Food and drink
Although Loch Fyne now owns the Brasserie Blanc chain, Raymond Blanc remains active in the creation of menus and keeps an eye on the work of his chefs and their kitchen teams. In Oxford, head chef Shaji Mekkara continues the French theme, bending Blanc’s home-cooking to accommodate local produce and the English palate. The gravadlax is from Loch Duart salmon, the salad nicoise uses Cornish mackerel, the filet de boeuf is Aberdeenshire. You won’t be blown away by exotic flavours but you will be well-fed.
The wine is French - of course – but sourced by small producers. The house champagne (Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale) is good value by the glass at £7.70.
Raymond Blanc intended his brasseries to be a central part of the community - and fun. The Oxford branch certainly attracts a good turn out of Jericho locals. Its 'dine with wine' menu is excellent value if you can get in before 7.30pm. But there’s less fun than the gourmet maestro might have hoped for. The restaurant is located in two big rooms with large shop windows that mitigate against intimacy. Much of the time the staff are far less formal than the guests. Maybe it’s the French on the menu or the name of Blanc himself, but everyone seems to be on their best behaviour.
There is a private dining room behind screens which is more atmospheric and is worth booking if you can muster a small party of eight or ten.
The staff are predominantly from Eastern Europe; they're affable and smart. Table service is well drilled but not intimidating. Perhaps too many people ask how you are enjoying your meal, but that is part a growing trend. One native speaker of English – or French – might be a good idea.
Walton Street runs parallel to Woodstock Road and is well worth wandering along en route to your meal. Take in the neo-classical gates of Oxford University Press, a Greek Revival Church from 1836 that houses the FREVD café, and the independent Phoenix Picture House. This inner city suburb is known as Jericho. It was once a working-class area linked to canal-based industries and the press, and was featured as the home of the “Gyptians” in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights. However, gentrification came early to Jericho, as witnessed by its shops, cocktail bars and expensively refurbished houses.
This is good value for Oxford with nothing on the menu over £17 unless you splash out on an 8oz Aberdeenshire filet de boeuf. There are a lot of offers – various 'dine with wine' packages and a 'roast sirloin Sunday lunch' offer of £14.50 with a glass of house wine (starter and dessert extra). Portions sizes are generous. Expect to pay £30 per person (excluding drinks) if you are ordering table d’hote.
Tables to book
The private dining room in the centre of the brasserie has character. If you can't muster enough people to justify that, ask for a table in the window and watch Jericho go by.
Raymond Blanc’s masterpiece Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons (Church Road, Great Milton, Oxford, OX44 7PD, 01844 278881) is a 20-minute drive in the direction of London. He has also opened a Patisserie Blanc (01865 510 974) in Woodstock Road next door to Brown’s.
- Families with teenagers
- Families with younger children
- Special occasions
- Design and architecture