Mentioning that I had rounded up a group of work colleagues for an evening of posh nosh at Brasserie Blanc, located within Bristol’s historic Quaker’s Friars square, was met with one of two reactions. Either with awe, inspired by the assumption of an impending special occasion, or simply a sharp intake of breath implying the anticipated financial sting. This venue certainly has a reputation for being prestigious and expensive - the latter somewhat unsupported by the available ‘Dine with Wine’ menu with which you can enjoy three courses and a glass of wine for under twenty quid. In fact, it was this very deal that gave me the final push to book a table and so it came to be that we would discover whether Brasserie Blanc would live up to the aforementioned preconceptions or alternatively, if it could offer the ‘everyday’ diner high-quality food at a price that wouldn’t break the bank…
Date and Time: Monday 6th June 2011, 19:30
Name of Establishment: Brasserie Blanc
Location: The Friary Building, Cabot Circus-Bristol
Reason for Visit: Meal with Work Colleagues
There is no doubt that Raymond Blanc and his team fell on their feet when they were given the go-ahead to occupy this site – a converted Georgian Meeting House with two medieval halls, (built in the 13th and 14th Century and previously used by Bristol Guilds). With high ceilings and period features, you can't help but marvel at what is, a truly stunning setting in which to dine. It is also commendable that the décor has been tastefully arranged so not to take away from the grandeur of the architecture and even the ambient background music had been carefully selected to compliment the ethos of the restaurant itself.
Upon arriving, our party learned that our booking had been lost as a result of teething problems with the new online booking system. Luckily we were still able to be seated despite how busy the space had become, (something which I considered unusual for a Monday evening in Bristol!) We also learned that staff here are very accommodating, in fact almost a little over-attentive – whilst waiting for our full company to arrive we were asked by no less than four different members of staff whether we wanted drinks! However, this transpired into faultless service throughout the evening – there were always a multitude of servers on-hand who, it seemed, were more than happy to help.
Attentions turning to the food, our party (bar three) opted to eat from the 'Dine with Wine' menu whereby two courses were £13.50 and three, £15.95 with the option to add a glass of wine for as little as £1.95, (the top-end of this deal offers a glass of Joseph Perrier Champagne for £4.70). Whilst we waited, three baskets of sourdough were brought to the table – this was delicious but the lack of side-plates made for an awkward (and messy) approach to buttering it. The presence of extra virgin olive oil (presumably for dipping) also seemed a little pointless when there was nowhere to put it! One member of our party started with the trio of dips from the aperitif menu (consisting of saffron garlic mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar and a wonderfully course olive paste tapenade) which I just had to insist on sampling – consequently, I suggest that future diners share this aperitif to make the most of the bread basket...especially in light of what came next...
Main courses were served promptly and I had opted for the whiting fillet. This was well-presented and the fish itself was beautifully cooked with a smoky flavour. However, the accompanying ham hock was not very generously portioned and a little fatty in places and the parsley sauce (which due to it's lack of viscosity could not really be described as a sauce), drowned the peas and robbed the cubed new-potatoes of their intended crispiness. It was a shame as the flavours married well, providing a desirable contrast between the light, fresh taste of the veg and the indulgent buttery richness of the 'sauce'. Yet, the whole dish was just too soggy which suppressed the otherwise appealing ingredients. Unfortunately, other diners had a similar problem; one member of our party had to send her fish cake back to be (for want of a better word) drained, as the accompanying salad had obviously been dressed a little too liberally – not a great accompaniment to what should have been a crunchy breadcrumb finish. Those who chose from the à la carte menu also selected side-dishes which in all honesty were required in order to pad out fairly stingy main courses. In light of this, it was reported that although the new-potatoes were buttery and firm, the French Fries were a little dry and very salty! The winner of the evening was the slow braised Beef Provencal with pilaf rice – those who favoured this agreed that the meat was tender and the dish wonderfully flavoursome overall, (in fact, the only criticism here was that there just wasn't enough of it!)
|Fish Cake - £12|
|Beef Provencal - DwW Menu|
|Whiting Fillet - DwW Menu|
With the majority of us left less than satisfied by our main courses, it was such a relief to unanimously agree that the dessert course constituted a very different experience. The hot chocolate mousse with pistachio ice cream, (a popular choice for our table) had been perfectly executed so that it arrived piping hot, yet with the scoop of ice cream un-melted and intact in the centre. The mousse was just gorgeous with a rich, chocolaty flavour that was enhanced by it's warmth and an indulgent texture - heavier than you would expect mousse to be but not to its detriment as this really was the highlight of the evening. Others had opted for the lemon posset and pistachio soufflé which were also well-received.
|Pistachio Soufflé- £5.50|
|Hot Chocolate Mousse - DwW Menu|
In conclusion, you can eat at Brasserie Blanc without a significant drain on your finances if you select dishes from the 'Dine with Wine' menu but if one were to deviate from this, it really is rather expensive, (especially as you have to fork out for side-dishes which really, should be served as standard alongside your main meal). Admittedly, there were some significant problems with the food itself which I would consider poor for a restaurant of this calibre – our visit resulted in a real mixed bag of reviews, indicating how 'hit and miss' our experience had been. Would I visit again?....Yes, but not in a hurry and only if I had enough money in my pocket to choose from the à la carte menu. Brasserie Blanc have got the atmosphere and the service spot-on so perhaps a little attention to the delivery of it's dishes is required in order to bring them to the standard of the other high-level attributes of this venue.
And now for the second opinion...
I asked a fellow diner to comment – she gave Brasserie Blanc 7/10 and in three words, chose to describe her experience as, 'a little disappointing'.