Restaurant Review: Brasserie Blanc, Beaconsfield

Brasserie Blanc – Proper French Flavours

I am a massive fan of Raymond Blanc. He begins speaking English with perfection diction, only for his elocution to decline into the utterly incomprehensible. Most know he’s a two Michelin Star chef, but the fact he guided Heston Blumenthal and Marco Pierre White is less well known. When Jay Rayner visited Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, he advised the meal was fabulous, but the cost unjustifiable. Brasserie Blanc provided a respectable job of French Cuisine at a fraction of the cost – worth keeping in mind if your salary is shorter than your phone number.

Brasserie Blanc Beaconsfield began with The Mediterranean Fish Soup, the best fish soup I’d ever slurped – the perfect summery starter. Tasting of the sea, with luxurious saffron bravely avoiding domination by the heavy-hitting garlic. The Bouillabaisse Sea Bream was perfectly cooked and seasoned – a beautiful piece of bright white succulent fish with delicious crispy skin. Unfortunately, the supporting squid and artichoke fought a losing battle against further piles of garlic. Another highlight was the mouth watering Duck Leg Confit, providing incredible depth of flavour with skin that satisfyingly crackled when cut. However, the undercooked lardons were unnecessary, especially when accompanying chorizo. For dessert, Chocolate Soufflé looked magnificent with a beautiful texture, but didn’t pack a particularly prominent chocolaty punch.

Regarding atmosphere, Brasserie Blanc Beaconsfield was teaming with punters creating a real buzz. The interior was tastefully designed and thoughtfully laid out. Although sitting by the side entrance created a rather uncomfortable draft.

Brasserie Blanc Beaconsfield operated at full capacity, thus service was understandably sluggish. However, everyone from the host to the floor staff provided genuine smiles, and worked in a composed manner. Although, when my girlfriend opted for whiskey she was slightly irked by the shocked waiter – when another server was similarly flabbergasted it bordered insulting.

As starters were £7, mains £15 (plus sides) and desserts £6, Brasserie Blanc represented average value for bourgeois Beaconsfield. However, dining from the Early Bird Menu provides outstanding frugality. Why can’t all chain restaurants be like this?

Brasserie Blanc Review Summary

Atmosphere 8/10    Cost 7/10    Quality 7/10    Service 8/10

Brasserie Blanc Beaconsfield Review

Top Notch Soup

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Restaurant Review: Turtle Bay, Preston

Turtle Bay Preston – Bob Marley & The Waiters

Turtle Bay is Preston’s latest restaurant-come-bar to have risen from the recession, bringing a much-needed splash of colour to Preston city centre. Turtle Bay could be that rare establishment that is family-friendly yet stylish enough to attract late night drinkers. Time will tell, but the early signs are very positive.

I’m always sceptical of themed restaurants that attempt to offer something exotic, as they often descend into the painfully ordinary (I’m looking at you Wagamama). However, a lot of effort had gone into Turtle Bay Preston’s décor, music and menu which made a lasting impression.

Music at Turtle Bay Preston was absolutely spot on. I was half expecting to hear ‘Legend’ on repeat, but the mixture of ska, reggae, dancehall and dub, with commercial and less well-known tracks set an upbeat but relaxed tone. Although Turtle Bay is a chain restaurant, nowhere else in Preston offers a Caribbean soundtrack, despite a clear demand for it.

The Turtle Bay Preston Menu offered simple food that was big on flavour. The ribs were ridiculous; if you’ve watched House of Cards, you’ll get the picture. Similarly, it’s impossible to eat enough of those fried sweetcorn fritters. The sweet potato fries were as good as any I’ve experienced. The spices across all the dishes were big, bold and brash – just as they should be. In a moment of snobbishness I lamented every dish was strangely the same colour, but when it’s packed with punchy flavours, it’s entirely forgivable.

These ballsy flavours extended to the Turtle Bay Preston Bar, with a cocktail menu dominated by strong rum at reasonable prices. Ordering from the menu provided fun rather than sophistication, with the high energy bar staff serving customers thick and fast. Bar Manager Dave is on hand if you’re a drinks connoisseur, or are just looking to learn more. Ask him about the spiked home-made ginger beer and you’re in for a treat.

Turtle Bay Review Summary

Atmosphere 10/10    Cost 8/10    Quality 8/10    Service 9/10

Turtle Bay Preston Restaurant Review

It’s all brown, spicy, and lip-smackingly tasty

Turtle Bay Preston Restaurant Review

It’s all brown, spicy, and lip-smackingly tasty

Turtle Bay Preston Restaurant Review

It’s all brown, spicy, and lip-smackingly tasty

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Restaurant Review: Las Iguanas, The Trafford Centre

Las Iguanas – La Paz’d The Test

Las Iguanas is thankfully on the perimeter of the Trafford Centre eating area, sheltered as much as possible from the crowds of traipsing shoppers, and the cast of Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. However, it struggled to create any real identity and Caipirinhas atmosphere, due to the forced nature of the Disneyland nature of the mall. The lack of any walls or perimeters between the restaurant and the rambling consumers didn’t help.

