By Ena Heide Poulsen
Craving an extravagant French culinary experience in the heart of Oxford? Look no further than Brasserie Blanc in Jericho!
Recently, I had the incredible privilege of being invited, along with a friend, to embark on a delectable journey through Brasserie Blanc's autumn offerings, and I also had an exclusive sneak peek at the enchanting winter/Christmas menu to come.
For starters, I chose the confit chicken, ham hock and apricot terrine while my guest chose the cheese souffle. What a start! The terrine had an amazingly deep umami and fatness that played perfectly with the acidity of the Braeburn apples and saltiness of capers and crisp bacon. It was accompanied by two slices of bread that were admittedly toasted a bit too much for our taste but that did not detract from an overall very impressive dish.
While the terrine impressed by bringing a range of flavours together in an overall harmony, the souffle stood out for its elegant simplicity: a souffle served in a mini cast iron pan topped with a rich coastal cheddar sauce. With such a simple dish, there’s really nowhere to hide; everything has to be perfect – and perfect it was! The souffle was perfectly baked with a nice golden-brown surface and a cloud-like soft and smooth core. The sauce had an intense salty cheddar taste and played brilliantly with the souffles more subtle cheese flavours. Basically a hug in a pan, this might just be my new favourite comfort food.
After the intense meaty starter, I went vegetarian with the herb gnocchi for mains, while my guest had to try the duck leg confit. Both came out beautifully plated but with very different expressions. The gnocchi were plated on a layer of truffled Jerusalem artichoke velouté with pieces of wild mushroom and artichoke crisps scattered generously in a display that can best be described as a gastronomic artwork. The duck leg was served in a reddish clay bowl with haricot bean and chorizo cassoulet and generous helpings of bacon lardons. In the best way, the dish felt like it had been taken straight out of a loving grandmother’s farm kitchen in rural France. The taste of the mains pleasantly matched the visual expression of the dishes. The gnocchi brought subtle nuances together and played with the varying textures, while the cassoulet provided a hearty base for the sublime duck. The long, loving process of slow cooking a duck leg confit really shows itself in the end result: the meat just fell of the bones and melted on your tongue. So good!
To balance against the rich salty main, my guest picked the classic Bramley apple and gooseberry crumble for pudding, while I went old-school with a sticky toffee pudding. The crumble topping was sweet and nicely baked which gave just the right balance against the fresh acidity of the apples and gooseberries. For my taste, the crumble veered a bit too far to the acidic side but my guest loved it. In the same way, I absolutely fell in love with the sticky toffee pudding. The cocoa and citrus crisp on top brought some intense and deep bitterness and almost burnt notes that played well with the toffee. The pudding was served with a Normandy crème fraiche, which I have never tried before but I was blown away by the combination. I even had to ask the waiter if I could have a little more of the crème fraiche – and she very kindly brought me the cutest little plate with a nice spoonful extra. Such good service and a perfect way to round of the evening. Among the various French dining establishments I've had the pleasure of visiting in Oxford, Brasserie Blanc undoubtedly reigns as one of my favourites. If you're seeking an extraordinary culinary experience this autumn or winter - or simply want to take yourself and loved ones out for a treat -, I wholeheartedly recommend making a reservation at this exceptional restaurant!