Location: By Canterbury West train station in Canterbury.
Once dusk has slipped into night, the large building is mostly deserted. The raised platform which The Goods Shed restaurant occupied at the side of this daily indoors farmer's market glows with electric lights and candles. On a Thursday evening in October, only three tables were occupied.
My Colston Bassett stilton, walnut, beetroot, and warm poached pear salad was a delightful starter. The ingredients each have their own complexities to bring to their interchange. The warmth of the pear was the surprise and the star of it, complementing the other, richer ingredients.
Mallard came in two forms: gentle little legs perched on mounds of intense, sweet, quince purée; and slices of roast breast, lined up on top of fractal broccoli, elegant roast potatoes, and over-salted cooked greens. A drizzle of hibiscus sauce edged the plate, the slightly tart taste cutting through the sweet and fat of the rest of it.
Treacle tart to finish - much more understated than I expected in all its parts: the tart, the raisin ice cream, the sherry sauce.
Location: 71 Walton Street in Jericho, Oxford
Brasserie Blanc is a small chain by the chef behind Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons. It's a casual place, warm, dense, and full of wood. Buzzy on a Saturday night, our rather early reservation time - one of the few left - proved no problem as we loitered through our dinner.
C., double0hilly, and I shared an overly-boozy fondue as a starter, tasting more of white wine than it did of the usually personality-filled gruyère and emmental cheese which went into it. The cubed bread was just a mechanism for consumption; happily, the bread basket was a highlight, soft, fresh slices of bread with good butter and a mildly spicy olive oil. We would have been more impressed had a table tidier not put the bottle of oil back into the oily container we'd used for it and left it all on the table as a feature.
The meal improved. My chicken was beautifully roasted, but really, I'd ordered it for the wild mushroom risotto which came with it. The risotto was pleasantly understated, designed as an accompaniment, not to hold the starring role. Indeed, it would make a poor main in its own right. The rest of the table ordered the roast Barbary duck with blackberry sauce and Dauphinoise potatoes. They cleaned their plates, so it couldn't've been too disappointing.
I'd had such a disappointing pistachio soufflé at Pierre Kauffmann's restaurant that, after some indecision, I ordered the one from the dessert menu in the hopes that it could only be better. And it was! Lovely, light, and delayed by the initial inability of the kitchen to get it to rise. The chocolate ice cream it came with worked so much better as a side than its equivalent earlier in the month which had been melted into the middle of the soufflé. double0hilly was served generous portions of cheese plate, while C.'s apple and blackberry crumble was good, if very homely-looking (in the American sense) next to my proud soufflé.
So, overall, a good, but not great experience, in line with some of the higher-end chains such as Brassiere Gérard; occasionally shoddy or indifferent, but often pleasantly appealing.