The Alary brothers – Yannis, Maxime and Malik – originally hail from Paris. With backing from Ben Tish of Salt Yard Group (Salt Yard, Opera Tavern, Dehesa, Ember Yard), where Yannis worked as a chef for five years, they opened a Parisian-style bistro in Soho, London, and named it after their mum, Blanchette. Two years and countless fully booked evenings later, and the Alary brothers have introduced their second restaurant to East London, with a new, Southern twist on the menu.
Duck in to narrow-fronted Blanchette East off chaotic Brick Lane and let a sense of calm immediately take over. Perch on mahogany stools at a marble-topped counter beneath overflowing plant pots suspended from the ceiling with rope. A mirrored wall reflects the Parisian Belle Epoque-style bar behind – a larger marble-topped bar lit by pretty lampshades and a colourful mural of a curvaceous woman reclining behind.
Continue through to the back room behind a frosted glass pane divider and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a rustic chic French home – shelves are lined with books, vases and teapots, the fireplace showcases a wooden trinkets box, and delicate china teacups cradle candles flickering on mismatched tables.
Yannis delivered a brown paper bag filled with slices of warm, crusty country-style bread to the table, and the waiter followed with a rustic jug of water. After perusing the wine list, and making short work of the bread, we opted for French, in keeping with the mood – a fruity Felicette Grenache Blanc from the Pays d’Oc with peach and citrus notes.
In this new branch, as well as French favourites such as crisp frog legs, onglet with snails and a fantastic selection of charcuterie and cheeses, the Alary brothers have crept further south to incorporate North African flavours into the menu. We tried a delicious merguez sausage roll – lamb sausage spiced with cumin and paprika wrapped in crisp pastry with sweet onion confit tucked into the casing.
Our highlight from the snacking starter menu was the pissaladiere – a stunning lattice of anchovies and black olives with a layer of caramelised onion on a thin, flaky base that had just the right amount of bite. A wooden board piled with florets of super thinly sliced Rosette de Lyon (cured sausage), gherkins and a celeriac remoulade was ideal to nibble on before our next round of dishes arrived.
Mains were served as small plates, though portions were quite generous for this style of eating. Pork loin came medium rare – silky, soft and pink – with pickled girolles and little cauliflower florets on smooth cauliflower purée. Two generous pieces of monkfish sat on top chermoula courgettes with a zaatar-like spice blend, smoky aubergine puree and bursting vine-ripened, roasted tomatoes.
A terracotta dish piled with saffron rice, flaked almonds, tabbouleh and yogurt jeweled with pomegranate seeds was the perfect complement to the rich, spiced lamb tagine with apricots and rose harissa.
The combination of so many rich dishes lent itself perfectly to a refreshing basil sorbet with pieces of fresh mango to finish. But next time we’ll be saving room for chocolate and hazelnut dacquoise with crème fraîcheice cream, wild strawberry vacherin and blackcurrant financier with white wine sabayon. And a next time there certainly will be.
204 Brick Lane, E1 6SA
Written by Alex Crossley
First published September 2016
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