French cuisine is one of my favourites in the world – it’s usually meaty, creamy, cheesy and decadent! But the techniques involved in French cooking are normally quite traditional. I’ve previously written about our visit to The Waterside Inn, one of the only UK establishments to maintain three Michelin stars. And while the food is absolutely superb, it’s very ‘old school’ in style. You can tell that Alain Roux has been cooking like this for a long time and it clearly works very well. So when I met Yannis and Maxime at a recent Teisseire event, I was intrigued to learn that at their French restaurant in Soho, Blanchette, they serve French cuisine ‘with a twist.’
I finally got round to visiting Blanchette last week with Ceri. It’s located to the North of Soho, a few minutes away from Oxford Circus tube station. I left it quite last minute to book and there was only room left to sit at the bar. I took this to be a good sign, as the restaurant was clearly fully booked on a Thursday night, so I was excited to see what all the fuss was about.
We were greeted with a glass of champagne each, which was lovely, and we perused the menu straight away. And it really was the menu of my dreams. Blanchette serves small plates of food (divided on the menu into snacks, charcuterie, cheese, fish, meat and vegetable) starting at £2.75 for the Bread & Butter and £9.50 for the Grilled Beef Fillet en Croute. It’s such a great way of being able to try lots of different French dishes in one sitting without getting overwhelmed.
We ordered the Bread & Butter, Crispy Frog Legs with Bois Boudran sauce, Jambon Sec de Montagne, Truffle Saucisson, Ox Cheeks Bourguignon, Cornish Mackerel with Smoked Mussels, Citrus & Fennel, Green Bean Salad with Foie Gras, Shallots & Walnut Dressing and Frites & Bearnaise. And a bottle of white wine (Petit Ballon Blanc Cotes de Gascogne).
Blanchette’s decor is quite unusual and not what you would expect from a typical French restaurant in London, but I loved it! The bar was set with plates of different patterns and sizes and surrounding us were art nouveau tiles depicting scenes of flying ducks and the countryside. Downstairs, gorillas and giraffes were painted on the walls, along with a ‘Jungle Room’ which can be booked for private events. It was all very quirky!
The food soon arrived in dribs and drabs, a bit like a meze, which I’m obviously very accustomed to! And my word, it didn’t disappoint. Every dish was delicious – even down to the butter served with the bread!
The frogs legs were lovely – the deep fried meat just fell off the bone and the accompanying sauce (white-wine vinegar, chopped tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, fresh green herbs and Tabasco) was perfect.
I also loved how the ox bourguignon was served in a mini Le Creuset casserole dish (in-keeping with the French theme), I’d always wondered what you would serve in one of these as they’re so cute and small. But perfect for a tasting plate like this.
As you’ll probably know, I’m cheese obsessed, but we didn’t make it to any of their beautiful cheeses as we were so full, or even any of their desserts, although we did manage a couple of whiskies – I ordered a Glenlivet and Ceri had a Maker’s Marks.
It was a lovely evening – I was a bit worried that the bar wouldn’t be very comfy and we would probably have to move on to a bar somewhere after dinner, but that wasn’t the case whatsoever. We were completely at home perched at the bar, with a great ambience, and spent a good couple of hours there, eating, drinking and chatting. It was nice to see Yannis socialising with the customers and spending time with them. Just the way a restaurant should be run! I can’t wait to go back and give the cheese a run for it’s money!
If you like this, you might like to read some more French-related posts: