Wild mushrooms, pheasant and truffle dishes all catch my eye as I explore the new autumn menu at one of my favourite Sussex restaurants, Brasserie Blanc in Chichester, West Sussex.
[box] Disclaimer: We dined at Brasserie Blanc as their guest in order to review the new autumn menu.[/box]
The Autumn Menu at Brasserie Blanc, Chichester
Whether you’re out for lunch with the girls, celebrating a special occasion with family or hosting a business brunch, Brasserie Blanc in The Square at the far end of East Street in Chichester is a great choice. The food and service are excellent and there’s always a welcoming atmosphere. I recently returned to sample the new autumn menu and wine list. We arrived one rainy lunchtime with high expectations, looking forward to discovering new flavours as well as revisiting reimagined old favourites.
Starters at Brasserie Blanc Chichester
Amongst the excellent range of seafood and vegetarian starters, I spotted a new dish I had heard of before but had never tried, Tartiflette, one of only two meat-based starters. This traditional Alpine dish is a favourite winter warmer after hitting the ski slopes so I was eager to give it a try. It was all I hoped it would be, smoked lardons with potatoes and onions swimming in gooey Gruyere cheese, served with a couple of slices of crusty baguette. The cheese had been melted on a raclette tray before being scraped off and smothered over the lardons and potatoes. Comfort food at its best.
My husband selected the vegan Wild Mushroom Tart – a crisp puff pastry delight overflowing with five types of pan-fried mushrooms, with tarragon, parsley, chives and garlic. He remarked not only on the different flavours of the mushrooms but how he enjoyed the different textures. The vegan flaky pastry was spot on too and indistinguishable from a non-vegan recipe. You’ll find notes on the mushrooms used at the end of this post.
Main courses at Brasserie Blanc, Chichester
Selecting a main dish was more of a challenge as there were several dishes I really wanted to try. The Sticky Beef with Coconut Rice sounded very tempting as did the Pheasant Sausages with Truffle Mash but in the end, I opted for the Wild Mushroom and Roast Beetroot Salad. This superb vegan warm salad uses the same wonderful mushroom combination as the mushroom tart with colourful roasted rainbow beetroot, grilled squash, bulgur wheat and kale crisps, all drizzled in a little tarragon oil. It was a real delight for the eyes as well as the taste buds. I enjoyed it so much it has tempted me to try and recreate it at home.
I wasn’t previously a beetroot fan but this dish came so highly recommended that I had to try it. I’ve been converted and I can see beetroot becoming a regular addition to my roast dinners.
Annabel, our waitress, suggested pairing this with a tempranillo grape wine, from the Castile and Leon region of Spain, Damana 5. The wine is aged for 5 months in oak barrels, hence its name. It’s a fruity medium-bodied wine with notes of blackberry, black cherry and vanilla. While full of flavour it didn’t overpower my mushroom and beetroot salad.
My husband knew instantly what he wanted, namely the Pheasant Sausagesserved with braised chestnuts, chestnut mushrooms, redcurrants, and a port and red wine sauce. The pheasant dish came with an excellent mash subtly flavoured with truffle. The strong flavours could stand up to a full-bodied, robust wine and Annabel suggested a Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile.
The menu’s tasting notes referred to cassis, cinnamon and mocha and while it would have overpowered my mushroom dish it matched superbly with the pheasant sausages. Having had a little taste of Neill’s, I’ll be returning to Brasserie Blanc to have both this wine and the sausages for myself, just as soon as I can!
Desserts at Brasseri Blanc, Chichester
Although I was pretty full, I couldn’t resist ordering a dessert as the vegetarian Poached Pear ‘Pain Perdu’ sounded so good. The pears were served on a slice of brioche French toast next to a scoop of vanilla ice cream perched on a layer of honeycomb crisp. A generous drizzle of lime and ginger butterscotch sauce with a dollop of salted caramel milk toffee finished the ensemble. This dish was the perfect combination of exquisite sweet tastes and textures balanced with the pears and is now a firm favourite of mine.
