We are incredibly lucky in Winchester - we not only have a great bunch of independent restaurants, but we also have a number of stalwarts from the nation's favourite chefs too.
With Raymond Blanc as Patron Chef, Brasserie Blanc opened its doors here in 2008 having wanted to open a restaurant in a Cathedral city, and opting for Winchester because of its individuality (good choice!)... It's therefore been a Winchester feature for a respectable amount of time. There are now 20 Brasserie Blancs across the UK.
We have eaten at the Winchester branch a good few times - it tends to be a go-to place of ours when the desire for good French food takes hold and we don't want to travel all that far (their cheese souffle tends to be a deciding factor! After my recent Instagram post featuring said fromagey piece of heaven - lots of people have recommended the Brasserie Blanc pistachio souffle - I definitely need to try it next visit!).
Seasonality and sustainability are both very important to Brasserie Blanc (as they should be) - they pride themselves on the seasonality aspect combined with the freshest of ingredients from their four main UK suppliers for cheese, meat, fish and vegetables. Different menus are launched depending on the time of year.
Yesterday Brasserie Blanc invited us to try the launch of their brand new Autumn Menu, and also to learn a little about their plans for Christmas. If you weren't aware, you might like to know that they have extended their Eat Out to Help Out Scheme from Monday to Wednesday until the end of October (sign up to the scheme via their website to make a booking!).
We arrived at 4pm on a very grey and Autumnal English afternoon, and thanks to the overall greyness outside, I had one thing on my mind - French comfort food. On first glance at the menu, it was good to see that there was plenty of choice to suit the unpredictability of English weather. I don't know about you, but if it's cold outside I don't particularly want a salad, and likewise, won't choose stew or similar if it's warm...
Brasserie Blanc's Autumn menu is full of dishes when ingredients are at their best - the stone bass and the crab for example, along with lamb and aubergine for various dishes... There are also dishes that just spell Autumn - confit duck leg with citrus sauce and Boeuf Bourguignon to name a couple. It was good to note there are plenty of options for people with different dietary requirements too with jackfruit fritters and Harissa Miso aubergine just a couple of examples.
We opted for the Chicken Liver Parfait with truffle butter, caramelised red onion marmalade and toasted brioche and a Saint-Marcellin Cheese with truffled honey and bread to dip for our first course. The chicken liver parfait was light and delicious and went perfectly with the brioche and sweet but tangy marmalade. The Saint Marcellin was baked to unctuous perfection with a good level of truffle flavour (I find too much truffle overpowering sometimes, but maybe that's just me!), and served with toasted brown bread, and apple and celery - it almost felt like a healthy choice. Any healthy aspect was probably cancelled out by my accompanying glass of Viognier one of my favourite white wines - Brasserie Blanc's is a decent example!
Given the above mentioned meteorological conditions, I had my heart set on what is Brasserie Blanc's longest featured dish on their menu - their Slow-Cooked Boeuf Bourguignon in traditional red wine sauce with lardons, baby onions, mushrooms, and a smooth and creamy mash. Mr Winchester Eats opted for one of the day's specials as recommended by our lovely host Lane - the Lamb Tagine with spiced couscous... We both had a glass of very respectable Cotes Du Rhone with our main course, which went perfectly with both dishes.
My Boeuf Bourguignon was like a hug on a plate - exquisitely creamy mashed potato, with tender slow-cooked beef topped with onions and bacon and with a side of fresh and crunchy buttered green beans. The Lamb Tagine enveloped us in a cloud of delicious Moroccan spices when it was uncovered at the table and was fall off the bone tender. The accompanying couscous was studded with fragrant apricots and almonds - another perfect Autumn dish with a nod to France's historical food associations...
Somehow we found room to share what was described as a bit of an accidental pudding put together after a pavlova disaster - Eton Mess with Black currants and chantilly cream. The sharpness of the blackcurrants cutting through the sweetness of the meringue perfectly - the happiest accidental dessert if ever I saw one, and also one of the prettiest!
Brasserie Blanc's Christmas Menu's go live Mid November, and Christmas Day Bookings are already taking place (with covid restrictions obviously). If you don't fancy cooking, I have to say I think Brasserie Blanc is a really good Christmas option - I loved the fact that they add to the sense of occasion on the day by serving everyone in the restaurant their Christmas Meal at the same time...
In the meantime, we will definitely be back to sample a few more Autumnal French dishes, and maybe a souffle or three.
Merci for looking after us so well Brasserie Blanc Winchester!!
*Disclaimer - we were gifted a complimentary meal for two in return for a review of Brasserie Blanc's Autumn Menu. All words and opinions are very much my own (as always!)...