Being originally from Essex, I only really find myself knocking about Tower Hill when I’m heading back to visit my family via The Essex Portal Fenchurch Street Station. And though I usually spend this time dodging tourists and desperately trying to avoid eye contact with anyone I might have gone to school with, had I looked up every now and again, I might just have noticed the swish-looking Brasserie Blanch Tower Bridge – part of Raymond Blanc’s group of accessible, French cuisine-inspired restaurants.
The Venue and Ambience
Tower Hill is a funny place. On one hand you’ve got the commanding sights of the Tower of London and equally as regal Tower Bridge, and on the other, you’ve got gaggles of confused walking tours, excitable American tourists by the coach-load and angry insurance workers desperately racing to get back home. Located just out of the action though (but still with the same views), is Brasserie Blanc – situated on the edge of the slightly more chilled Memorial Garden space behind the station.
Designed in classic brasserie style with outer-booths, wood-panelling and a quintessential Parisian-esque black and white tiled floor; it’s a small, but comfortable space primed for after work eats and romantic meals for two. Open-plan and with a notable air of modern sophistication, this restaurant isn’t just date and parent-friendly, it’s also a great place for more relaxed catch-ups, all throughout the day.
The Food and Drink
Raymond Blanc is one of the country’s most respected chefs rightly celebrated for his modern approach to his native French cuisine; and while the Brasserie Blanc outposts reflect a slightly more casual approach, the food here is still careful, clever and daintily presented in signature Blanc style.
The Steak Tartare (‘free range Cornish beef, egg yolk, herbs & spices - £9.95) starter plate was served in beautiful form; the meat was rich, flavoured and far from the sloppy mess you sometimes risk with this dish, and also easily mopped up with some chewy sourdough the kitchen bake on premises. Mains were a tricky choice - with any French restaurant you know they’ll treat any meat dish with the respect it deserves, and there’s a lot of meat to choose from - but on careful recommendation from our waiter and after a lot of toing and froing on a beef stroganoff from the specials menu, I plumped for the Slow Cooked Shoulder & Leg of Roast Suckling Pig (with prune stuffing, caramelised crackling, hispi cabbage, sautéed potatoes, gooseberry compote, rich pan juices - £21.50). Gorgeously presented and with perfectly-pink centres, this is a seriously pretty plate of food - with bold flavours in the gooseberry and caramelised crackling to match its impressive aesthetic. If you’re looking for a showstopper – this is it.
Not content with one gooseberry dish though, for dessert I went for another round of the good stuff in the Gooseberry Crumble (gooseberry compote, almond, ginger & cinnamon crumble, with vanilla ice cream - £6.50). Though the ice-cream and crumble could have been slightly sweeter to balance the tartness of the compote, it was definitely a lighter way to finish the meal in the face of some of the stodgier options on the menu.
Drinks-wise we opted for a fruity but crisp bottle of the Albarino (£31) to accompany the food, but if you want to kick things off with a little fizz, go for a couple of glasses of the peachy Blanc de Blanc (£5.95) – it’s French sparkling wine not unlike its Italian counterpart in prosecco, just with a little more punch.
A pretty plot of calm amidst Tower Hill’s sometimes-hectic feel, Brasserie Blanc front beautiful plates, great service and a stylish approach to casual dining – and because of those things, this place is easy to recommend.