Blandford Comptoir: Heading in the right direction (June 2016)

The decision of Xavier Rousset to locate his latest venture on Blandford Street is a good, if not somewhat bold one. This is dining-central, with high-end sophistication just footsteps away in the form of L’Autre Pied, The Chiltern Firehouse, Providores and Trishna. However, Blandford Comptoir may well have found its niche, perhaps not aiming to emulate these luminaries, but rather provide a less formal, but still highish-end alternative. Blandford is definitely (and, I would guess, intentionally) not in the same league as Rousset’s initial London venture (Portman Square’s Texture) but it is a clear-step up from the three 28:50 wine bar outlets situated around the capital. A recent lunchtime visit to Blandford found the place full and buzzing, and we came away generally impressed. The décor creates a sense of light, helped by an airy conservatory at the back that has been cleverly transformed. Diners have the choice of eating here, seated on stools at the bar, or on a few tables at the front, facing out onto the street. The cynic could, of course, level the charge at Blandford that they have taken advantage of the light and airy space to squeeze in as many covers as possible, and it would be fair to highlight that things could probably get cramped here, and this is certainly not a place you should consider visiting as a group. For two, it worked well, although for such a new opening, it was disappointing to be told when were seated that four of the items on the menu (or about 20% of the available options, given that many of the starters and mains are interchangeable) were not available. That said, our food was enjoyable, even if constrained by the more limited selection of choices. The theme here is, unsurprisingly, a heavy nod to France, with a few hints of other Europe too. We both opted for the octopus starter, which was characterised by tender and flavoursome fish, well-matched with potato, tomato and olive – a perfect summer option. While my comrade praised highly his duck breast main, my lamb was more mixed: the meat itself was tough and unpleasantly chewy, although this was offset by the sauce and the gnocchi, the latter being an interesting addition. Onto the wines and, as ever, with Xavier Rousset, the list is original and inventive, with options available by the glass, carafe and bottle at a range of price points. Our carafe of Nebbiolo from the Langhe was a good one and probably indicative of the potential elsewhere. At ~£40/head all-in, pricing is compelling, and with some work, Blandford Comptoir can become a permanent fixture.