We were wrecks by the time we arrived at Brasserie Blanc, make up running down our faces, cheeks red, eyes puffy, having had a really good cry at the Phoenix down the road in Jericho. If you get to see Lion, do, but take a hanky.
We apologised to our waiter, but he’d seen the film too, so sympathised wholeheartedly.
It was a good restaurant to gather ourselves, immediately calming, it’s tasteful Ercol style décor, soft blues and greys, and the overall elegance of the place, soothing our tattered nerves instantly. A glance at the menu only heightened that, Maman Blanc’s instantly recognisable comfort food is like slipping into a warm culinary bath.
And so we relaxed, our weeping ceasing to a shuddering halt, concentrating instead on the wonderful atmosphere and delicious looking food being passed around the classy, contemporary and sleek restaurant.
You forget Brasserie Blanc is a chain, and although there are now five locations in London and a further 12 Brasserie Blanc’s around the UK, I like to think that Oxford is given special care and attention, being the first and Raymond’s favourite.
Those of you who read my restaurant reviews regularly will know I can never resist a soufflé, especially here where they do them so brilliantly, so the starter was a given - the BB cheese souffle ( 6.95) which came with a warm Ford Farm coastal cheddar sauce served in a little jug - a fromage feast. Rolled in a polenta-like crispy crumb it was heavenly, although perhaps a tad overcooked, I like mine almost melting inside.
The toulouse sausage and poached egg (£7.65) came with endive and some beautifully dressed salad potatoes, the smoky sausage and bitterness of the endive all coming together perfectly.
The Salade Blanc came with a celeriac and apple remoulade, watercress, avocado and deep fried shallots, (£6.90/£11.95) and was fresh, clean and crisp, a welcome respite after all that cheese. The special, a sea bream in a bouillabaisse sauce came with sundried tomatoes, artichokes and croutons, the fish wonderfully cooked and subtle, none of the flavours overpowering each other with a seductively silky finish. Another heavenly dish.
The chocolate torte begged a moment of silence as we paid our respects to its stunning composition, famed in a creme anglaise, flaked almonds and a scoop of ice cream in the centre. Attacking it with two spoons we then paused for reflection.
One things for sure, standards haven't slipped during that time, and while so many other restaurants have fallen by the wayside, BB has resolutely stayed put, showing everyone else how to do it, quietly but elegantly, in that understated restrained French way. Still Raymond's place to the core, it never disappoints.
*On April 25, Raymond Blanc will be hosting a party to celebrate its 21st birthday where it all began, Brasserie Blanc Oxford. Guests will enjoy a drinks reception and four course specially created dinner by Clive Fretwell for £70 per person. Availability is limited so please do get in touch with Brasserie Blanc Oxford for more information and to book.
In the meantime the new spring menu features classic dishes which have featured at brasserie Blanc over the past 21 years, and given a modern makeover.
71-72 WALTON STREET
OXFORD OX2 6AG
01865 510 999