I am a hyper-keen lover of food shows, food magazines, food blogs and - perhaps sadly - reading menus of restaurants (even those that I know I will probably never go to). So my obsession with Raymond Blanc's Brasserie Blanc started months ago, and not living that close to one, it had been one of the restaurant menus that I often perused after longingly. I finally found a few more reasons to be in the area of one last weekend and got the chance to go.
It all started well. After some intense shopping we meandered in for a late lunch (3pm) and were seated immediately. The restaurant was only about a third full but had a decent atmosphere. It has a quite open layout and we were sat, somewhat too close, next to a family with two young children. For a casual weekend lunch the proximity to the other diners was fine, but I could imagine that it may be too intimate for an evening meal.
I could not fault our server. She was attentive and professional but friendly. We both ordered off the 'Dine with wine' menu. My partner really liked both his dishes which were the Smoked ham hock and pea risotto and Pork and black pepper sausage with smooth mash - which looked great. I of course had the only vegetarian starter option, Parsnip soup, honey and lemon dressing. The soup was creamy and light, topped with crispy parsnips. I couldn't really taste much lemon dressing, but found the honey at the bottom. Personally, I'm not a fan of sweet flavors in savory foods but to be fair, the honey did go well with the soup - but I didn't love it and wouldn't order it again. What I assume was fresh baked bread was placed on our table, complimentary and was perfect for soup dipping and sauce mopping.
The real problem came in the form of my main course, Gratinated polenta gnocchi in tomato sauce. I'm not entirely sure what I had been expecting, but what I do know is that I was disappointed. I actually saw the dish on the pass before I realized it was mine and thought it looked like a side dish. It came in a small dish, on a small plate (like what a side of vegetables would be served in) and was essentially one giant 'gnocchi' shaped polenta in tomato sauce. I realize that this is exactly was it was called, but like I said before, I looked at it, and was disappointed. It would have been nice as a side dish - as a small slice of the polenta in the tomato sauce on a plate with something more exciting. I ate about five bites then lost interest and left the rest. Since I had left about 90% of it our server asked me if there was something wrong with it and all I could come up with was that it was a bit 'Same-ish'. I think I said this because I didn't want to say boring, but the point was received. She asked if I would have preferred the special, which was Moroccon pulses (a side dish again no?) which I said I wouldn't. I don't like to make a fuss, and the dish I received was what it said on the menu, but I was grateful when our server kindly removed it from our bill.
For me I'm afraid, even this Michelan starred chef's restaurant suffers the same problem as most restaurants - limited and boring vegetarian options. Perhaps because of its well-known namesake my expectations were higher than the usual casual dining restaurant. I did feel there was some attempt to make the options more interesting and since the menu is constantly changing, maybe I visited during a less inspired time. All said I'm not adverse to giving Brasserie Blanc another chance, but I won't be making up excuses to go there.