Brasserie Blanc

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Best Part: The Anchovies

It was some half price vouchers that inspired our luncheon venue this week. Brasserie Blanc’s prix fixe menu had not impressed us in the past but we are always willing to give things another try. It was a good thing we did.
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Brasserie Blanc is stylish with grey walls and artistic oak chairs. The waiting staff were pleasant, smart and efficient (our hour lunch slot wasn’t a problem) The prix fixe menu which had been very dull last time we visited was very enticing. It was reasonable value too, not Costa Nostra levels but £9.95  for two courses and £12.45 for 3. I was very tempted by the squash risotto and smoked haddock omelette but our special vouchers meant we could get super value from the main menu too. The spinach and mushroom pancakes  baked a in creamy cheese sauce was a fine choice. It was a rich lunch but there is nothing wrong with a little indulgence every now and then especially when it involves cheese.

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My dining partner started with a little appetiser of Anchovies, with Anchovy Butter and Sourdough bread. This enraptured him, so much so that he didn’t notice the anchovy grease running down his chin and dripping onto his work trousers. He cut a fine figure.

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He followed this with a steak. Not very imaginative, and almost as soon as he ordered he was regretting not going for the more interesting sounding Slow-Braised Pig Cheeks. But sometimes you just fancy a steak, especially if you live with a vegetarian. When it came, it was on a plate that was so long it was verging on boardiness, but it was an adequate steak. Maybe slightly lacking in flavour or interest, but it was definitely a chunk of meat.

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In another area of restaurant quirkiness that can easily tip over into annoyance, the salt keep in an attractive little pot. Crucially, though, they provided a little spoon so there was none of the salt-pinching that we despise so much.

The toilets were a little disappointing as they lacked any character but they were clean enough. There were separate rooms for men and women so there would be no chance encounters with the opposite gender’s effluence.

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To conclude, we were very happy with Brasserie Blanc. If you want a smart but not overpriced lunch at a reliable chain restaurant this would be a good place to visit. It would be suitable for couples, ladies who lunch and older family groups. I have taken one small child here in the past but although he was welcomed it wasn’t terribly suitable for him or the other diners. The problem is that it wasn’t particularly interesting, as you might tell from our slightly lacklustre review. Sorry, we’ll go somewhere that will drive us to rhapsodies of delight or agonies of despair next time.

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In my experience Cafe Rogue does a similar thing to Brasserie Blanc and slightly better but they are aided by such a beautiful building.

The score: 6.5/10

http://brasserieblanc.com/restaurants/st-albans/

 

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La Cosa Nostra

 

Best Part: The Pizza was just really good

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You don’t have to be cool and grey to serve one of the best lunches in St Albans!

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Now, the Cosa Nostra is an alternate name for the Sicilian Mafia, but I am definitely not going to be especially favourable to them to avoid any retribution. There is no need as we had a thoroughly pleasant time. I was actually on my way to lunch at Chez Mumtaj (which is not an alternate name for the French-Indian mafia) but my dedication to you, dear reader, was such that I willingly ate a starter here and then went on to eat another starter and a main course elsewhere rather than deny you my opinion on a local eating establishment.

 

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La Cosa Nostra sits in what could almost be someone’s front room. It is the very definition of a neighbourhood establishment, albeit a neighbourhood with another Italian restaurant/deli a couple of doors down. It doesn’t try to overreach itself, but does what it does efficiently and with a minimum of fuss. And unlike most St Albans local Italian restaurants it is not housed in an old public toilet.

 

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Due to my other commitments I consigned myself to a starter, and of course this means deep fried cheese. Breaded Mozzarella Parcels, to be precise. They were a generous portion, and very tasty. They were possible not as breaded as I would like, and the ooze was a trifle disappointing, but I am potentially penalising it for not being deep fried brie. They were served with a very tasty side salad, and a lovely tangy dressing, and if I am moved enough to praise salad you know it must be good.

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Astonishingly, my starter ended up being more expensive than my one-lunch-only wife’s meal. She went for the lunch deal, which delivers either a pizza or a pasta dish plus a drink for £6.95 which is certainly good value but Mrs Midweek lunch’s pizza was of such a fabulous quality that she was actually worried about robbing the management! The base was thin and crispy and the toppings well balanced and presented. She was pleased to have several vegetarian pizzas to choose from too and it was a tough decision but she selected the Giardiniera. It is not just vegetarians that have a good ride here. La Cosa Nostra cater for Gluten free diets and positively welcome children in fact there were two very happy children munching away while we dined. In the past our own fussy offspring have happily devoured smaller portions of grown up food here. This is great because it encourages them to eat the food we like rather than just chicken dippers, chips and no vegetables. Thanks Cosa Nostra, we value your family friendly attitude.

 

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We were pushed for time as I needed to make it to lunch 2, but this wasn’t an issue at all. Service was slick and quick without being even noticeable. There were probably more employees and their pals than there were patrons, but that added to the family feel of the place. So it may not be the most glamourous of locations, it may not have a particular buzz and no part of it was painted grey, but it was a lovely place to get a very reasonable and satisfying lunch, and I would be happy to have somewhere similar in my neighbourhood.