Tucked away the bottom of No 1 Gunwharf Quays (or The Lipstick) is Brasserie Blanc, which celebrated a re-launch this week with an appearance by the founder, celebrity and TV chef Raymond Blanc.
There are now 18 of the restaurants throughout the country, and it was one of the first to include a set lunch menu. Raymond says: ‘It’s about quality and where the food is from.
‘There’s variety in Brasserie Blanc and I want to put my name against it. Lots of places have great food but the difference here is that this great food is affordable and delicious.
He adds: ‘There’s a friendly atmosphere and it’s modern. When I go into a space and I sit down I want to feel like a lemon soufflé. I want to be part of that room. The people make a difference too.’
Raymond Blanc is a French-born chef who moved to England to work in the 1970s. He has since managed a string of successful restaurants. The chef has also starred in his own TV series and published a number of recipe books, with the latest being Kitchen Secrets.
Everything is hand-made in the kitchen at Brasserie Blanc (apart from the ice-cream) and Raymond believes it makes an important difference.
He says: ‘It’s not a factory, everything is hand-made in our kitchen. The craft and the knowledge and the experience of the chefs, my craftsmen, is important.
‘They can make the restaurant experience beautiful, so you feel welcome. Everything is handmade and home-grown, and I think it really can make the dining experience special.’
In Raymond’s eyes, the values held by the restaurant chain are simple: ‘Lovely and friendly service and good food so people come back.
‘We’re very happy with the restaurant being in Portsmouth, which has been here since 2009. It may be a recession but we are here to stay.’
He adds: ‘The restaurant is part of the culture as much as any cinema or shop. We belong in the city.’
Many visitors to the restaurant on the day asked Raymond to sign a copy of his latest book, Kitchen Secrets, which is about bringing precision to the kitchen at home.
But his own secret in the kitchen is about simplicity.
Raymond explains: ‘Don’t try to do a nine-step dish because you will fail and you will lose your confidence.
‘Simplicity and being curious is important. I say to my apprentices ‘‘always ask why chef, so you can understand why’’. It’s important to be in control and in charge too. Just follow those three main steps.’
He adds: ‘A lot of chefs use complicated recipes and food, but when you’re an old boy like me you realise that simplicity in your cooking can seem complicated anyway.’
· Brasserie Blanc is at No 1 Gunwharf Quays. Call (023) 9289 1320 for information about the restaurant.