Brasserie Blanc – set menu with wine, £11.35-17.30
Ramond Blanc claims that if his Michelin-starred Le Manoir is a delicate waltz, the brasseries are the Can Can. Our meal was a fun experience, but perhaps rather less exhilarating than the Can Can.
The a la carte menu looks sumptuous, featuring French classics such as escargots in garlic herb butter, mussels in white wine and cream, and apple tart, but for a more student-friendly option price-wise, I went for the excellent value set menu – two or three courses, plus a glass of wine, with prices ranging from £11.35 to £17.30 depending on the amount of courses and whether you go for lunch or dinner.
The interior is elegant and relaxing, with cream walls, soft lighting and food-themed artwork. We were looked after throughout the evening by very attentive French waiters, who addressed us as “Madame” and “Monsieur”. Call me old-fashioned, but I rather liked their charming French politeness. With the arrival of a basket of fresh sliced baguette and butter, I immediately had high hopes for my dining experience. My starter – parsnip soup with a honey and lemon dressing – was deliciously warming, though rather too rich and creamy to finish at the beginning of a meal with two courses yet to come. It was garnished with pretty fried parsnip crisps which provided a nice contrast in texture to the soup. The honey and lemon dressing prevented the parsnips’ sweetness from being too overpowering, but unfortunately seemed to settle at the bottom of the bowl, meaning I had a couple of mouthfuls that tasted like honey and lemon cough sweets. My guest sampled the smoked ham hock terrine, served with egg mayonnaise and capers. This was superb; the deep, rich smoky flavour of the ham was nicely complemented by the creamy eggs and sharp capers.
From a choice of pork and black pepper sausage with puree potatoes, fillet of John Dory with bouillabaisse sauce and olive mash, or Moroccan vegetable tagine, we both chose the fish. The John Dory was indeed delicious and melted in the mouth, but the bouillabaisse sauce and mash combination was a little cloying. Still, it was excellently cooked and flavoured; I think perhaps I am just not accustomed to the French generosity with butter and cream.
Dessert was probably the highlight of the meal. Any menu that features rhubarb – in season at the moment – immediately gains my seal of approval. I ordered the poached rhubarb and Savoie biscuit terrine, a clever creation of sweet, tender rhubarb encased in a layer of moist sponge that was a perfect match for its tangy sharpness. Drizzled with a pink rhubarb coulis and a scoop of cream, it looked absolutely beautiful. There’s something about bright pink food that is happily reminiscent of sugar-filled childhood birthday parties, although there was nothing childish about this delicious dessert, especially when teamed with a glass of dessert wine (not included in the set menu, sadly). Sweet wine, slightly sour rhubarb, soft white cream – excellent. My guest opted for the white chocolate and banana delice, a layer of creamy white chocolate mousse atop a dark chocolate base. I couldn’t detect much banana flavour, and the texture became a bit uninteresting after a while. Perhaps he should have chosen the sticky toffee pudding – impossible to do badly, I imagine, especially with that French love of butter.
A very good meal for the amount we paid; nothing incredibly remarkable though – for that kind of food you’ll have to order a la carte!
A version of this article featured in The Oxford Student newspaper, published by Oxford Student Services Limited (OSSL). OxNosh reproduces this article by agreement with OSSL.