Sunday, 15 May 2011

Restaurant: Brasserie Blanc, Oxford

My apologies for the length of time in between blogs recently, but with the move to Scotland imminent and trying to sort out selling my house and so on, it's rather slipped down the priority list.


Having visited Brasserie Blanc last night as a little 'leaving do', I thought it must be time for a blog...


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The Brasserie is a more affordable, homely version of Raymond Blanc's Manoir. This is not to say that the food is any less though. In fact it really was fantastic. Let me share a little with you.


As the restaurant is not particularly exclusive, I was able to get a table for four by booking only one day in advance - it is well worth booking though. We went midweek and the place was absolutely packed.


Upon arriving you are greeted by a plethora of authentic French staff - and this is one of the touches I found particularly pleasing about the place. As a French restaurant, it makes sense to have French staff front of house. The accents, the ability to pronounce the options on the menu... these things make a difference - help to add to the illusion that you might be eating in France. It's part of the show. 


I must also share my appreciation for our particular waiter, ably assisting us in deciding what to choose, what drinks to pair with what food, and put up with a little humour at his and our expense. Especially Deon taking so long to choose...


And choose we did. Having been shown to the table (right in the middle of the restaurant - fantastic for people watching - especially the lady who was obviously a critic, taking notes on her iPad), we made our choices for the evening.


Kicking off with the starters, Liz and Alta both settled for the snails in garlic butter, while Deon chose mussels and I went for Comté cheese soufflé. I had decided against mussels as they are something I have prepared before myself, and when eating out I like to go for something I wouldn't normally cook. The soufflé was delicious - the light pastry giving way to a melted cheese centre, all sitting on a bed of apple, apricot and walnuts. Not dazzling by any means, but certainly a good taster for the rest of the evening. I did have to taste the snails, never having had them before, but I found them to be not too dissimilar from mussels, perhaps having a slightly less distinct flavour (though they were buried in garlic) and a little tougher too.


The main dishes blew away any fears of a less than excellent dining experience however. With Deon, Liz and I all plumping for Barbary duck breast, it was Alta walking alone with the beef stroganoff. I didn't try the beef, but Alta assures me it was the best she's ever had. I'd have to say that the duck was definitely the best duck dish I've eaten in my time as well. It was such a well balanced dish, with the sweet of the carrots and fatty flavour from the duck being expertly cut through by the sharp orange and lime sauce that topped them. The potato and turnip accompaniment was divine, being layered through with some sort of cheese.  


As with all good restaurants though, the puddings are always the flagship. And Brasserie Blanc is certainly no exception. Deon and I chose the steamed lemon sponge, which was absolutely fantastic. The sponge was deliciously light, and the lemon sauce was a perfect balance of sweet and sour with the crème fraiche acting as the perfect foil, stopping the lemon becoming too cloying on the pallet. 


It was the girls's choice of dessert that absolutely stole the show though. Having ordered soufflé for starter, I'd avoided ordering the sweet version for afters, but I think that was possibly a mistake - even though etiquette tells me better. If God has a flavour, it is most definitely the pistachio soufflé served up in Brasserie Blanc. This monstrously sized pudding is so light on the inside, falling away as you dig into it, and the fresh pistachio flavour coming through the eggy centre was just to die for. Who cares about the chocolate ice cream on the side? That was nothing on this wonderful creation. If you go to the restaurant for one dish - make it this one. Though it must be said that Liz is a little odd and did not like it. For shame.


And to finish, we ordered a chocolate fondue for the table. Again, perfectly poised between sweet and bitter - the dark chocolate against the freshly baked pastries.


And it is this balance which typifies the dishes on the restaurant's menu. Be it the gherkins in the rice for the stroganoff to give extra crunch and a piquant flavour, or the aforementioned cream with the lemon pudding, there is always a nod to the refined pallet. 


Pound for pound, the restaurant is more than reasonable, and the staff are flawless. All round an excellent evening as can be seen from the smiling, demon eyed faces in the badly taken photograph below...


From left to right: Liz, Deon, Alta and myself. The man that took this photo was rather bemused... I can't say I'm surprised. Jericho at 11pm. A curious place for a group photo indeed.


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You may have noticed a little change to the blog - I'm now running a twitter feed down the right hand side, so even if I don't blog so much, there'll always be a wee taster to keep you going. Make sure to follow me and keep yourself up to date with the happenings in my culinary world.


Once things are sorted with the house and my evenings are less packed I'll try to get a few more recipe based blogs on the go again. 


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Coming up:
- Alta and I are going to try to make a soufflé at some point. Wish us luck!
- I have a couple of other little blog ideas that should make their way to this page soon. Eyes peeled...

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