REVIEW: French cooking with a sense of family at the heart of it

There are many great international chefs, but Raymond Blanc is arguably one of the finest.

28 hour venison casserole
28 hour venison casserole

It’s not simply that he’s entirely self-taught. It’s that’s he has championed so many other chefs and helped them to become iconic culinary figures too.

That generosity of spirit owes much to his own inspiration: his mother Maman Blanc. She believed in using the best local ingredients to create great family meals.

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That honesty and sense of family underpins everything and continues to be the bedrock of the Brasserie Blanc chain.

Brasserie Blanc

The Chichester restaurant was entirely refurbished in 2015 and has clearly been designed to accentuate areas for relaxed and informal chatter alongside friendly, family dining at any time of the day.

A sense of the informal, of relaxation is a hallmark of the restaurant amplified by a menu - a mix of French classic dishes and the contemporary.

The wine list is extensive for a brasserie. There are timeless classics. Chablis, Margaux, and a Dom Perignon vintage champagne.

But you don’t need to spend a fortune.

Cheese soufflé

Robert, who welcomed us when we reviewed, pointed us in the direction of a Cotes de Bergerac T de Thenac (£28) - a smooth and fruity merlot/cabinet which slipped down too easily.

It worked perfectly with our mains, the Cornish fillet steak (£23.90) and eighteen hour venison casserole (£18).

We started with a piece of perfection, cheese souffle (£6.50) - simply amazing and a customer favourite, according to Sam who served at table. My choice of the baked queen scallops (£8.50) was exceptionally generous.

It was reassuring to find a Normandy apple tart (£5.90) on the dessert menu - and one that did not allow the almond cream to overpower the apples.

Baked queen scallops

The cheese board, which we resisted, offered a remarkably complex mixture of rarities.

Brasserie blanc aims for value as well as quality. Starters range in price from £5.90 to £8.95. Mains begin at £10.50 up to £24.90 per person for two sharing the Chateaubriand.

Additional sides are charged extra.

Of a lunchtime, there are often some great value set menus too.

The food is good. The ambiance is excellent. There’s a real sense of the continental. It achieves exactly what it sets out to do. We were reviewing on this occasion but we have visited many times privately - with family for Sunday lunch or just to meet up for a coffee.

The staff are always friendly without being intrusive. It’s all about you, not them.

Chichester has many restaurants. As chains go, this one retains a real sense of family. Maman Blanc would surely approve.

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