Brasserie Blanc, Cabot Circus: Review

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Brasserie Blanc Cabot Circus - Exterior

 

It never fills me with confidence when I approach a restaurant I’ve booked a table at and the first thing I see is a chef, still in his apron and hat, having a cheeky cigarette out the back. That was what happened when we recently dined at Brasserie Blanc in Cabot Circus…but I’m pleased to report that it certainly didn’t set the tone for the rest of the evening.

There’s no denying that it’s a beautiful building. The original Grade 1 listed premises was built way back in 1747, and the restaurant has seen a recent refurb that’s changed the whole feel of the place. Outside, there’s a brand new dining terrace and al fresco bar, which we’re already eyeing up as a stopping point for shopping trips in town this summer.

Inside, it’s equally stunning – gone is the “posh restaurant” feel, and in its place is a light and airy space thanks to its high ceilings – a space that screams “relaxed evening out”. Decorated in creams and browns, with grand white pillars flanking the room and a mezzanine dining area reached by a sweeping staircase, the low lighting and gentle music put us at ease straight away. The only negative, in our eyes, is that some of the tables are far too close together to feel truly relaxed.

 

Brasserie Blanc Cabot Circus - Interior

 

The menu is certainly extensive, featuring a large variety of nibbles, starters, mains and sides that are all, we were pleased to see, marked up for allergy sufferers. With starters priced at £7 on average, and mains from around £14 to £20, the prices are fairly standard for the area.

I began my meal with the chilli and ginger squid (£7.40), served, said the menu, with “coriander, roquette, curly endive, grilled courgettes, aubergines, smoked paprika and red pepper dressing”. I was intrigued to see how all of the flavours would come together, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The huge piece of squid was beautifully cooked and seasoned: it truly did melt in the mouth, with a beautiful combination of flavours in the coriander-based dressing. It sat on top of a salad comprising the other ingredients, which gave it a beautiful range of textures: the crispness of the endive and the softness of the thin slivers of grilled courgette and aubergine paired beautifully. The flavours of the veg were a little lost when combined with the punchiness of the endive and rocket, but I was more than happy with my starter.

 

Brasserie Blanc Cabot Circus - Chilli Squid

 

It was seafood on the other side of the table too, with an order of the potted Cromer crab (£8.50). It was a beautifully presented dish: two slices of toasted pain de campagne sitting alongside a Kilner jar holding the star of the show.

The bread was toasted nicely, not too crispy but still with a good crunch – there was a little too much oil drizzled over it, though. The crab itself was shredded nicely (with no shell – always important!), and was topped with a strongly flavoured prawn butter and sat on an avocado, shallot and coriander guacamole. The guacamole wasn’t just a purée – it had lovely big chunks of avocado too, but you couldn’t taste the coriander at all. It’s probably because of the flavour of the prawn butter: while all three elements went well together, that of the butter was a little overpowering. A very tasty dish overall, though.

 

Brasserie Blanc Cabot Circus - Potted Crab

 

The grilled cod fillet ‘au citron’ (£14.50) that I ordered for my main was one of the lighter options on the menu: a huge fillet of cod – perfectly cooked and flaking under the fork – topped with a preserved lemon crust which was a little bitter on its own but worked well with the rest of the dish. It sat on a bed of summer vegetables – peas, broad beans, green beans, cherry tomatoes, courgette, braised lettuce and spinach – which were cooked beautifully al dente, and surrounded by a ring of quartered new potatoes that were cooked perfectly, their skins left on.

The tomato sauce brought the whole thing together and countered the bitterness of the preserved lemon crust: a sweet, roasted tomato sauce, with a vinegary tang.

 

Brasserie Blanc Cabot Circus - Grilled Cod

 

Clearly hungry, Chris ordered “Le Grand” steak frites (£19.50) as his main: a 9oz Cornish rump steak served with French frites and Café de Paris butter. It certainly looked impressive when it arrived: the frites served in their own bucket, the steak topped with the melting butter. He’d ordered his steak rare and it was cooked perfectly, and it was great to see that there were no fatty bits that needed cutting off. The steak itself was possibly a little under-seasoned, but the herbs and spices in the butter made up for it – tarragon and garlic being the standout flavours.

The chips weren’t French frites as we know them, but they were lovely – a crisp outer shell and a fluffy middle, with the skins still attached and just the right amount of salt sprinkled over.

 

Brasserie Blanc Cabot Circus - Le Grand Steak

 

Rather than dessert, I opted for cheese. I normally do in French restaurants, as the cheeseboard is normally more exciting than the standard Cheddar/Brie/Stilton combination that you often find elsewhere…

Priced at 3 for £6, 5 for £10, 7 for £14 or 9 for £17.50, I was expecting a long list of cheeses to choose from – I was surprised to see just five on there. Four of the five were accompanied with detailed tasting notes (although one was unavailable, and replaced with a Camembert), while the fifth was simply listed as “local blue” – on asking, it turned out to be a Bath Blue. Surprisingly, there was also no mention of what the cheeses were served with…

I ordered the Taupiniere, the Saint-Nectaire and the Bath Blue (£6), which arrived on a long, rectangular plate with crackers, dried apricots and walnuts. It was great to see that the cheese had been brought to room temperature before serving, rather than being served fridge cold. It was a generous cheese plate: the Taupiniere light, lemony and fresh; the Saint-Nectaire lovely and buttery with a mushroomy rind; the Bath Blue smooth and creamy. There was only one negative, in the fact that one piece of the Bath Blue was rind on two sides, but still, a fantastic cheese plate.

 

Brasserie Blanc Cabot Circus - Cheese

 

Chris ended his meal with the chocolate & almond torte (£5.50). I think it’s fair to say that the presentation wasn’t up to much, sadly, but it tasted good. The almonds weren’t discernible in the torte – it was purely a lovely, rich chocolate flavour, which sadly dissipated too quickly in the mouth, and didn’t linger. The addition of both crème anglaise AND ice cream was generous, both flecked with plenty of vanilla, and the toasted almonds added both flavour and texture to the dish.

 

Brasserie Blanc Cabot Circus - Chocolate Torte

 

Our waitress was certainly attentive – possibly a little too much so, coming over to our table at regular intervals to ask if we needed anything else and if the food was ok. No complaints about her friendliness, though – it was good to see a happy, smiling face.

Would we go back? Yes, absolutely. In my eyes, Brasserie Blanc is one of the better chain restaurants – one with a diverse selection of dishes that aren’t just your standard traditional French fare, and the building is absolutely beautiful too. The few niggles on the night certainly weren’t enough to stop us from going back. Recommended.

 

Please note: our meal was received free of charge, but this in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.

 

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