With under two weeks till baby2’s due date, I was starting to look somewhat whale-like; with a bowling ball for a belly and a considerable waddle, baby daddy and I decided to have a final night off before our lives are turned upside down all over again. Having visited Brasserie Blanc Oxford recently for an ‘off duty’ (read as not reviewing) lunch and being very impressed, we decided on a return visit – this time with my reviewing head firmly on.
So grandparents babysitting and table reserved for 7.30, we were out the house as quick as our little legs could carry us… clearly, a night off had been long overdue! A quick drink in The Jericho Tavern and we were ready for a lovely dinner.
The first thing that’s noticeable about Brasserie Blanc is the service – the front of house staff are impeccably well trained, with an air of elegant ease about them. The décor is understated and tasteful, with well-worn candles draped in skirts of wax, black and white pictures of Monsieur Blanc in the kitchen, cool cream walls, dark wooden tables, low lighting and white linens.
With the front half of the restaurant already full (by 7.30 – very impressive!), we made our way to the rear of the building, with the kitchen in sight. Comfortably settled and drinks ordered, we spent a good ten minutes debating how many courses to attempt – I’m pleased to say the final agreement was three. It may be a while till we get to splurge!
Andrew’s selection was chicken liver parfait (from the specials), rack of English lamb with lemon and herb puy lentils (£18.90), followed by ice cream (£1.50 per scoop); I decided on Burgundian snails in garlic herb butter (£7.80 – a big favourite of mine), followed by confit duck (also from the specials), then the cherry almond tart served with crème anglaise, toasted pistachios and almonds (£6.65).
The chicken liver parfait looked beautiful – smooth and silky, a tempting reminder of what I would joyfully be allowed to eat again in a matter of weeks. Andrew assures me it was good, and with the speed it was consumed I would certainly assume so. The snails were delightful, if a little too hot to eat for some time; I was possibly just starting my dish as my dining companion was finishing his! Initial heat aside, the delicious garlic and herb butter made for a wonderful rich accompaniment to the earthy snails and crisp baguette – I could have easily eaten twice the amount and not lost interest.
Moving onto our mains, the lamb looked absolutely stunning – blushing pink and cooked just perfectly, served up on a tantalisingly soft mash and juicy lentil broth, Andrew was a happy boy. As for me, I was blissfully tucking into my moist confit duck which was almost falling off the bone; the potato cake was a buttery-soft, delicious treat; the plump cherries an enjoyable addition; the vegetables a touch beyond al dente; all tied together by a delicate buttery jus… Beautiful.
With a little room still left, I tucked in happily to my cherry and almond tart, while Andrew, being utterly predictable, dug into his ice cream. Both enjoyable, well-prepared, high-quality desserts, without evoking exaggerated feelings of delight. To a large degree, this sums up our meal well; you can tell all the ingredients are of high quality, the food is prepared to an exacting standard, the food tastes great, the service is beyond reproach, all in all, a highly professional restaurant. However, there was no singular dish that left me reeling with desire to eat it immediately again, or gush about it to friends and family.
Don’t underestimate the importance of substance over style though – and substance is something which Brasserie Blanc Oxford has aplenty, with care and consideration apparent throughout. I can see this becoming a regular ‘date venue’ for MrF and I…