A couple of weeks back I returned home to the shire to visit my folks and we decided to try the recently re-vamped ‘Brasserie Blanc’. In its former incarnation as ‘Le Petit Blanc’ Raymond’s chain of brasseries had been going steadily downhill for years. I remember poor service and increasingly patchy standards of cooking. A salient memory is that of my Dad biting down on a particularly rock hard vegetable and saying, “I’m all for al dente but this is taking the piss”. Quite.
We booked a table for Saturday night, arrived in good spirits and settled in for a spot of people watching. Cheltenham is very good for people watching. The dining room helps now too since being considerably de-cluttered; a huge relief as it was incredibly dated and a bit of a headache, with huge sculptural twisty things suspended on rails overhead like arboreal octopuses.
To start I chose the gravad lax. I wanted something light and it was just that, although a slice of bread wouldn’t have gone amiss. Not really a dish to judge a restaurant by though, considering it requires no cooking.
For the main course I chose sirloin and chips – classic brasserie fare. The steak at first looked a bit flaccid but was actually really good – excellent beefy richness and the level of umami which makes your salivary glands go into overdrive. The chips were less successful though, lacking any kind of crispness on the outside and borderline rubbery on the inside.
For dessert my mum kindly agreed to share the flaming baked alaska with me – a twinkly mound of whippy meringue encasing boozy sponge and vanilla flecked ice cream. The waitress set it down, poured some Grand Marnier over its mammoth proportions and attempted to set the thing on fire. As you can see however, it went a little bit wrong and I couldn’t stifle my giggles. The alcohol clearly hadn’t fully coated the beast and so she was basically just burning the side with a lighter.
My advice Raymond, is ditch the flames. I think my mum summed it up best with the phrase, “a bit TGI’s isn’t it?” We also witnessed a waitress crouching next to a table. Next thing you know there will be badges, braces and bibs. The food itself was a bit hit and miss, as was the service but overall, I had a brilliant meal because I was dining with my family. I really love how they have embraced the blog too; my Mum asked for a window table so that I could have good light for the photos.
The next morning after attempting to brush the hangover fuzz from my mouth, I commented that the baking soda toothpaste residing in the bathroom “tasted like arse” and my parents both immediately chimed in with, “it’s not supposed to be a culinary experience darling – don’t blog it.” I can’t say I’m not a little bit tempted.
The Queen’s Hotel
(there are other locations, see website for details)
Tel: 01242 266 800