French dining at Bistrot du Bac

Do white tablecloths belong to a French bistro?

I didn’t think they do (maybe I’m just ignorant) so my first impression was that Bistrot du Bac got a bit confused with the decor. But looking at it from this photo above, it seems like those tablecloths were necessary to perk this place up a bit.

But the atmosphere is certainly French bistro, especially the decor – red leather bench, wooden chairs, menu written on the mirror, vintage French posters and the tiny, tiny dining space. A very informal and homey kind of dining – too homey maybe for the head waitress to give a big, unapologetic yawn despite having customers around. She was attentive but in a distant kind of way. The other middle-age waiter was warmer and friendlier.

Located in the infamous Katendrecht (Rotterdam’s former prostitute neighbourhood), I brought our intern to Bistrot du Bac for a little pick-me-up dinner. She’s been living  in Paris for the last four years and I thought she might appreciate a taste of her (adopted) home. I invited another colleague along and the staff were very kind to add another chair in our tiny table for two.

We were seated near the kitchen, right beside the stairs where orders were being ferried down to the main dining hall. It was very cramped but I guess that’s the best you can get when you bring another person along at the last minute. However I cannot help but notice that the table beside us, which could seat four people, remained empty the whole time we were dining. This from 6-8:30PM. Midway through our dinner, the restaurant became very noisy with the arrival of more customers, most I suspect are regulars based from the way they waved and chatted with the chef and the staff.


But moving on, the food was, as expected, delicious French home-cooking. We all ordered the €34 three course meal, each course we could choose from the menu.

For appetizers we ordered terrine de campagne. For main course, duck leg with crispy skin and meat falling off the bones, served with Brussels sprouts and chestnut (delightful and heavy), beef with onion compote and bone marrow (to die for, literally) and garlic-herb chicken served in its own juice. They came with a side dish of lettuce with the same dressing as the French egg mayo, and a big plate of potatoes au gratin for everyone to share.

As house appetizers, we got oeufs dur mayonnais (French egg mayonnaise) and beef tartar with unlimited, freshly-baked bread.

Except for the lettuce, which I thought was a lazy excuse for a salad, everything brought to our table was simple and undeniably French, no pretensions and not trying to be haute at all. I imagined this is the kind of food you’re served with in French homes.

We downed our meal with a bottle of 2013 Beau chene grenache, its fruity sweetness complementing the savoury flavours.

BistrotdubacWhile my main course was already very impressive, what was unforgettable was my dessert – a sort of cake with salted caramel sauce oozing from the centre. Served with ice cream (vanilla I think), it was orgasmic, I tell you. I took my time with that cake (sorry for the crappy photo, my camera died) and if not for decency, I would have taken a bite from my colleague’s cake as well. If only for that, I’d go back again and again to Bistrot du Bac. Needless to say, I went home very happy.

But, do white tablecloths belong to a French bistro? Maybe According to my favourite Franchophile and food writer Paola Westbeek of La Douce Vie, they do.


Bistro du Bac
Sumatraweg 5
3072 Rotterdam
010 846 4859