Covent Garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon in late November is not a place for the faint-hearted. Early Christmas shoppers jostle with ambling tourists making for a swirling sea of pedestrians whose unpredictable current can sweep you in all sorts of unplanned directions. We, however, were determined not to be diverted from our destination – Brasserie Blanc, Raymond Blanc’s fine French eatery that resides on the Opera Terrace opposite the Royal Opera House where we were booked in for a family lunch.
Pushing our way through the throng, we finally arrived at the restaurant’s entrance where we climbed the stairs and were immediately struck by the atmosphere that is in such stark contrast to the madness below. Gone was all the hustle and bustle to be replaced by a calm serenity where waiters glided around balletically carrying huge silver salvers aloft while diners (a real mixture of young and old, families and couples) were lapping up the theatre of it all. The wonderful glass edifice of the Opera Terrace adds to the showmanship of the place, with dappled wintry sunlight streaming through the floor to ceiling windows.
Greeted by the charming maître de we were shown to our table where we had glorious views of the bustling streets below. My children, Kit and Natasha, were especially captivated by the giant silver reindeer that currently adorns the piazza, while my husband and I were more taken with the menu that had been placed in front of us and which we both greedily surveyed. Brasserie Blanc prides itself on offering local, sustainable and seasonal French food, and the offering on the day of our visit did not disappoint.
My children, strapping 11-year-old twins, were initially given the Henri Le Worm kids’ menu (and jolly lovely it looked too, being based on the popular app created by Monsieur Blanc’s son Olivier, and with not a chicken nugget or pizza in sight), but our waitress sensed that perhaps Kit and Natasha’s appetites required more sizable portions, so offered up the a la carte menu as well.
My lovely tweenies settled on a best of both worlds approach opting to share a starter (as did we), while having their own main courses. Our waitress also suggested an aperitif of trempettes (olive tapenade, saffron garlic mayonnaise, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and baguette). This arrived at the same time as our drinks (G&T for me, Bloody Mary for the husband and juice for Kit and Natasha) and proved to be the perfect accompaniment. My son, an avowed hater of a certain well-known brand of mayonnaise was completely converted by this little bowl of oleaginous deliciousness.
Next up was the charcuterie we’d ordered and the Scottish rope-grown mussels for the children. Our mini meat feast (accompanied by a fine glass of house red) had my husband and me fencing with the forks over the last piece of salami, while the children competed over who could find the biggest mussel – an honour which went to Natasha who then gobbled it up with gusto.
After a decent interval, it was the turn of the mains. These arrived to wide–eyed wonderment from Kit and Natasha whose respective plates of coarse-cut burger and Shetland Isle salmon fillet were definitely bigger than their bellies (although they both gave it their very best shot, with Kit almost succeeding bar half of the bun). We had opted for the chateaubriand for two that the waitress placed on a small table beside us and then proceeded to slice with a suitably theatrical flourish. Not that knife skills needed to be tested as these particular discs of medium rare prime fillet were so soft and exquisitely tender they almost had the consistency of pâté.
Once slathered in a creamy béarnaise sauce and accompanied by dauphinoise potatoes, chantenay carrots and French beans, our dish was elevated to the realms of the sublime, as evidenced by the quickly cleaned plates and the very full sensation we experienced afterwards. Guided by our waitress, however (well, I have to blame someone), we were tempted to share fromage while the children were directed towards a not very Gallic sounding bread and butter pudding (a quick Google search, however, reveals it’s a dish that the French also claim as their own, and where it is known as pain perdu or lost bread). With these last indulgences tipping us into a postprandial haze, the time had come for us to depart, but we did so with heavy hearts and equally heavy stomachs. Such is the wonderful ambience of Brasserie Blanc we could happily have spent the entire day.
For reservations and enquiries call 020 7379 0666 or visit www.brasserieblanc.com