Mid-range French fare at Brasserie Blanc

Heading down Moorgate towards Bank, turn left behind the Bank of England, and a couple of roads on, you reach Brasserie Blanc Threadneedle Street which is another venture from the world-renowned chef Raymond Blanc as part of a chain of similarly-named mid-priced eating establishments in the French brasserie-style.  There is certainly competition in this style of restaurant with the Cote Brasserie and Café Rouge chains both offering something similar in style and pricing.  However we would rate the Threadneedle Street Brasserie Blanc highly among these.

A little bit of history here: Blanc is self-taught, he arrived in the UK and headed to Oxford where he got a job in a country pub, after which he married the boss’s daughter, opened up his first restaurant and started cooking in earnest.

Back to the present day and, along with his famous Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons (from which 27 chefs who have worked for him have gone on to win Michelin stars), he has this chain of brasseries with branches in several UK cities including Bristol, Leeds, Chichester and Cheltenham.  When asked what a Brasserie Blanc is, Raymond replied, “if the Manoir is a delicate waltz then the Brasseries are the Can Can”; apparently the menu (which is updated seasonally) is inspired by the dishes cooked by his mother.

The Brasserie is a bar as well as a restaurant, and you walk in past the bar and up a few stairs to get to the tables (and up a second set of stairs for the powder rooms).  Bear in mind that the dining is wheelchair accessible but not fully as there is no access to the mezzanine up with the loos.

The interior was redesigned in 2015 and is a clever combination of modern style with Parisian brasserie whispers.

The sage leather seating, blending fabrics on the pews and the uncluttered tables all complement the elements of vintage styling in the lighting and mirrors.

The Spring menu was just being launched as we reviewed the restaurant; it has been compiled by Raymond and the chef team here led by Clive Fretwell.  They are proud of the fact that their food is sourced with care from some of the best producers and farmers in the country.

We arrived at 7pm on a Thursday and the bar was busy but not hectic.  The restaurant was almost empty so early but filled up over the evening with all the working late city folk.

The drinks menu is fairly comprehensive with a good range of cocktails, wines and beers. Non-alcoholic cocktails are also available.  We just settled for glasses of Mucadet (£6.70) and Sauvignon Blanc (£5.95).  House red and white wines are £19.95 a bottle and still wines on the list go up to £88.  If one really wants to splash out then a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal champagne comes in at £295.

We started with some big fat juicy olives (£2.25) and for starters we ordered a cheese soufflé and the fish soup.  I haven’t had a cheese soufflé for the longest time but I remember my last effort at baking one and even though mine did rise to the occasion, it wasn’t a patch on this one.  The soufflé had a very subtle egg flavour and enhanced the flavour of the cheese; the texture was cloud-like and dissolved deliciously on the tongue.  The soufflé passed with honours on the final test of having a moist cheese interior.

The ‘BB’ Cheese Soufflé (with Ford Farm Coastal Cheddar sauce) (£7.50)

The Fish Soup was rich and delicious and complemented well with the accessories.

Mediterranean Fish Soup with Gruyère cheese croutons.  A classic Raymond recipe, complex & full of flavour. (£8.50)

Other mostly typically French starters ranged in price from £6-£9.95 and included

Vegetable Summer Rolls, Pea, Broad Bean & Red Pepper Salad,  Chicken Liver Parfait,  Moules Marinere or Saffron Mouclade , Grilled Lightly Smoked Salmon with Beetroot Medley,  Potted Cromer Crab & Avocado and Steak Tartare ‘Maison’

For the main course, I opted for special of the day which was sea bream.   The skin was perfectly crispy and the large flakes had a lovely fishy, buttery fat taste.

The Sea Bream

We did without a side order of veggies because the fish came with fabulous fresh ‘just crunchy’ asparagus and my partner ordered the ‘meal on a plate’ lamb tagine.

Lamb Tagine (with slow-cooked spiced Cornish lamb with apricot, golden sultanas & Medjool date, pistachio & almond couscous).  £19.95

We were doing the review in April and our London weather certainly wasn’t warming, but we could, at least, enjoy the bold flavours of a hot culture via this dish.  The traditional two-piece clay pot was brought to the table and as soon as the lid was removed, the aromas of the spices, fruits and slow-cooked meat transported us to Morocco.  You can understand how this method of cooking is practical in areas where water supplies are limited.

Other mains included:

Marinated Free Range Chicken, Grilled Cod & Lemon & Squid Ink Risotto (with Grilled Chilli Squid). Malabar Fish Curry with Toasted Coconut, Boeuf Bourguignon, Duck Leg Confit with Black Cherry Sauce, Beef Burger, Slow-Cooked Shoulder & Leg Of Roast Suckling Pig, Scottish Salmon & Crab Fishcake , King Prawns with Black Rice, Grilled Salmon Fillet with Tomato Hollandaise, Moules Frites or Prime Cornish Chargrilled Steaks (30-day dry-aged beef from pasture-reared, free range Cornish cattle)

For Vegans and Vegetarians the restaurant offers Hearty Vegan ‘Chilli Pie’ or Roast Butternut Squash with Citrus Bulgur Wheat Salad.

So there’s plenty of choice on the rather large menu to suit all tastes.

For dessert, my partner opted for the temptingly irresistible mixed berry pavlova.  The meringue was chewier than he would have liked, but I leaned over for a second opinion and it was perfect for me, so it is just a matter of taste.  Doesn’t it look heavenly!

Mixed berry Pavlova (£6.75)

Since one of Raymond’s signature dishes over the years was a chocolate fondant, I decided to go for the chocolate mousse cup.

Chocolate Mousse Cup with Cherry Compote (£8.50)

The little bowl is made of chocolate, the biscuit looking crumbs are chocolate crumbs and at the bottom of the bowl of mouse is a cherry compote to die for.  Enough said!  I had to share it with my partner, because it belongs on a bucket list.

Other dessert offerings include:

Pistachio Souffle, Coconut Rice with Fresh Mango,  Zesty Lemon Tart, Jude’s Ice Cream & Sorbets  or The Brasserie Blanc Selection Of Five French Cheeses

We ended with a very good coffee and patted ourselves that we didn’t eat any sourdough bread before the meal!

This is a classy mid-range restaurant with excellent food which is well worth a visit.  They clearly care deeply about their menu and the service is excellent.  It’s worth noting that they welcome children and have a special Henri le Worm menu just for them.  For older children they have a ‘half price, half portion’ menu featuring selected main course dishes.

Brasserie Blanc has a special 2 course fixed menu available Monday to Saturday at lunch time to late afternoon in most locations and available in the evening Monday to Thursday in selected brasseries.  Unfortunately, the Threadneedle Street restaurant does not offer the set menu but most of the other locations do.

Brasserie Blanc, 60 Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8HP – where Threadneedle Street meets Old Broad Street opposite the Royal Exchange.  Tel: 020 7710 9440.  Website: brasserieblanc.com

Opening Times: 7.00am – 10pm, Mon – Fri, Closed Saturday & Sunday