Yesterday after suffering the unusual, to me at least, ordeal of a one-and-a-half-hour-long prize giving at a private Oxford girls school – don’t ask – I was rewarded with lunch at Brasserie Blanc in Jericho, and thankfully I wasn’t driving ’cause I was oh-so-ready for a drink after that!
If any of you read the post ‘My Bro, John’ you will know that I first ate at one of Raymond’s establishments back in 1986, the original Petit Blanc. Brasserie Blanc on Walton Street used to also be called Petit Blanc but was re-launched as the Brasserie in 2006. I haven’t been for at least a decade so fancied checking it out. I like to think of myself as a cool, modern foodie, always on the look out for the next new thing, but in fact, faced with a list of old classics, I float up to cloud 9! The menu is almost comically packed with French Tradition, which makes your mouth water and choosing difficult! The bright, glass-walled front room was busy and the service formal, but not too much so, and friendly; the Maitre d’ was fab and anticipated who we were before we’d even said hello (we were apparently the only table of 4 that day so he’d obviously been studying the bookings diary).
Wines are mainly French of course and good value between £15 and £30 a bottle except for a £50 Puligny-Montrachet. We had a bottle of Viognier for £23 which was lovely.
We could have gone for Frenchy options such as snails, chanterelles or country pate; Toulouse sausages, Barbary duck or tartiflette; but the winning dish was ‘Hot oak smoked Cornish mackerel with cucumber salad and horseradish cream’ which we all had, the other 3 as a first course, and me as a main. The flesh was sweet and subtly smoky, and look at how perfectly crispy and blistered the skin is…
I had the ‘Munster cheese souffle’. I’m a sucker for souffle in any incarnation, but especially cheese. Although it was served turned-out, the ramekin it was cooked in must have been lined with some sort of polenta flour because the outside was really crunchy, encasing a strong-flavoured fluffy souffle with a molten cheese middle. It came with a lovely classic frisee salad with apple, celery and apricots.
Ruby (one of that morning’s prize winners) is a seafood freak and went for the grilled king prawns, and the other mains we had were ‘Slow cooked beef with pot roasted root vegetables’ and ‘Lamb’s liver, capers and lemon thyme saute potatoes’ all of which were great. The rich aromas filling the room were lush – it was a nippy but bright, defiantly autumnal day and these dishes all felt just right for both the weather, and a Friday lunchtime. I’m supposed to be on a Christmas diet (why do the geese and turkeys get to have all the fun?) but was utterly hopeless eating bread, butter, a side of mash for God’s sake, and ordering pudding. What an utter disgrace! But I am telling you, even Mother Teresa would have crumbled in the face of the dessert list. There was no way I was going to miss out on ‘Pineapple pavlova with malibu sauce’, you must agree right? That would be simply foolish! Life’s too short to not eat malibu sauce when you get the chance.
It was gorgeous. The meringue was shattery on the outside, but with a really chewy heart beneath a huge dollop of whipped vanilla cream and lounging on carpaccio-thin slices of juicy pineapple. The malibu sauce turned out to be a coconut-rum flavoured creme anglaise. Paradise.
And not only did the fantastic dessert menu offer that, but also a proper flamed baked alaska for 2 which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t order (in the name of blogging and research of course) so sorry, I’ve let you down. What we did go for though was this incredible, gravity-defying chocolate souffle that came with a scoop of pistachio ice cream. Look at the size of it!
Last night was spent in front of a roaring fire watching the fabulous movie ‘Working Girl’ and supper was a sort of Boxing Day mish-mash of cold ham hock, Joan’s home-made piccalilli, gorgonzola, tomatoes, apples and granary toast, which all felt pretty Christmassy as you can imagine. Bring it on! I, for one, can’t wait.