Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Restaurant Review: Brasserie Blanc, Bristol

Having enjoyed such a magnificent meal at Bell's Diner the evening before, it was really hard to assess our meal the following night, at Brasserie Blanc, objectively. It suffered in comparison. Which is a shame as it's the kind of relaxed, straightforward French brasserie that we'd probably appreciate more without that juxtaposition.


The brasserie is located within a beautiful historical building. The exterior of this former Georgian Quaker meeting house doesn't really prepare you for the amazing room inside. As you walk through the doors your gaze sweeps around a cavernous space, beautifully and sympathetically restored and adapted. Tables in the balconies are accessed via a striking modern staircase hanging infront of an impressive decorative wine display cabinet.


The balcony tables along the front wall seat two. Those along the other two sides seat 4. I really liked being up in this area, we had a great view and plenty of space but it felt cosy and intimate at the same time.


After ordering drinks (a carafe of wine for Pete and a mojito for me, though I asked for a regular rather than the vanilla version on their cocktail menu), we were served sourdough and butter; very nice.

I order mojito's quite often, always requesting them to be made on the sweet side, but otherwise normal. What arrived was undrinkably bitter, with an additional unpalatable flavour I couldn't identify. This is where our fantastic waiter, Luke, came into his own. When I explained the situation, he suggested he'd pop down, have them make another (or make it himself if need be) and if it still wasn't to my taste, we'd find something else for me instead. A South London lad who'd come to Bristol to study several years previously and ended up staying, he was the kind of waiter that's a little too rare in the UK - knowledgable, friendly, extremely professional, efficient and very good at making his customers feel well looked after. Like Shelly, the previous evening, Luke's input improved our overall evening's experience. And my second mojito was absolutely spot on!

Both of us went for the day's special starter - a chicken liver parfait with white truffle butter served with toast and pickled vegetables. The parfait was really rich and creamy (though Pete earned brownie points when he said it wasn't as good as mine). I quite liked the pickled vegetables served with it, which helped cut through the fattiness though on reflection, I rather like sweet chutneys with rich, smooth pates such as this one. Given the generous serving, I would have liked more toast.


Pete opted for the beef Stroganoff with pilaf rice, which he enjoyed. It was a far subtler sauce than his version, and less creamy too. He enjoyed it but I prefer the one he makes, based on a Nigel Slater recipe, though it's no doubt less authentic.

For my main I chose rump of Cornish lamb with pommes château (translated as pot roast potato). The lamb was really good. Full of flavour what I really liked was how the outside was really nicely browned, to the extent of provided a little crunch here and there, and yet the inside was beautifully pink, as requested. The potatoes were nicely seasoned and just the right texture; both firm and soft. And the jus or thin gravy was really tasty too. With the meat and potatoes came a few baby carrots, some braised celery pieces and a huge mound of rocket. The first I enjoyed, the second I removed from the plate as fast as possible and the third I found rather baffling - it doesn't really go with or improve the dish at all!


I booked the table by phone on Thursday and had phoned again on Friday to check whether or not anything later than our 6.15 slot was available. It wasn't. But on neither occasion was any turnaround time mentioned to me. So we were pretty annoyed when Luke came up at 7.25 to deliver a message he'd only just been given informing us that they were expecting the table back at 7.30. To his credit, when I responded that, as far as I was concerned, that was too bad, since it wasn't mentioned on booking and I would not have gone ahead and made the booking if it had he agreed completely and said not to worry about it. We didn't and went ahead and ordered dessert.

None of the desserts really grabbed me and I was feeling a little full so I abstained whilst Pete went for the rhubarb brulée cup. Served in a martini glass, a base of rhubarb compote was topped by a compotent creme brulée with silky custard and crunchy topping. It disappeared fast!


There was no further pressure to hurry us away from the table, though we did soon pay the bill and head back to the hotel. Without drinks or service , our bill was a little under £25 a head which is reasonable for the setting, service and food.

I'd go back to try the pork rillettes and cheese soufflé starters and perhaps the steak or fish mains.

Back at the Hotel Du Vin, we decided to stop in the bar for a while. The restaurant was extremely busy but the restaurant manager and staff were happy to serve me a dessert at a table in the bar. I had a delicious buttermilk panna cotta with fresh cherries and a glass of Pedro Ximinez with which to finish off the evening!

4 comments:

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

A waiter like that is definitely an asset! I have met a few that could learn from him :) The brulee in a martini glass looks good-I must remember that for a dinner party! :)

Helen said...

I was hopeful when they overhauled the chain recently as the one in Cheltenham had been really going downhill for years. Sadly though, it was still a bit disappointing when we went back. I remember the Oxford one being rubbish too. I've heard people say that he is too involved in celebrity stuff now to keep an eye on the restaurants. Who knows. The basic idea is great but there always seems to be a slapdash element in every dish which annoys me. Service is never great either.

Kavey said...

We were lucky with service, though that was entirely down to our individual waiter who was a rare thing amongst UK waiters so I can well imagine service isn't always so good.

The food, for us, was actually good. We both enjoyed it.

But I can't say it stood out from any other similar brasserie chain and there was scant evidence of any ongoing involvement from Blanc other than a couple of references in the menu.

The Ginger Gourmand said...

Kavey it sounds like you had an amazing weekend...I'm so pleased!

We stayed at the Hotel du Vin in Winchester last November and ate at Brasseerie Blanc there one night too. Our meal wasn't as good as we had expected, but like you, the service was extremely friendly and personable. We went away having not paid for my main (it was at best tepid when it arrived) and with a lovely packet of tapenade in our mits. The tapenade they had served with bread to start was some of the best I've ever had, so on enquiring about the ingredients our waitress brought us some to take home!

It's a shame the food wasn't spot on for us. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't up to the exacting standards Monsieur Blanc seems to expect of others...