‘I am often asked what defines Brasserie Blanc. Well, if Le Manoir is a delicate waltz then the Brasseries are a lively can-can. The brasserie is not about refined haute cuisine. Instead, it’s a place for relaxed enjoyment where we can offer you simple great food.’ Raymond Blanc, OBE
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Brasserie Blanc, whichever branch you visit, is a place where you can relax and dig in to a hearty plate of boeuf bourguignon. There’s no trace of the intimidating haut cuisine found in most of London’s French eateries. It is a true reflection of everyday french cooking; it’s honest, authentic and without pretence. And the dishes taste fantastic.
The first time I ate at a Brasserie Blanc was for a pre-theatre lunch with my mum at the Charlotte Street restaurant, which was close enough to the theatre to walk there, but removed enough from the theatre district so as not to be packed with the pre-theatre crowds.
The charming dark wood-lined dining room exudes comfort, lit by the warm glow of downward facing amber lighting. I instantly felt at home once I had hung my coat and slid into one of the delightful little booths, featuring plush cushioned seats, decorative patterned scatter cushions and linen serviettes. All I needed next was a smooth glass of red, and our attentive waitress was on hand with tiny taster glasses to help us choose. After much deliberation, I decided on a herby, fruity Syrah, while mum went with her favourite: a classic Bordeaux Merlot.
My meal started with a colourful beetroot salad with smoked golden, candy and red beetroot, beetroot crisps and quenelles of mild goat’s curd (£6.90), prettily arranged across an oblong plate and adorned with peppery rocket; a wonderfully light starter. Mum chose the potted shrimp (£8.50), which came in a kitsch clip-top jar. Encased in a delicious lemon, Tabasco and nutmeg butter, the little brown shrimp brought the seaside to central London.
I went for a classic brasserie main: an 8oz onglet steak (£13.00) topped with a round of Café de Paris herb and mustard butter, which melted slowly across the meat, giving it an irresistible sheen. Rather than the traditional accompaniment of French fries, I ordered a side of Dauphinoise potatoes (£3.10) – there is nothing more enticing that a buttery, creamy stack of ribbon-thin potato rounds, with a broiled cheesy top. A simple green leaf salad (£3.10), lightly dressed in olive oil, was the ideal accompaniment.
The special of the day was herb-crusted lamb cutlets served with a pea purée, Dauphinoise potatoes and jus. There’s one thing you should know about my mum: one mention of leeks or pea purée and it’s decision made. A woman of habit, in my 24 years of knowing her, never has my mother turned down her two favourite ingredients. So, of course, she went for the special. And a marvellous choice it was. The stunning contrast of rose-pink meat and vibrant green pea purée, set against the pure white plate, was sheer perfection. The dish was presented faultlessly; the Dauphinoise was cut with precision and the silky smooth purée was cast in a flawlessly neat ring.
Following a small pause, it was time for dessert. Winter calls for a warm, fruit confection; both mum and I chose the Normandy apple tart (£6.50) with Calvados buttered apples and almond cream filling, adorned with a round of speckled vanilla bean ice cream. There is something invigorating about the polarity of piping hot tart and ice cold ice cream on the tongue. The apples were soft and fruity, the almond cream was sweet and smooth and the pastry was buttery and crisp.
I knocked back a strong and bitter French espresso to draw me out of my food-enduced daze, and off to the theatre we went, with pea purée and Calvados apples still on the mind.
One week later and I was already back, this time with a French friend of mine who was pining over her mother’s cooking. Brasserie Blanc to the rescue! We nibbled on freshly baked baguette with trempettes (£4.25) for dunking – comprising a rustic black olive tapenade, saffron garlic mayonnaise and virgin olive oil with sweet balsamic vinegar – while waiting for our mains. The corn-fed chicken with wild mushrooms is a must-try. Succulent chicken breast is rolled with a mixed wild mushroom filling, seared, and served atop buttered wilted greens, accompanied by sautéed enoki, shiitake and button mushrooms, and black trumpets, sautéed new potatoes and a light, yet richly flavoured, cep sauce.
8 Charlotte Street,
t: 020 7636 4975
Open 12:00-23:00 (Mon-Sat), 12:00-21:30 (Sun)