The celebrated chef has opened a new brasserie at Beaconsfield. Jan Raycroft and Maureen McLean met him as the first diners fell for the French charm
When Raymond Blanc began rolling out what has grown into a highly successful chain of eateries, he said: “If Le Manoir is a delicate waltz, then the Brasseries are the can-can”.
Well, the arrival of Brasserie Blanc in Old Beaconsfield, has been something of a slow dance, with a bit of shuffling backstage, but now the show is firmly on the road at London End, and he’s absolutely right about the joie de vivre.
To set the scene, the restaurant is in the splendid Hall Barn Estate development in Beaconsfield’s Old Town, but 21 months passed from when first Brasserie Blanc first agreed terms to open there before South Bucks District Council gave planning consent in May 2012.
Redevelopment of this most prestigious and historic part of the town was always going to be a tricky path, but some of the best dishes need patience and it’s definitely paid off here.
Last month the restaurant opened, replacing a bakery and mock-Georgian office block, at the centre of an area which includes Knights of Beaconsfield, Farrow & Ball, and John Lewis of Hungerford. As you can see, an impressive list of ingredients has gone into the recipe.
And it’s clear that Raymond is particularly excited about opening here, calling in to chat to diners between courses, keen to hear their views and, to obvious delight, share the secrets of some of the dishes they are enjoying.
He says: “Beaconsfield, I am very excited to be opening my Brasserie in your lovely community, so close to where I live. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do and share our commitment to delicious food, cooked with the heart.”
If that sounds a bit ‘speechy’ bear in mind that Raymond has tasked some of his closest and treasured team members with making sure the Beaconsfield enterprise stands out.
For instance, he declares Claudia Reiter, the restaurant’s general manager, is: “My very special Claudia, from my home town, to look after you, like she has looked after me for the last 10 years.” Claudia started with Raymond at his first ever Brasserie, in Oxford, so to release her to head up the Beaconsfield operation shows how much he means business.
And while we are trying to photograph the famous chef there, he’s busily hugging beaming staff members, pushing them towards us: “These are the people who will make this very special.”
While all this is going on he’s also inquisitive as to how we found dining there before the chit-chat and photos began. And we’re worried that an honest appraisal might cause the sparkle in his eyes and smile to dim. The three courses were superb, but I’m going to mention money in the answer.
At his Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons at Great Milton, a three-course journey through the a la carte menu can easily take you up to around £130 per person before you’ve added the drinks. It’s very special indeed, a rare dining experience.
So how will he feel when I say: “Well Raymond, I think this was possibly the best food I’ve had in this price range.” Can we talk about that £130 covering a complete feast for four adults, all in, with drinks?
Indeed we can, for Raymond replies: “I’m so glad you mentioned the pricing because it is important to me. I want people to see that some superb dishes can be enjoyed at good value.”
Born out of the seeds of Raymond Blanc’s childhood in France, his brasseries have their roots firmly planted in the kitchen and garden of the tiny but formidable Maman Blanc, who inspired her son to share his passion for love, laughter, family and, of course, really good food. So you get all of that history and flavours alongside versions of what you might enjoy at Le Manoir.
With Maman Blanc’s hand me down recipes and the thousands he has collected over the years at Le Manor, Raymond has a never-ending supply of ideas to adapt for the brasseries.
The presentation of dishes is exquisite, fitting with an establishment that might expect more, for instance than £8.50 for baked Isle of Man scallops arriving in their shells with tomato and basil butter and crushed new potatoes.
A filling mains dish of boeuf bourguignon is like nothing you might have knocked up at home. It’s been expertly slow cooked in red wine with lardons, braised baby onions and smooth mash for £16.80. Grilled Cornish mackerels £13.50) with a fennel and roquette salad with lemon dressing simply melt in the mouth. If you’ve ever had them just out of the sea it can spoil you for what arrives on a restaurant plate, but here they manage to equal that freshness.
Desserts start with ice creams and sorbets at just £1.50 a scoop, although the chocolate fondant with pistachio ice cream and chocolate sauce is not to be missed at £6.50.
We can only give you a taster of the menu here, but some delicious French standards include Burgundian snails (£7.40), Chateaubriand at £49.80 for two, and sensational Crepe Suzette with its orange and Grand Marnier sauce with vanilla ice cream at £12.50 for two.
Local suppliers are used where ever possible for chef’s specials and Raymond’s policy of sourcing ethical fish and meat for seasonal dishes is at the forefront of menu sources.
And it’s not just the food. The restaurant has a very pretty design that manages to mix casual dining round the clock with a ‘special occasion’ look. While the sights on your plate will attract attention, make sure you take in the splendid vaulted oak ceiling and reclaimed beams, complete with animal carvings by local woodcarver and artist Colin Mantrip, and typical Brasserie Blanc touches like reclaimed warm wooden floors, comfortable seating and inviting wood burners.
The bar area with its wingback chairs is a nice place to enjoy a pint, and with up to 40 dining spots outside in a Provence style garden, this will be a grand place to enjoy a summer lunch.
Brasserie Blanc Beaconsfield
Monday – Friday from 8.30am – 10pm, breakfast served until 11am.
Saturday from 8.30am – 11pm, breakfast served until 11am
Sunday 12 noon – 9pm, no breakfast