Published on November 26th, 2015 | by Ben Southwood0
Game Menu @ Brasserie Blanc
There are a few standard words one uses to describe the taste of game—native British fauna raised for the pleasure of shooting and eating them—earthy, deep, rich and most commonly, ‘gamey’. The meat is extremely lean, dark and well-worked from a natural lifestyle, and tastes interesting and special, almost universally. Unlike with farms, there are pretty much no bad places to buy game in the UK, which is raised quite well across the board; the worst you might get is a bit of shot in your food.
Brasserie Blanc, the 18-strong semi-eponymous high street chain from celebrity chef Raymond, is probably not the thing you associate first with all game’s esoteric delights (teal, mallard, woodcock, snipe, grouse, as well as the more familiar partridge, pheasant, pigeon and venison), but they do game fairly well, within the constraints of their operation.
The job of an executive chef—who designs the regular dishes a chain menu will contain, and which all his chefs will have to cook—is quite different from a regular chef. Thus, Brasserie Blanc’s executive has quite a different task on his hands than when he ran Oxford’s doubly Michelin-starred Le Manoir for fourteen years—he needs to generate food that a team of a few can make reliably for a couple hundred guests, at high street prices.
And from what I tasted, I think they do that reasonably well. The mallard terrine was moist and complex. The pigeon was seared perfectly and rare inside. The slow-cooked venison fell apart in your mouth. The roast pheasant in a bag was decent but unexceptional—they managed to retain a fair amount of juicy tenderness. Assuming the dishes we were presented at our tasting dinner represented those the chain will offer around the country, I think they do pretty well.
I suppose what I really admire is the attempt: it’s a bit of a risk to put game on a menu (even though it is Britain’s traditional cuisine and culinary heritage), and it’s nice to see Brasserie Blanc bringing food to corners it might not otherwise frequent.