Spring has sprung at Brasserie Blanc, with a new menu to celebrate the arrival of warmer weather. The classics remain, but earthy autumn mushrooms and hearty winter stews have been replaced by colourful and fruity salads, grilled fish and spring greens.
Eager to taste the new dishes on offer, I called upon a couple of friends to join me for a leisurely weekend lunch, and we picked a great day to do it. The sun was shining and spirits were high – what better way to enjoy the glorious weather than over a lively bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and some great food?
As I have said many a time before, I believe that great service is the key to any good meal. First-class food can be downgraded to the likes of a street-side kebab if not served with a smile. So forget the incredible eats, this is the reason I have returned time and time again to Brasserie Blanc, whose waiters and waitresses are never anything less than delightful. Monsieur Blanc’s classic French charm seems to have rubbed off those he selects to serve his food, and this time, my friends and I were treated to the jovial wit and humour of Alain from Lille, who within minutes of our arrival was on hand with glasses of effervescing Blanc de Blancs to kick off our evening – it was as if he had read our minds.
While nibbling on a little dish of fruity olives, we perused the new menu in concentrative silence.
Having never before eaten steak tartare (£8.95) (a terrible admission for a food blogger), I decided now was the time. A perfectly formed cylinder of blushing lean pink meat, topped with a shiny round egg yolk dusted with black pepper, centred on the plate and framed by a sweep of herbs and onion, and lightly-toasted sourdough bread, the dish is geometric perfection. Let the rich egg yolk melt into the meat, mix in the herbs and, if you like things hot, ramp up the spice with extra Tabasco. The flavour is so beautifully subtle and the texture so wonderfully soft that I would recommend leaving the bread aside (or perhaps just eating afterwards with lashings of butter!).
Another French classic; the moules marinières (£6.95) are an excellent choice to start. A generous portion of clean shiny shells cradling bright morsels of savoury-sweet meat in a glossy cream, garlic, shallot, white wine and parsley broth. Don’t be afraid to get messy – you can de-garlic your fingers later in the bowl of warm lemon water provided.
The King scallops Provençale (£19.90) is possibly my favourite dish from the new menu. Another artistically plated plate, it’s “all aboard” the grilled courgette vessel. Scallops topped with a fried herb crumb are arranged along a half of grilled courgette which sits in a tomato, garlic and olive oil sauce, with crispy fried basil leaves, sautéed baby potatoes and grilled Padròn peppers. Classic and simple flavours done extremely well.
The grilled stone bass and cardamom-braised fennel (£19.90) is fantastic for a warm summer’s evening. The apple, watercress and fennel salad is bright and gives a harmonious balance between the sweet apple, peppery watercress and perfumed, anise-like fennel.
Don’t miss the specials of the day. On the menu when we visited was a take on cod brandade; meaty cod sat on creamy, seasoned crushed new potatoes in a purée tomato sauce, topped with rocket. There’s nowhere to hide with simple dishes such as this, and each element was extremely tasty.
The desserts were the star of this meal; a zingy tarte au citron (£6.50), and a masterful pistachio soufflé, served with ice cream (£6.90). No soggy bottoms here, the tart base is biscuit-crisp and subtly sweet to take the edge off the tart lemon filling, while a side of sour crème fraîche brings added freshness to each bite. The soufflé is an impressive sight; it balloons from the ramekin. Aerated and light, yet rich, creamy and sweet, what more could you want from a dessert? It’s sheer heaven.
8 Charlotte Street,
t: 020 7636 4975
Open 12:00-23:00 (Mon-Sat), 12:00-21:30 (Sun)