Main course

Steak au poivre Yves Champeau

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a hotel on Elbut Lane in Birtle near Bury, Lancashire called Le Normandie. It was notable for having a restaurant run by the late Yves Champeau (later gaining a Michelin star under Chef Pascal who comments to us below). It was here that young local lad Simon Hopkinson found his way around a kitchen.

Hopkinson went on to have a successful career in food, which included working with Terence Conran to open Bibendum in the old Michelin Tyres building on the Fulham Road, London. After leaving professional kitchens behind, Hopkinson became a successful food author, newspaper columnist, and television presenter – often combining his firmly held, near-vehement views on ingredients with simple recipes that enable those ingredients to shine.

Simon Hopkinson – photo BBC

In his famous Roast Chicken and Other Stories, thought by some to be the greatest cook book ever written, page 204 of the 1999 paperback edition is given over to steak au poivre, which Hopkinson learned from his mentor Champeau.

Many of us are familiar with steak au poivre as a beef dish slathered over with a cream sauce studded with soft, green peppercorns. Champeau’s version is not that. His dish uses an improbable amount of black peppercorns to create a crust that adds both flavour and texture to the steak. The absolutely critical thing for this dish (aside from cooking the meat correctly) is to crush (not grind) the peppercorns in a mortar and pestle, and then sieve out all the powder. Failure to do this will result in a steak so peppery that no human could eat it and live.

The steak crusted with the filtered peppercorns

Le Normandie is no longer in Birtle, and a Google Street View tour of Elbut Lane indicates that the building itself has been long demolished.

Steak au poivre Yves Champeau

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By Yves Champeau & Simon Hopkinson Serves: 2
Cooking Time: 15 mins


  • 3 tbsp mixed peppercorns (black, white and red)
  • 2 thick steaks of your choice. Avoid anything thinner than your thumb.
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • A shot glass of cognac



Hammer the peppercorns in a bag and sieve out any fine powder. Coat the steaks all on both sides with the peppercorns, and then salt them. Do not use salt before pepper or the pepper will not stick.


Heat a frying pan with the oil. Once hot, turn down to medium and put the steaks in. Fry them until a good crust has formed. Turn them over, add the butter and cook them to your preferred level of doneness. Baste with the butter as they cook. Remove the steaks from the pan to rest them (critical step).


While the steaks are resting, increase the heat, add the cognac and flame if you wish. All the alcohol must be boiled off, so igniting it can help. Whisk everything up on a good boil and pour over the plated steaks.


A bit of meat glaze can be whisked into the sauce for extra richness. A Knorr beef stock pot can be used to approximate meat glaze. I often like to finish this dish with the cognac flambé followed by a good dose of double cream to create a brandy cream pepper sauce without the need for the usual green peppercorns. Serve with a salsa verde or a good dollop of horseradish.

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  • Reply
    Robert Stordy
    20/03/2021 at 9:04 pm

    Memories, memories, I worked at the Normandie for about a year, then taken over by man named Purtil, great shame that the building has been demolished

    • Reply
      Nigel Eastmond
      20/03/2021 at 9:52 pm

      Wow. Hi Robert. I am happy that we reminded you of Yves’ food. That steak is tremendous. What else was on the menu that you can recall?

      • Reply
        18/12/2022 at 8:38 am

        Hi Nigel , I was head chef at the Normandie between 1985 and 1996 , Yvette Champeau had long gone , he had a good reputation for his food and for mentoring Simon but he never was awarded a Michelin star , I did in 1995 and retained it in 1996 then moved down to Suffolk to open my own restaurant with my wife.

        • Reply
          Nigel Eastmond
          18/12/2022 at 8:40 am

          Well, Pascal. I clearly need to fix that. Simon needs to edit his book! Thanks so much for getting in touch.

        • Reply
          Christian Lohez
          24/07/2023 at 3:18 pm

          Hi Pascal, I am the grandson of Chef Yves.

          • Christine Cooke
            28/08/2023 at 8:25 pm

            Ares you the son of Marian or Jean-Sebastian? What are the names of your Yorkshire grandparents? When I was 17 years old for a short time I cared for Jean-Sebastien and Marian his older sister, and knew their parents, your grandparents. Yves’s brother Jean-Pierre and sister and her husband worked in the restaurant Jean Pierres Dutch wife lived with him in an adjacent semi – the second semi was the home of Yves sister and their two children- names escape though Sassouie was your father’s cousin.

    • Reply
      25/11/2021 at 2:06 pm

      Not demolished. Luxury flats, sorry, apartments!

  • Reply
    Barbara Lawrence
    15/01/2023 at 10:04 pm

    As a twenty-something year old living in Bury, I used to save up to go to La Normandie in the 70s. I have hazy memories of the building but the food, I still remember in detail. Classic Normandy cuisine I learnt so much about by eating there and it was lovely to find out much later, that Simon Hopkinson a chef writer I really admire, started his career with Yves Champeau.

    • Reply
      20/05/2024 at 6:40 pm

      Eve Champeau wa say great uncle
      Ann-Marie and Serge are my grandparents

  • Reply
    Jim Rowbotham
    10/08/2023 at 4:45 pm

    My father was a friend of Yves Champeau and used to go to ‘The Normandie’ a lot. We used to park outside also to hike up Birtle Dean and we would call in for a drink. I well remember this peppered steak as a special event and also the idea of eating snails which was a new thing to a young lad from Heywood. Good memories, must have been from about 1975 to 1980 ish. I’m pretty sure we tracked Yves down to another pub he had somewhere between Huddersfield and Manchester but I cannot remember the name of it.

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