The good people of St. Albans should know a thing or two about fine food, after all, the High Street is awash with well known upscale restaurants. So when my waiter at Brasserie Blanc tells me “50% of our customers are regulars” I think to myself, “if that isn’t a sign of approval, I don’t know what is.”
Faced with such stiff competition, Brasserie Blanc imposes itself very well on the much vaunted St. Albans High Street. It is a large space perched regally at the end, almost as if to say to all the rest, you fight it out amongst yourselves, while we simply go about our business up here.
Raymond Blanc of course is a household name and while his legendary and heavenly Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons continues to reign supreme, he has also provided for mere mortals like us with his collection of Brasseries.
Celebrating the popular French all day restaurant concept, Brasserie Blanc offers an excellent Raymond Blanc inspired menu and service at surprisingly good value for money.
Brasserie Blanc does the authentically French brasserie look very well; crisp white napkins, banquette seating and an air of relaxed wining and dining.
Although we were both seduced by the BB Cheese soufflé starter (£6.90) with a sauce made from cheddar from my favourite Dorset cheese dairy, Ford Farm, I left Mrs. M with that. I instead went with the equally intriguing Morteau Sausage & poached egg with pan fried smoked sausage, potato salad and endives (£7.65). Other notable entrees were the classic Moules Marinierre or Mouclade (£6.90) a charcuterie board with toasted sourdough (£8.95) and potted shrimps with Tabasco, nutmeg lemon juice and butter (£8.50)
The soufflé certainly lived up to the billing; delightfully light and tangy, and the cheddar sauce was a perfect partner. Poached egg seems to have become a popular starter ingredient these days and with that smoked sausage proved to be a formidable duo.
Brasserie Blanc offers a whole variety of main options, from wild boar sirloin with juniper and black pepper (£21) or pan-seared trout with cauliflower puree and basil (£15.90) to aromatic pearl barley cakes with pumpkin puree and steamed apple for vegetarians (£11.90) but frankly, in a brasserie you simply have to go with the classics. So, slow cooked Boeuf Bourguignon for me (£16.95) and Fillet steak & frites for Mrs.M.
The Boeuf Bourguignon was glorious and unusually, a whole blade of meat atop a bed of spinach dripping in a red wine , lardon and onion sauce with creamy mash. Of course, washing it down with a glass of fruity Malbec only added to my joy.
There was just enough energy left to try out a couple of desserts. Despite our waiters having a heated debate over their own preferences, one suggested the pistachio soufflé (£6.90) while the other was adamant about the baked tarte au citron (£6.50). In the end to keep the peace we took the souffle suggestion but chose the chocolate and almond torte (£5.90).
Both were up there, but for me, the torte was a clear winner.
Brasserie Blanc is a genius concept, perfectly filling that gap between local cafe and fine dining. The fare is fresh, authentic and beautifully delivered, with an outstandingly good value Prix Fixe Menu served until 6.30pm Monday to Saturday.
All food images (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about Brasserie Blanc St. Albans
Brasserie Blanc, 1-3 Verulam Rd, St Albans AL3 4DA
Tel: 01727 890410
Prix Fixe Menu served until 6.30pm Monday to Saturday. £10.95 for two courses or £14.45 for three courses.