October 30 2019

An impromptu supper at Brasserie Blanc

And so it came to pass that, one miserable, drizzly evening last week, we trotted along to Brasserie Blanc to sample their Christmas Party menus in delectable canapé form… and the experience was très delectable indeed. But as we’ve established, the weather was very un-très delectable, and the bistro (just beyond our lounge table) looked all cosy and inviting… and really, we had no option but to do the decent thing and stay for supper.

Brasserie Blanc hasn’t really trended on my radar since the doors to the Bath branch opened back in 2012, even though I interviewed the man himself (that’ll be Raymond Blanc, then) just before the brouhaha; I can’t, therefore, comment on the changes that have taken place since then (there was a bit of a refurbishment around four years ago) and I haven’t been in receipt of any update bullets etc from BB HQ, most likely because The Pig Guide largely focuses on independent ventures. But we don’t, however, attempt to ignore chains or pretend they don’t exist – that would be cutting our snouts off to spite our faces, as some of the chains (BB being a specific case in point here) are doing very good things for the economy as a whole, and some really, really good stuff to support and raise awareness of sustainability issues, modern slavery and the gender pay gap (click here and scroll down the page to see what I’m referring to in Blanc world terms.) So anyway, we stayed for supper…

You could be forgiven for not knowing where Brasserie Blanc Bath actually is: although it’s part of the Francis Hotel on Queen Square, it’s sorta subtle in terms of signage, and the big picture windows are designed more for looking out of from indoors than in from the street. Subtle is the theme within, too; the dining room may have once been a ballroom, but today it’s all about the ‘smart modern brasserie’ vibe, complete with inviting booths by the bar and smartly-laid tables, some with banquette seating (gotta lurve a bistro with both booths and banquette seating to choose from) but mostly stylishly scattered hither and thither in a way that offers both party-on and cosy-up options.

The menus too offer an all-things-to-all-people/budgets array and include some surprising twists on the classic French bistro theme – you don’t often come across Moroccan Mezze snuggling up against Moules Marinere, or Malabar fish curry vying with boeuf bourguignon for attention. We’re most definitely not, however, on dreaded ‘pan-global’ territory; it’s all properly, authentically Blanc (seasonal; produce-led; witty) with just a handful of nods to right here, right now modernity.

For the piggy who took a ‘classic’ route to satiation (that’ll be me, then,) sublime potted Cornish crab and avocado with prawn butter and sourdough followed by a super-flavoursome wild mushroom fricassee seething with fresh herbs and just-the-right-level-of-winey, served with lightly fried potato and cheese gnocchi and scattered with Jerusalem artichoke shavings (see pic) – all very good indeed. For Mr Pig, whose attention had clearly been captured by the aforementioned exotic twists, lightly smoked salmon – a grilled fillet rather than slivered ribbons – teamed with curried cauliflower and spiced mango chutney, then that Malabar fish curry (roast hake; yum), silkened with coconut milk, texture-boosted with shallot crisps and jazzed up by a plump, shimmering grilled king prawn. My choices confirmed all that I know to be good about Blanc’s trademark style (that seasonal, produce-led, witty thing) while Mr Pig’s bought extra-added interest to proceedings, resulting in an all-round good experience indeed, with lovely service throughout bringing extra-added bonus points to our ad hoc outing.

So, Brasserie Blanc Bath: now we’ve at last become so happily acquainted, je reviendrai to your Bath bistro bientôt; in fact, je vous invite par la présente to present yourself to The Pig Guide, pronto; you very elegantly (and rather refreshingly) prove that not all chains are equal.

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