Stephanie Brookes, foodie expert and BBC Radio London contributor, offers her pick of an eating establishment for this month, Blanchette in Soho.
It’s no secret that if you follow me on social media, I have a true love affair with Paris. Photos of the City of Light are posted regularly on my pages, usually to remind me of dishes I’ve come to love and know so well. I’ve always felt incredibly fortunate to visit so often, and to indulge in the culinary delights of the city.
It’s with those dishes in mind that I was eager to sample the French-inspired cuisine of Blanchette. Opened in 2013 by brothers Yannis, Malik and Maxime, their love of great food and almost thirty years in hospitality has helped create a restaurant reminiscent of the traditional bistros of Paris. Their menu offers a tempting variety of small, sharing plates of beloved French classics, while also bringing their own, modern interpretation.
We started with an order of Cheese Beignets with onion confit: perfectly formed little fritters designed for that pre-lunch nibble. The moment you bite into the crispy cheese batter, a pillow-soft cheese filling emerges which was equally satisfying and deceptively rich. The savoury cheese is complemented by a deliciously sticky, sweet onion confit.
The following dish of Duck Rillettes with pickled endive, Piment d’Espelette and toasted sourdough was a beautifully constructed dish.
All photos copyright: Blanchette in Soho
I found the sharp, acidity of the pickled endive addictively moreish, combined with the earthy duck and that final, satisfying crunch of the sourdough. It felt like a very grown-up snack. And that’s the thing about Blanchette, it’s a thoroughly sophisticated affair. As I glanced around the room, I never once noticed anyone being rushed or hurried on, so certainly in keeping with the Parisian way.
My personal greed kept me from lingering over any one of the initial dishes as the larger plates were now in my sights. Confit Duck Leg with swede, chestnuts and truffle butter was received with much anticipation. On my visits to Paris, duck confit is perhaps the dish I order most often, so I took great delight in this familiar, rustic offering: the soft, pink flesh of the duck, along with the sweet, creamy swede was a comforting combination to say the least, and certainly up there with some of the best duck confit dishes I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. The added richness of the chestnuts and that salty, crispy duck skin was utterly divine.
The following order of Braised Lamb Shoulder with anchovy, rosemary and soubise sauce was a soft, flaky, unctuous mouthful – the meat practically melted on to the fork. For a non-lamb eater like myself, I have truly been converted. It was, in fact, my favourite moment of the entire meal. It’s also something special when a dish keeps drifting back into your mind weeks later.
The side dishes offered plenty of classic, bistro-style inspiration with the addition of Frites and Béarnaise – one of life’s culinary pleasures. A generous bowl of salty, crispy frites paired with a buttery, tarragon-rich sauce was a meal in itself, and a totally indulgent accompaniment.
There was not much time to recuperate before a large platter of hot starters arrived at the table. A generous plate of Sojok (sausages in lemon) was a meaty and highly moreish dish and a definite highlight of the meal. Another favourite was the marinated Chicken Wings with fried coriander: soft, fleshy and moist from the rich garlic sauce. What I find exciting about this kind of dining is the variety and sheer abundance of mixed hot and cold dishes, and the fun food experimentation that ensues – everything works together perfectly.
Baked Ratatouille with smoked aubergine and melted raclette was ordered as the token vegetable dish. However, it felt decidedly more indulgent than usual: a generous golden cheese crust encased the soft, fleshy aubergine coated in a rich tomato sauce. It’s the kind of veggie side dish which would make me eat my five-a-day with extreme diligence.
A dessert was, of course, completely unnecessary, and yet the Chocolate Fondant with beurre noisette ice cream and griottine cherries called out to me.
I knew I would regret the omission later that day if I didn’t partake. As expected, a molten chocolate centre oozed from the moment a spoon touched the cocoa-rich sponge, and sour cherries added a much-needed contrast to the velvety, chocolate centre. I was almost regretful that I didn’t take longer over the final course, as I simply didn’t want to leave. Fortunately for us, Blanchette is a restaurant that doesn’t want diners to leave either.
For a lazy afternoon with friends, or a more intimate meal for two, Blanchette hits just the right note. It’s the kind of easy, neighbourhood restaurant you wish was within walking distance of home, yet a train ride into central London is worth the effort. This restaurant already has the makings of a true Soho
essence infoBlanchette Soho
9 D’Arblay Street, Soho, London W1F 8DRWebsites: blanchettesoho.co.uk
020 7439 8100Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @BlanchetteLDNInstagram: @blanchettelondon