Neill tried and loved the Baked Apple and Calvados Crumble served with vanilla ice cream. By the end of our meal, we both agreed, however, that three courses really were too much for us as we were now feeling rather too full! Which course to cut though would be an impossible decision as they were all superb.
Vegetarian and vegan options are clearly shown throughout the menu, including on the wine list. In addition to the delicious Wild Mushroom Tart that Neill enjoyed and my superb Wild Mushroom and Roast Beetroot Salad, the Moroccan Mezze Platter sounds particularly good and can be eaten as a starter or main. All three dishes are vegan. A third vegan dish offered as a main course is the Truffled Lentil and Tomato Pasta ‘ Millefeuille’ with wilted spinach, white truffle cashew nut cream, balsamic reduction, pine nuts, almonds and roast hazelnuts.
Vegetarians can also enjoy the Halloumi Burger with WInter Coleslaw served in a flatbread bun with lime and paprika mayonnaise, spiced mango chutney and skinny sweet potatoes fries. I was also pleased to see that the excellent vegetarian Cheese Souffle served with Wyke Farm Cheddar sauce, which I tried on a previous visit, remains on the menu as a starter.
For dessert, all but the cheese selection are vegetarian. The only vegan dish, however, is a delicious Baked Apple and Calvados Crumble that Neill so much enjoyed.
Dietary requirements at Brasserie Blanc, Chichester
Brasserie Blanc can cater for most dietary requirements with an allergen menu available on request but as with any busy kitchen, they can’t 100% guarantee no cross-contamination.
Wines at Brasserie Blanc
Just as the menu is updated with the seasons, so too is the wine list which is clearly divided into white and red light, medium and full-bodied wines making selecting your wine so much easier.
Wines by the glass start around the £5 mark. I was pleased to see vegetarian and vegan wine choices clearly labelled. A surprising number of wines are not vegetarian due to the animal-derived finings used to clarify and stabilise the wines. There were also several organic wines and one biodynamic wine available. In addition, I spotted an orange wine, Domaine Lafage Taronja de Gris, from Languedoc-Roussillon costing £9 for a 125 ml glass or £48.95 a bottle. Unlike most white wines where the skins are removed, with an orange wine, the pigments, phenols and tannins from the skins are allowed to be released into the wine. While certainly not a sweet wine, it is sometimes drunk as a dessert wine. To my mind, it would pair better with an earthy cheese.
Celebrating 25 years of Brasserie Blanc
25 years ago Raymond Blanc opened his first restaurant in the UK, offering top quality, freshly prepared French cuisine made from carefully selected, ethically produced seasonal ingredients. This ethos has been upheld throughout the years and is as true today as it was then, no matter which of the 14 ‘Blanc’ restaurants you visit from Manchester to Chichester. You’ll find Brasserie Blanc in Chichester in Richmond House, The Square Chichester, West Sussex PO19 7SJ Tel: 01243 534200 Website: Brasserie Blanc
Sign up for the Brasserie Blanc newsletter for a celebratory treat
Over the years, Raymond Blanc OBE, who has become somewhat of a national treasure here in the UK. Check out his blog for recipes and tips as well as articles on some of their favourite food suppliers. Sign-up for their newsletter here. There’ll be a treat in store for anyone on their database later in the month to celebrate the 25th anniversary since Raymond opened his first Brasserie Blanc.
Mushrooms featured on Brasserie Blanc’s autumn menu
The yellow-orange mushroom, girolle, is amongst the most well known and popular autumn mushrooms in France. It has a light, fruity taste yet it can be used sparingly as a little tends to go a long way.
The fragrant Pied blue (blue foot) mushrooms are so named thanks to their purple-blue stem. Its distinctive flavour is at its best when well cooked bringing out its earthy, meaty taste. It has a somewhat silky texture.
Oyster mushrooms have a delicate, savoury almost woody flavour. While it’s their appearance rather than their taste that gave them their name, some say they have a subtle seafood taste.
Chestnut mushrooms with their slightly nutty flavour and meaty texture are very versatile and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Black trumpet mushrooms, worryingly known as trompettes de la mort in French, are in fact edible. They have a thrilly black cap and grow together in bunches. They are best for cooking (and darkest in colour) when young. [/box]