Brasserie Blanc, Covent Garden
The latest addition to Raymond Blanc’s Brasserie chain opened in London’s Covent Garden Piazza recently with can-can dancers entertaining the crowds and Blanc himself on hand to encourage people into his newest restaurant. Situated on the Opera Terrace it commands a brilliant view across the area and once inside it has a gloriously impressive interior with its massive conservatory structure allowing light to flood in – even on a wet and dreary evening such as yesterday.
It really was quite stunning to enter and be shown to the table where Annie was already seated. When we’d read about the restaurant’s opening we decided it was definitely the place to go next time we met. Our table on the edge of the interior side of the restaurant also had a view down into the centre of the piazza with its shops and stalls.
Service was swift and friendly with menus coming quickly and a bread basket with both butter and olive oil.
The menu has, as one would expect, all the elements of the traditional French brasserie with crudites (seen here as Maman Blanc’s miscellany of salads) and Burgundian snails. But there are twists with, for example, an Avocado, Tomato and Greek Yogurt Salad. Annie and I were in full-guns mode though and opted to share the Selection Board – guinea fowl rilettes, milano salami, seared mackerel, apple and pear chutney, cucumber creme fraiche, carrot vinaigrette and celeriac remoulade. Yes, that was quite a starter but we were sharing remember. Though I have to say it was a pretty huge platter of food that I would have been happy to share by itself at lunchtime.
It tasted as delicious as it looked. Still slightly warm mackerel was moist and wonderful; the rillettes were perfect – moist and full of flavour and retaining plenty of that pulled-meat texture; there was a nice bite to the fresh-tasting cucumber and a richness to the celeriac with its mustardy dressing. This was definitely a starter to take your time over. And we were in no hurry.
We chose wine by the glass and there was a good selection. Annie went for white: Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine Sainte-Anne and I went for red: Chateau Haut Roudier, Bordeaux.
Were we ready for our main course, they asked us once our starter plates had been cleared. The service was always attentive. However, here there was a slight mishap. We’d both chosen Pan Fried Lamb’s Liver, Spring Greens and Smooth Mash. It looked very good as it was put before us but I’d asked for pink lamb and as soon as I cut in I could tell it was well done. Someone was at my side before I had a chance to decide whether to say anything. So I said, no it wasn’t really all right as my liver was overcooked. Immediately there were apologies and both plates taken and we were assured new ones would come quickly – which they did.
I’d had one small taste of the first version and the taste is too strong when the liver is well done, especially lamb’s liver. This second version was so much better; the taste more subtle and the texture more pleasing. My only slight complaint is that it was still a bit more well done than what I’d call ‘pink’. Most English restaurants nowadays wouldn’t serve liver quite so cooked through, so a French brasserie should get it right. However, as a dish it was very good indeed. The sauce rich and a good compliment to the liver and the potatoes just wonderfully light and smooth.
We were too full for dessert but had pots of fresh mint tea instead. When the bill came it was £59.10 before we added a tip. We thought that was good value for what we had. The food was very good, the service excellent and above all it was a really lovely place to sit and enjoy the evening and a little taste of Paris (albeit in London!).
We passed by the bar area on the way out and thought it a good place for just a drink anytime and downstairs there’s a creperie. So, next time you’re in Covent Garden look out Blanc Brasserie and it’s sure to have something to please you. Annie and I are definitely going back.
Update August 2016: This branch of Brasserie Blanc has closed, but there are more nearby, e.g. South Bank.