Many Londoners find themselves spending a leisurely Sunday exploring Brick Lane in search of a bite to eat. Most join the hour-long queues for hot bagels, or are swept inside curry houses by enthusiastic street hawkers, but fewer notice Blanchette, a quiet French bistro tucked away behind a multitude of vintage stalls that pop up shop on the weekend.
Having heard rave reviews about their original Soho establishment, I was keen to try the Sunday brunch menu at Blanchette’s unsuspecting branch on the east side of the city. The restaurant has an instant sense of calm and unpolished French sophistication from the moment you step inside: from the marble countertops and the delicate crockery, to the floral arrangements dotted throughout the space. We opted for seats by the window, so we could watch the crowds of tourists outside, and comfortably observe the bustle from our perch.
The brunch menu wasn’t hugely extensive, but offered classics next to dishes with a slight French twist: staples such as homemade granola, buttermilk pancakes, and avocado toast were all featured on the menu, next to more interesting options such as baked Moroccan eggs with flatbread, or a Croque Monsieur. I opted for a blue cheese, mushroom, and straw potato sandwich, while my friend went for the Cacklebean fried eggs on toasted sourdough, all washed down with multiple teas and coffees.
The food was hearty, and arrived hot from the kitchen. Mine was a sizeable toasted sandwich, served on a homemade brioche bun with lashings of butter. The mushroom patty was dense and filling, offset by the tangy blue cheese and crunchy potato; certainly a greasy mess that I had to mop up with a napkin afterwards, yes, but in a way that was wholly satisfying. I think I finished it off in less than five minutes.
For the food alone, I would return to Blanchette: unfussy, rustic French cooking in a suitably unfussy environment. At a glance, the lunch and dinner menu also offered hearty options with a sophisticated French twist: dishes such as cheese beignets and merguez sausage rolls were amongst the starters, followed by dishes such as fillet of salmon with Jerusalem artichokes, and harissa carrots with whipped goat’s cheese. However, the initially quiet atmosphere set by the other diners, either solo or in a small group and who, like us, seemed to be visiting for an enjoyable Sunday meal, was sadly disturbed during our visit by a large and rowdy party of twenty or so guests.
My experience visiting was therefore slightly confused, as Blanchette’s usually peaceful atmosphere is what makes the restaurant attractive for visitors such as myself; the location, and food offering at Blanchette are undoubtedly noteworthy (especially for a meal under £40). I’d recommend visiting Blanchette for some culinary repose after a morning spent battling the vintage stalls on Brick Lane – but beware of any ‘boozy brunchers’ if you’re looking for a quiet bite.