We dined as guests of Brasserie Blanc. As always, all views are our own.
Brasserie Blanc is quietly, consistently, reassuringly reliable. That may sound like damning with faint praise, but it absolutely isn’t.
There have been lots of changes on the Oxford restaurant scene in recent years, and I love getting excited about an evening out at the latest new eatery as much as the next person (probably more than the next person, if we’re honest). But I think, with that constant drive for the new and the unusual, it’s easy to forget a restaurant like Brasserie Blanc, which has been serving excellent food to the diners of Jericho for over twenty years now.
There is something so pleasing in going out to eat and knowing that you are in safe hands; that you will enter a welcoming, warm environment, be handed a menu on which there are many things you would like to eat, and then being served high quality, competently cooked food at a reasonable pace and be given a bill that seems perfectly fair afterwards. I have great affection for Brasserie Blanc.
The room itself is just lovely. Full of light from huge windows that look out onto bustling Walton Street, buzzy without being overwhelming, and properly thought out. I like that they haven’t tried to cram too many tables in: everyone has enough space. Crucially, this means that it isn’t a noisy restaurant, which is often something I look for when dining with people who might be older or hard of hearing. This also sounds like a small point, but the chairs are incredibly comfy. I am not a fan of sitting on a hard wooden bench for a couple of hours of an evening.
The food at Brasserie Blanc
To start, I chose the BB cheese souffle with Wyke Farm cheddar sauce (£6.95), which, as a classic, I thought would be a good litmus test. Plus, let’s be real: I wanted to eat some cheese sauce. It was a great start; beautifully light, fluffy within and crisp without, a perfect portion size and packing a punch of strong cheddar cheese flavour.
My husband went for the slightly more unusual grilled lightly smoked salmon, beetroot and horseradish (£8.50) – a salmon fillet with a trio of beetroot, and cauliflower florets with horseradish crème fraîche. This was a very pretty plate. It was also well-balanced, with good attention to detail and lots of interesting component parts.
I love a menu with tempting fish dishes, and I chose my main from the ‘around the world’ section. It was grilled cod with preserved lemon marinade and chilli squid, served on a squid ink risotto (£16.75). While it wasn’t absolutely perfect – the squid didn’t seem to be spiced at all to me, and the skin was left soft on the underside of the cod (it is tricky to get crisp cod skin, so better to remove it than leave it flabby) – it was a very pleasing plate of food. The preserved lemon complimented the beautifully soft and flaking fish well, and the risotto was very well-seasoned and a perfect texture. I really enjoyed it.
James plumped for the smoked pork belly with rhubarb and ginger chutney, potatoes, hispi cabbage and pork jus (£18.50). I think that picture of the glorious crackling speaks for itself. The meat had a great flavour, James raved about the potatoes, and the cabbage was soft and buttery. Personally, I would have liked a little more salt on the crackling, but that may just be me – I like food saltier than most.
Never one to pass up a dessert menu…
I was delighted to get stuck into the pink champagne rhubarb and custard with cinder toffee (£6.25), which was a joy. The crème anglaise was silky and decadent, the rhubarb poached with ginger warm and fresh, the honeycomb crowning it beautifully: a lovely combination of sharp and sweet.
James went for the classic dessert: a pistachio souffle with chocolate ice cream (£7.50). This dish is one of life’s true joys, and if you haven’t tried it yet then you really should get cracking.
There’s a pleasing mix of tradition and innovation at play here. It’s worth noting that, while Brasserie Blanc is not a place that changes its menu daily by any means, it doesn’t give a static offering either. While stalwart classics rightly remain on there year after year (I would be very sad if, for instance, they got rid of the pistachio souffle) they also commonly add and tweak and mix things up.
I was very pleased to see that, on recent visits, the menu had evolved to include a greater number of vegetarian options and a few choices for vegans too – not a given at a French restaurant by any means. They also care about seasonality, which is something I love to see.
The service we received at Brasserie Blanc was, as always, friendly and attentive without being overbearing. The waiting staff are knowledgeable and warm, and seem to be genuinely happy to be working at the restaurant. Overall, dining at Brasserie Blanc is a great experience. It also happens to be the place where my husband and I had our first ever date. And that’s all going pretty well, so.