Blanchette opened in December 2013, a French bistro owned by three brothers in partnership with the founders of Salt Yard. The head chef is Tam Storrar, previously senior sous chef at Bibendum. The dining room has the ubiquitous exposed brick walls, mismatched chairs and bare wooden tables that are de rigeur for London restaurants these days. The menu is similarly à la mode, being the “small plates” format that lead to the higher than expected bills beloved of restaurateurs.
My initial impression of the place was not great, having phoned on three occasions at reasonable times without anyone picking up, and then emailing without reply. Eventually I just walked in for a lunch table, and was directed to sit at a bar stool that looked as if it had won runner’s up prize in a competition for mediaeval torture instruments, and was only slightly more comfortable than one. This despite a total of one diner being present in the restaurant, and only after squirming on the chair for a while in increasing discomfort did I manage to negotiate a seat at a table in the virtually empty dining room.
The wine list had perhaps three-dozen bottles, starting from £18.50 and being entirely French. Examples labels were Grand Noir Black Sheep 2012 at £26 for a wine that costs around a tenner in the high street, Mad Mudgliza Carmine Cotes du Roussillon 2011 at £46 for a wine tha retails at £12, and Chateau Montviel 2006 at £100 compared to a shop price of £35, so mark-ups are not the worst in central London but hardly kind.
The menu was more appealing than the welcome, with a set of bistro dishes that could easily appear in a Paris bistro. I was advised to order three dishes plus a snack per person, and started with cheese beignets (£5.50) with onion jam. My mood improved when these turned out to be excellent, with a rich liquid cheese centre and the jam working well as a pairing (easily 14/20).
Seared pepper tuna (£7.75) came with grilled broccoli and piperade. This was pleasant, the tuna lightly seared, the broccoli carefully cooked, the Basque piperade a little too metallic in flavour (13/20). Bean salad (£6.75) with foie gras, shallots and walnut dressing had good beans though a vanishingly small amount of foie gras shavings, but the dressing was fine (13/20). Quail (£7.50) with jambon sec, herb croquette, peas and a mustard jus was very good, the bird lightly cooked, the peas having decent flavour and the mustard jus nicely lifting the dish (14/20).
Summer fruits (£5.25) comprised macerated cherries, apricots and raspberries, with white wine sabayon and Madeleines. The fruit was of good quality though the Madeleines were rather dense in texture (13/20). Coffee from a company called Kimbo was very good. The bill came to £41.91 with just water to drink, which is quite a bit for lunch though it would seem less so at dinner. If you shared a bottle of modest wine then a typical all-in bill would be around £60 a head, which is fair given the good standard of food that Blanchette delivers.