The restaurant: Blanchette East, 204 Brick Ln, London E1 6SA
Blanchette is a marvellous date night resto. It’s shabby, it’s chic, and has fantastically cheeky wallpaper in the loos. If you’re looking for French onion soup, followed by boeuf bourguignon I’ll divert you to your local Café Rouge. If you’d rather a refreshing French menu, a dimly lit restaurant, and dabbling with a few small plates, let’s talk about Blanchette. I’ve walked down Brick Lane a dozen times and never noticed Blanchette. The pale green building is understated, yet on reflection it’s twee in comparison to Brick Lane’s other brash eateries. The interior rocks a faux shabby French bistro look which doesn’t feel too contrived. There’s a brilliant corner booth at the back complete with wall mural, padded benches, and frosted glass which I must remember to return to for an intimate dinner at some point.
It’s quiet when we arrive but soon fills up with friends and couples, some of them French speakers, and the servers are rushed off their feet set on keeping everyone content. “It’s small plates, but not tapas,” was quickly explained to us as we sat down. They seemed intent on not being confused with a Spanish, and ensuring we didn’t order too much. In fact, when we tried to order too much our server suggested holding on and ordering more later if we weren’t satisfied. No food was wasted and we didn’t need seconds – or dessert.
The menu is divided down into charcuterie, cheese, fish, meat, and vegetable. You can choose from six dried meats, all hailing from different regions in France. The noix d’épaule with peppercorns is a spicy cured meat that worked brilliantly as an aperitif combined with the baked, deliciously gooey honeyed St Marcellin. Keeping things simple, we opted for the house white, a Sauvignon Blanc from Pays d’Oc, which was actually really pleasant and citrusy. The 26-month aged Comté was our next plate, which reminded me of a time I tried all the ages of Comté on a Borough Market stall. For me, 26 months a great aging time, while anything exceeding 30 months has too much of a pungent kick.
Next came the wicked braised lamb shoulder with pomme purée and glazed shallots, which was a brilliantly slow-cooked meat, coated delicately in breadcrumbs sat beside the smoothest and velvetiest potato purée. From the fish plates of citrus cured salmon, baked fillet of hake, and steamed Cornish mussels – which were all carefully composed dishes – we chose the baked hake. Tap through the crisp mushroom crust and reveal the clean, white fish that has a mildly sweet and meaty taste. We rounded things off with the saffron couscous (pictured above), a great North African inflection, which acted as a side to our main meat and fish plates. It was topped with Bulgur and peanuts which added a fantastic crunch to the saffron-coloured couscous, while the pomegranate yoghurt made it a little on the sweet side.
We didn’t stick around for dessert but don’t hesitate to help yourself to a baked chocolate pot or apple tarte tatin. There’s a delicious choice of after dinner cocktails too.
Blanchette is a classic date night choice, not too serious, but with all the romance, class, and quirkiness you’d expect of a French bistro. To book in, click here or give them a call on 020 7729 7939.
The look: Leopard-print silk trousers by ATM Anthony Thomas Melillo, with a gathered satin top from Vince, teamed with aviator-style gold-tone sunglasses from Calvin Klein and a puck leather clutch from Building Block.