Brothers Maxime, Malik and Yannis’s Blanchette has been the darling of the French bistro scene in Soho since its opening in 2013, and has expanded its simple classic French sharing dishes to Shoreditch with Blanchette East. The offering is something like a French version of the Salt Yard group. Not a surprise given it’s backing Blanchette; its influence can be seen from design to menu.
While the upstairs of the Soho restaurant has a beautiful art nouveau bar and dining area with rustic bare-brick walls and classically French café-style furniture. The downstairs Jungle Room, Blanchetts’s private dining room, is another thing altogether. On the wall at the banquette side of the dining table is a mural of a tropical island jungle scene. Facing the mural is a wine cellar room with lead-lined windows. It somehow makes for a perfect atmosphere for a great night out with friends, good food and plenty of well-priced French wine to quaff.
Our nervously friendly kiwi waiter, Josh, couldn’t have known what he was in for on his first day of work. So my apologies to him for the topics of conversation he was forced to overhear, and my relief that I don’t have to recount them here.
The signature Blanchette menu (served to all groups of eight or more in the restaurant too) was the obvious choice to have. First the olives were delivered, along with the obligatory bread, in a paper bag. Honestly, a somewhat dated style of bread delivery, but it somehow worked with the style of the place, and the fact that it was good quality bread didn’t hurt. Then cheeses and thin slices of charcuterie meats marked the segue into the start of the meal proper.
Have you tried our amazingly gorgeous Rare Peppered Tuna with Chilli, Avocado and Lime ? Because I have and cannot get enough of it. Just the perfect little snack for lunch today! #soho #tuna #bistro #lovingfrenchfood #iloveblanchette #foodie #happy #gorgeousday #healthyfood #sunshine #lunchtime #snack #sharingplates #blanchettesoho
The smoked chicken, ham and fig terrine wasn’t quite as advertised; it was the perfect soft texture but was mostly ham hock with a slight smokiness in the background. The seared tuna with chilli and avocado was delicious, if not enough between us all; we got one small slice each. The monkfish with roasted pumpkin was a nice dish but there was not much to it and it could be said to have lacked cohesion. But the crab timbale was rich and unctuous; just dipping the puff pastry straws into, and scooping up a large dollop of, the velvety smooth red crab mixture was enough to release the luxurious crab aroma into the air and make one’s mouth water. However, the real showpiece of the starters was Blanchette’s trademark battered frogs’ legs. Piping hot, they were everything they should be – tender and juicy.
Moving on, the steak tartare, with its large chunks of beef and pickled girolles on the side, was another good dish, although there was something very hot in one mouthful, which rather spoiled it. Thankfully, though, the duck with carrot purée and the lamb shoulder with anchovies were both faultless. I could have eaten multiple servings of them both. The duck was tender and fragrant, while the lamb was succulent and sticky in its jus. Both also went seamlessly with the lentil, candy beetroots, hazelnut and goats cheese salad.
Dessert-wise, of note was a French classic: chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise, which was filthy in its richness, making you want to gorge on it past the point of seemliness.
If you’re not a fan of the whole tapas sharing thing, then it naturally won’t be for you. But if you can deal with that, the whole communal experience of passing food around the table in the cosy Jungle Room creates a relaxed fun atmosphere, and an experience you will certainly remember.
Though one note of warning from our experience about food allergies. Ahead of our dinner I had informed and confirmed on no less then three or four occasions that one of our party had an allergy, and then again confirmed on the day with our waiter. At each point I was told it was noted and that suitable alternatives would be provided. Instead, what happened was that, after the starters, Josh had the unenviable task of telling us that the kitchen had only just twigged the allergy and that two-thirds of the remaining menu could not be eaten by the person in question. You would have thought, given they have a well-provisioned kitchen, that the chefs would either do a variation of the dishes or would have done something else for this individual, but no, they decided to not even attempt to do anything.
A return and impromptu lunch
Following this visit and the issue over my partner’s allergies, we headed back one Saturday for a glass of fizz and charcuteries offered as an apology and decided to add lunch onto it at £15pp for two courses. To start was the tuna and the lamb croquettes which were both superb. For the main, we both ordered the squid with saffron aioli and sauce vierge with a side of fries and béarnaise. The squid was wonderful: it was soft but with a slight bite and a lovely light charred flavour accompanied with the piquancy of the sauce.
For my partner, though, the sauce vierge was a ‘no go’ and, to the credit of the staff and the chefs, they set about making a new version of the dish for him – a large, also perfectly cooked piece of squid, on toast topped with ribbons of courgette, capers and I think some aubergine. It was a great meal and left us stuffed. The set lunch menu is definitely great value and well worth a try if you’re after a good quality cheap lunch.
London Lamppost Score – 4/5 (2.5/5 from the person with the allergy)
The Jungle Room seats up to 14
Cost: Jungle Room Menu – £40pp (there is a £35pp option)
Set Lunch Menu – £15pp
9 D’Arblay Street
+44 (0)207 439 8100