One thing I really miss since having children is being able to go out for dinner or a weekend lunch on a whim with Mr C. We were very lucky in that we could just phone each other in the afternoon and decide where to meet for dinner that night - a big luxury indeed. I was thrilled therefore when a weekday lunch for local bloggers was organised on a date that I could actually do and on a day of the week when Little Miss C was in nursery.
The venue was the newly opened St Albans branch of Brasserie Blanc and we were all invited to try the November version of their seasonal fixed price menu - The Raymond Blanc Set Menu. This really does represent fantastic value for money with three courses only costing £13.95 at lunchtime and £16.45 for dinner.
After a quick introduction from restaurant manager Rob we were all spoilt for choice when we tried to choose from the menu.
I went for a starter of Gnocchi with jervaulx blue cheese and celery. This was served with apple slices which provided a refreshing, crisp accompaniment to the rich blue cheese sauce. The gnocchi was light and fluffy - perfect for a starter.
After nearly everyone else on the table went for the slow cooked beef as a main course, I instead decided to try the Pan-fried haddock fillet with poached egg, potato salad. Although I like fish I have to admit that this isn't the sort of thing that I'd normally order - mainly as I'm not a huge egg fan - but this really took my fancy when I saw it on the menu. The haddock was delicious and worked really well with the poached egg. The potatoes weren't quite what I expected when described as a potato salad, but the buttery taste again worked well with the haddock and egg.
All those who chose the slow cooked beef were very happy with their choice and looking round the table all I could see were clean plates - always a sign of a good meal.
I washed the food down with a crisp glass of the house white wine which you can add to your meal for just £1.95. You can instead choose a glass of the wine that Raymond Blanc recommends to accompany it for just a pound more.
Looking around the restaurant most of the other diners were slightly older couples or groups. Master C accompanied me to lunch and there were a couple of other children spotted at other tables. Raymond Blanc is keen to encourage families to dine together and this is supported by the range of dishes available for children. For the youngest customers the kitchen will prepare a puree of seasonal vegetables free of charge. There is also a children's menu and the option for some dishes from the main menu to be prepared in smaller portions. As a parent I think that's a great way of encouraging families with children of all ages to visit together. It's certainly the first time that I've seen a restaurant providing an option for really young children.
This was actually my second visit to our local branch of Brasserie Blanc and I certainly hope to return again - probably with both children. The atmosphere was lovely, service attentive and friendly and the food exceptionally good. The price of the set menu is fantastic value for money too - a very important factor for people these days.
Disclaimer: Local blogger Heidi kindly organised this lunch and all attendees received a two course lunch, accompanied by a glass of house wine. We also took home with us a goodie bag.