Blanchette: Chic rustique (September 2015)

Blanchette does a pretty damn good job at making French food cool. The restaurant, located in trendy Soho, is about as far away from one’s traditional perceptions of the gastronomic experience a la Francaise as possible. In my childhood, French cooking was mostly considered the apogee of the culinary world, typically served by snooty waiters who looked down their noses at diners whom they had the privilege of serving. An alternative perception would be more along the lines of the haphazard café operated by René in ‘Allo ‘Allo. Blanchette is neither of these. While the interior of the restaurant does have rustic charm along the lines of a more traditional French bistro, the music is cool, the servers attractive and attentive and the menu simple yet innovative. Our group of five enjoyed every moment of a recent dinner and would certainly return. To begin, our table shared a number of starters. Each pleased, but of particular note would be the Blanchette take on frogs’ legs. This was a long way from the slightly unpleasant experience vaguely reminiscent of chicken and often drowned in a garlic cream sauce that I recall from French establishments in days gone-by. Here, the legs were lightly cooked in breadcrumbs and then dipped in Bois Boudran sauce, a slightly spice version of ketchup. Presentation and interpretation throughout was innovative. I opted for a grilled pork belly as my main, wonderfully juicy and succulent. My comrades all praised their choices too and as a benchmark test for any French restaurant, Blanchette’s steak was given full marks by one of our group. We finished with a lovely selection of cheeses, all interesting and full of flavour. With keen prices across the board (including a very satisfying Cote du Rhone at £32/bottle), there is little not to like.