuf Bourguignon. Here it is hearty, rich and well though out with plenty going on in its dark generous depths: beef broken into submission from hours of cooking in bacon, bay, shallots, mushrooms, garlic and good red wine. A perfect creamy mash adds to the luxury and a crisp green salad brings colour and bite.
The tap, tap, tap of the spoon over the creme brûlée indicates an expert hand with the blowtorch and it yields to reveal another creamy classic.
Then there is a delectable vegan chocolate mousse, the cocoa profound, more lightness than sweet, prettily decorated with mint leaves and our summer’s excellent strawberries.
In this land, the words “good”, “half litre” and “carafe” do not normally sit comfortably in the same sentence but here they do. In their choices of wine they have taken the French approach and the Malbec (£12) here is ripe with good tannins sending everything pleasantly on its way.
I can see Bread & Butter - a calm place with a genuine aura about it - becoming a favourite haunt. The book has been opened, it’s time to know more.
Bread & Butter, 23 Hope Street, Liverpool, L1 9BQ. Tel: 0151 709 7612
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Pate 8/10; Figs 8/10; Aubergine gratin 8/10; Boeuf Bourguignon 8/10; Creme brûlée 7/10; Vegan chocolate mousse 9/10
Calm and chic
Attentive and charming