The Las Iguanas menu was attractive, well laid out and diverse without being overbearing; coincidentally, very much like my Latin American friends. The “vivo; hot, hot, hot very hot habanero chicken wings” (their real name) were full of lip-smacking tangy flavour. They were perfect for spicy food lovers, who aren’t registered insane. It was disappointing when only two small wings arrived, as it didn’t suggest this on the menu, but for £2.90 it was not unreasonable. The delicious sounding Albondigas; lamb meatballs with apple, parmesan, mint and nutmeg served with garlic and coriander rice was another dish full of flavour and surprisingly very well balanced. The braised tomato sauce the lamb arrived in wasn’t particularly flavourful, and the sauce a little thin. Again the portion sizes weren’t massive, but this was taken from the ‘Quick & Light Lunch Bites’ menu. The desert menu suggested more tequila and received a wry smile of approval. The Affogato Cubano was chosen, and a delicious but microscopic scoop of dulce de leche ice cream drowned in spiced rum espresso promptly arrived.

The Las Iguanas Cocktail Menu looked exciting and well matched the food; however, the Iguana Cosmo was a rookie mistake. It was luminous, syrupy and bland (and not double strained). In fairness to Las Iguanas, this will likely appeal to the casual cocktail drinker, who doesn’t appreciate that cocktails should taste of the alcohol within it. The Pisco Sour was thankfully sour and tasted of decent Pisco. With very generous Happy Hour drinking times it is harsh to be overly critical. Furthermore, the wider drinks menu contained interesting details such as Caipirinhas with Apricot (no me neither) and Espresso Martinis with Guyanese rum.

Finally, a heavily pregnant lady (I hope!) was our main point of contact – thank you for your efficiency and pleasantries.

Las Iguanas Review Summary

Atmosphere 4/10    Cost 7/10    Quality 7/10    Service 8/10

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Bar Review: Revolution, Preston

Preston Revolution – In Need Of Revolution

I am a fan of the Vodka Revolution chain, in theory. However, everything that could go wrong does go wrong in Preston. Revolution’s recent refurbishment and prominent promotional literature suggested ambitions of a proper cocktail bar – nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s how to improve:

  • Revolution Preston staff need basic cocktail knowledge. Not pretentious levels of flamboyance, but not knowing a Vodka Martini was embarrassing for someone called Vodka Revolution. Requesting a Caipirinha resulted in nothing but a blank expression. I was served an Old Fashioned so extraordinary unlike one, I’m too embarrassed to elaborate: not ideal when Revolution sells cocktail training to the public.
  • Revolution Preston bars need fresh fruit. Basil & Raspberry Mojito contained no fresh limes, no fresh basil, questionable raspberry puree and unconvincing mint – the sheer audacity of it all! Staff not bothering to muddle limes during manic periods is forgivable, but when there’s nobody else in, it’s painful. Similarly, it was a crime not to receive lime with rum and ginger. Furthermore, G&T’s were missing garnishes, meaning Wetherspoons outclassed Vodka Revolution.
  • Revolution Preston needs stock. I asked for a 15 year Havana: ten minutes later I was poured a seven-year without explanation.
  • Revolution Preston needs to provide hospitality. I ordered a bottle of vodka for £75, providing a healthy margin from £18 trade prices. An ice bucket is provided without tongs, so bare hands were used which was both unpleasant and unhygienic. There was no bar towel to wipe up the ensuing puddle; obviously, limes were a non-starter. No staff were aware to wipe down a table, let alone engage with customers in any manner.
  • Revolution Preston needs to get organised. When making a spirit on the rocks, don’t use one piece of ice which quickly melts. When making three drinks, don’t make the spirit on the rocks first, then take ten minutes making two cocktails and another minute to key it into the till. Please be able to remember three drinks without pen and paper. Likewise, when receiving a large booking, have the cutlery pre-set ready – at the very least bring the cutlery before the food. Furthermore, turn the coffee machine on, or throw it away and give up the pretence of offering hot drinks.
  • Revolution Preston needs table service. If customers are sat with empty glasses for ten minutes, they are likely waiting for another. Proactively provide the bill, and encourage servers to look in the direction of tables occasionally.
  • Revolution needs to clean its lines. Knowing the beer is undrinkable I ordered a bottled beer – it was room temperature. This really was the final straw(pedo).

Vodka Revolution Review Summary

Atmosphere 4/10    Cost 3/10    Quality 1/10    Service 1/10

  • Vodka Revolution Preston Review

    Vodka Shots – The Only Safe Bet

    *Since this review was first published, Revolution Preston is unfortunately no longer with us – hence the lack of link*