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      22.03.2001 20:39
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      Pierre Victoire is a chain of French restaurants which you may have heard of. Pierre is the name of the French trained chef Pierre Levicky and Victoire comes from the name of the street in Edinburgh (Victoria St.) where he opened his first restaurant. Pierre’s aim was to offer excellent freshly prepared food at very reasonable prices similar to those you find in France with set price menus. This concept was an immediate hit and after opening a few more in the area the idea was franchised. It grew too quickly, got out of control and crashed but a group of the franchisees bought the company. This story was featured on the BBC series Trouble at the Top. Claire Harvey and Gordon Jamieson owners of the Oxford franchise, which was one of the most successful, played a key role in the buyout. And I am so glad they did because it is one of my favourite restaurants. The restaurant in Oxford is located in Little Clarendon St., where three French brasseries sit in a row creating a little French quarter in one of Oxford’s liveliest streets. Michel’s Brasserie and Café Rouge sit alongside Pierre Victoire which, at lunchtime anyway, is by far the most popular for reasons which will soon become apparent. The décor in Pierre Victoire is fairly basic – it has wooden tables, chairs and floor but this gives it a casual ambience and its popularity gives it a bustling pleasant atmosphere. In the evening with the lights dimmed, candles add a touch of romance. You are probably thinking by now ‘Yes – but what about the food’, but I have kept the best to last. The lunch menu is served from 12 – 3 and costs just £5.90 for three courses, which you must admit is very reasonable. It seems almost too cheap and if you didn’t know the place you could be forgiven for thinking that you get what you pay for and pass it by. But don’t, for the food is in fact excellent quality and very good
      value for money. There are always at least 3 or 4 choices for each course; at least one of which will be suitable for vegetarians. Vegans, however, might wish to book to ensure that something suitable can be provided. The menu changes daily. For starters there is always a soup, salad, pate and usually mussels in some guise or another. A typical starter selection would be: French onion soup with herbed crouton, chicken liver parfait served with French bread toast, onion and cassis comfit, a salad of mixed leaves topped with crispy smoked bacon and garnished with caramelised red onions. The main course could be Blanquette d’agneau, a French style casserole; the veggie option might be a tower of aubergine, capsicum, onion and mozzarella cheese, surrounded by a basil and tomato coulis. There is always a fish dish on offer, which I tend to go for and can recommend, such as grilled fillets of Scottish salmon and red mullet with tarragon butter sauce. The main course is served with a selection of fresh seasonal vegetables. The last time I went this consisted of potatoes dauphinoise, carrots, broccoli and garlicky puis lentils. It is possible to order extra vegetables or a side salad if you wish but I find that the portions are quite generous especially considering the price. Desert is chosen from the blackboard and might be sticky toffee pudding, ice cream, tarte tatin or similar. Coffee is extra – about £1. While you are waiting for your meal you will be offered drinks and given French bread to nibble. The house wine at £7 is perfectly acceptable and a reasonable range of other wines cost from around £9 or £2 per glass. There is no charge for water – unlike some places which only sell expensive bottled water- although they do have bottled water if you prefer. In the evening they have a pre-theatre or early diner option of a slightly more expensive two course set menu. This is served from 6
      – 7 and costs £9 or 10 including coffee. After this the menu is a la carte but still not exorbitant. The starters are nearly all under £4, the main courses about £9 and deserts under £3. But the vegetables and salads are charged as extras so this can add up. All in all I think that Pierre Victoire offers just about the best value in Oxford for a French style lunch and I would highly recommend it. Little Clarendon St is located about 10 minutes walk north of the City centre along St. Giles near where the road forks into the Woodstock and Banbury Roads. Pay and display parking is available both in St. Giles and in Little Clarendon St. itself. I would love to know whether other branches are equally as good. There used to be one in dublin which I know was excellent but I suspect that has gone now.

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