French bistro Blanchette has been on mine and Olly’s list to try for a while, but snagging a table at short notice had so far proved impossible. I eventually got my act together and booked way in advance so, finally, we met for drinks at The Rum Kitchen, then meandered through Soho in the evening sun to Blanchette on D’Arblay Street.
The French doors of the small bistro were flung open, with a few tables on the pavement. The lively hubbub spills onto the street, and the glow from the industrial hanging lamps draws you across the threshold.
The first section of the restaurant is taken up by the bar. Given the choice between a table in the moodily lit back of the restaurant, or up at the bar, we plumped for the latter, and sat up on (extremely uncomfortable!) high stools. The wall behind the bar features a tiled mural, and considered décor touches throughout the interior bring the whole look together. Combined with a strong soundtrack, the ambience is lively and social.
My companion, Olly, has lived in Paris in the past, and even she was surprised by just how French Blanchette’s menu was! Our waiter gave us some suggestions (in a terrible French accent!) and we settled for crispy frog’s legs (£5.75) and a baked St Marcelin cheese (£4.50) to start. For mains, Olly ordered Seared Peppered Tuna, with grilled broccoli and ratatouille (£7.75), and I went for Chargrilled Beef Fillet, with fondant potato, courgette and green peppercorn dressing (£8.50).
We were impressed by the low price points – but when the food arrived it became apparent that portions were small, and we should perhaps have ordered some side dishes to complement our mains – perhaps Frites & Béarnaise (£3.75) or Green Bean & Foie Gras Salad, with shallots & walnut dressing (£6.75).
The frog’s legs were tasty, and served in a newspaper cone with a Bois Boudran sauce for dipping. The St Marcelin fondue was so good that we scraped the dish clean.
Main courses were small but perfectly formed – a thumbs up, as I am a strong believe that presentation is key. We savoured each mouthful, making them last.
A rich and decadent Chocolate Marquise (£5.95) was devoured for dessert – the stand-out feature of which was the accompanying pistachio ice cream.
Visit Blanchette for the atmosphere and interior, particularly on a summer’s eve. The focus of the food is on the presentation, which is superb – take direction from your server on how many dishes to order to ensure you are well fed.
Tip: Look closely at the wallpaper in the bathrooms – from a distance, it’s just a sketchy pattern, but up close…!
9 D’Arblay Street, Soho, W1F 8DR
Reservations: firstname.lastname@example.org / 020 7439 8100