A PUNTER’S VIEW OF brasserie blanc leeds, BY SAVOUR WRITER DAVE MACKAY
If you’re a football fan you will know that sense of impending doom that you feel when the opposition score in the first minute. You may also know the joy of coming back from 1-0 down to utterly trounce the visitors 6-1 and wonder why you were ever worried in the first place.
So it was with our visit to Brasserie Blanc down near the canal in Leeds. Owned by renowned chef and restauranteur, Raymond Blanc, the brasserie offers French classics and modern dishes, all made with fresh and seasonal ingredients. It is tucked out of the way in an old industrial building and has managed to keep that industrial feel with exposed brickwork, but still feels modern and elegant.
We arrived a little early for our 1pm sitting and were invited to take a drink at the bar. We both opted for cocktails, a Lemon Drizzle Martini for Mrs Punter and a Spiced Apple Buck for me, or so I hoped. Turns out that, at lunchtime on a Saturday, they had no apple juice. I chose an alternative but the cocktails did seem to take a long time to arrive. 1 – 0 to the away side. I did note though that there was a good selection of draught lagers and ales and three taps with Timothy Taylor’s on.
The cocktails arrived and the Lemon Drizzle was very good – and my substitute hit it in the back of the net.
We were then seated and sat and ‘ummed and ahhed’ as to what to choose. The menu was not extensive but we were in a real quandary as to which dish to go for.
We started with a “nibble” of anchovies with sourdough and anchovy butter. It was Mrs Punter’s first anchovy. It was also her last but I enjoyed them and the anchovy butter was top of the league. It went really well with bottle of Gavi we had chosen to follow our cocktails. It was clear that the home team were pushing for an equaliser.
The equaliser duly arrived in the form of a mushroom fricassee with truffled arancini. I could have eaten a bucketful of the arancini and the mushroom fricassee was excellent. The staff were obviously earwigging because, within moments of me saying “I could do with some bread to mop this up” the ever attentive Shonette arrived with a basket of bread which was duly soaked in the sauce and devoured.
Far from sitting back “Team Blanc” took the lead with a cheese souffle starter which Mrs Punter described as “like eating a cloud”. Obviously I will now have to book a wing walking experience to fully appreciate that analogy.
Now that the lead was secured it was one way traffic and it is here that the football analogy starts to fall apart a bit given that football is a game of two halves whereas here there were three courses, so you will have to bear with me.
The second half saw the lead extended with a Malabar fish curry with toasted coconut and sticky rice. The sauce was divine and very Thai in flavour even though Malabar is a Keralan curry. The rice was perfectly cooked and the addition of crispy shallots was a nice texture, although it could have done with a few more of them on the plate.
The away side did threaten to get back in the game because there was a prawn on top of the beautifully cooked fish. The prawn was tasty and well cooked but in my humble opinion, it didn’t really seem to add anything to the dish, and I would have left it off and had more shallots. But the ceramic was nearly taken off the plate such was my desire to get as much of the sauce as possible.
Mrs Punter went for the chicken ballotine with wild mushrooms and truffled celeriac mash. If this dish was a goal it was a well-worked team goal with each player doing their bit, the chicken was moist and the chicken skin crispy but truffled celeriac mash took all the credit with a fine finish. The coach might have to have a word with the mushrooms because one of them hadn’t been properly cleaned but this was the only one of very many and all of the ones in the fricassee were perfect.
With pudding looming, we decided to cogitate on which dessert to go for by having the cheese course and a dessert wine. Mrs Punter had a Loupiac which was very good, reminiscent of a Sauternes. I had an orange wine which was not what I would normally class as a dessert wine because it wasn’t at all sweet. It was, however, an ideal accompaniment to the excellent cheese board of which the Cantal Entre-Deux and the goats’ cheese were the stars.
As ever, Mrs Punter and I had over-faced ourselves and had no room for pudding although we did mange to squeeze in an amaretto and a limoncello.
A word also has to go out to the “coaching staff”, George and Shonette, who attended to us dutifully throughout our meal and were on hand to answer questions, offer advice and top up our glasses.
Unfortunately, as a Leeds fan, such experiences of overcoming initial disappointment are far from common however at least now we have a restaurant in Leeds where a good result is always guaranteed.
Starters at Brasserie Blanc range from £7.95 to £9.95, while mains start from £14.95.
For more information, or to book, visit www.brasserieblanc.com