Mon Dieu, Blanchette is so French! This may be an obvious statement considering the name, but once outside the quaint restaurant it’ll be all you can do not to shove a beret on your head and a Gaulois Bleu in your mouth. The pavement gives way to blue tiles at the entrance; large windows reveal a long wooden bar, wooden seats, nostalgic tiled walls with pastoral designs and carafes full to the brim with rich red wine. Even the street it sits on, D’Arblay Street, has a French feel. Add to this a couple of French diners amongst the clientele and it’s clear that the three brothers behind the project, Maxime, Yannis and Malik Alary, have got it right.
On a Thursday the restaurant is overflowing, but there’s a pleasant balance between intimacy and space: you can rub knees at the bar or dine further back in a homely room. Here, you’ll find a slice of picturesque Provençal life with rustic brickwork, assorted china plates, and a menu to match.
The small plate connoisseurs (Ember Yard’s Simon Mullins and Ben Tish – The Salt Yard Group collectively) are consulting, so expect luscious French tapas. Take your time over a leisurely dinner, as is the French custom, and order in stages. Start with charcuterie: the Jambon Sec de Montagne is artfully sliced and served with little gherkins and a peppery dollop of celeriac remoulade. The Foie Gras comes on crisp toast and melts in the mouth.
Go on to Baked Scallop with Café de Paris Butter and Steamed Mussels from the ‘Fish’ section, the earthy Grilled Beef Onlget with Snails from the ‘Meat’ and Green Bean Salad with Foie Gras for ‘Vegetable’. The béarnaise fries are simply divine. Between courses, get your lips around a full bodied Malbec – and each other.
Finish a decadent evening with Chocolate Marquise, washed down with a glass of peachy dessert wine.
For a first date, it’s best to stay at the bar. Sit side by side quaffing the excellent wine and soaking up the romantic ambiance, intensified by the flattering candlelight. Dare to rest an arm casually at the back of their chair. Be bold and go in for the occasional nuzzle between dishes, planting a kiss on their neck and a hand on their knee (this is a French date after all!).
Continue the romantic frivolity with a nightcap. Oh sweet Soho, the choices are illimitable! Hold hands, close your eyes and spin on the spot: whichever street you’re facing, skip merrily down it and you’ll find a hot and happening bar.
For an intimate, distraction free evening, head to the back of the restaurant to the cosy dining room. This is best for a date further down the line, where you can sit and gaze into each other’s eyes undisturbed.
Tough one: it gets a little warm in there; perfect excuse to dress light and chic.
5 – it’s just so French!