Prior to a bout of Norwegian angst at the NT we were looking for somewhere that wouldn’t be too busy on a Saturday night on the South Bank. In the old days Chez Gérard/Brasserie Blanc would have fitted the bill for it was always in my experience the least favoured of an eating venue around those parts. However, that has changed. It took a while for the maitre d’ to wrangle us a table, for which I was very grateful as I didn’t fancy traipsing any further.
The change of fortune must surely be down to the revamp of the whole outfit. As you can see from the illustration the entrance is now a rather noir-ish yet welcoming prospect, a vast improvement on what was there before. While I liked the old room, especially the booths, it was starting to show its age. Now they’ve stuck a bar at the front (a good move for the casual pre-theatre drinker who doesn’t want to go elbow to elbow with the English middle classes) and opened out the room at the back. The only mis-step for me was the music which was too loud for my liking (but nothing like as irritating as the gratuitous use of Cohen’s Hallelujah in an otherwise excellent HG. If I could have Townsended the guitar the minute the opening bar was played I would have.) . Otherwise the designers have done a good job.
The menu is pretty much the same, which is no bad thing. Classic French dishes, maybe a little less focus on the steak side of things. I had a G&T (a good one) while we mulled over the menus. The prix fixe is good value but we went à la carte. A shared charcuterie board did the trick up front – enough for two if neither of you is a gannet though maybe a bit more bread would have been nice. For main a big helping of moules frites was good but took a lot longer to arrive than the seared trout across the way, which was a shame as that was the only blemish on what was otherwise an excellent service. Cabbage as a side was just my thing too.
So l’empire Blancais has definitely raised its game and a chain that I once used as a last resort has restored its reputation. It’s nice when things get better.
To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2017 check out my GoogleMap
Blue Badge guide to London and academic specialising in early twentieth century history. Blogging on history, academia, and food and culture in the capital (and occasionally elsewhere).