Clive Fretwell is Raymond Blanc’s right-hand man in the kitchen and his longstanding partnership with the celebrated French chef has helped Brasserie Blanc flourish over the years. The story goes that the pair first became acquainted when Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons was interviewing for a chef’s position. Clive handed over his recipe diary and Blanc is said to have spent the next 40 minutes studying it, barely saying a word. He got the job and spent the next 14 years working at the acclaimed Oxfordshire restaurant.
After a stint at Japanese chain Itsu, Clive did consider going it alone but decided the financial pressures of restaurant ownership weren’t for him. He subsequently paired up with Blanc again and more than a decade later continues to play a pivotal role in everything that goes on in the group’s kitchens, from menu development to chef training. The brand’s objective is to showcase French cuisine at its very best and as a result it aspires to the highest a la carte standards, whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner. Consequently, the emphasis in its kitchens is on instant heat and fast turnaround, but most importantly, consistency. These values have shaped many of its kitchen designs in recent times.
Refurbishments have occupied the chain’s time over the past year, too, with restaurants in London’s Trinity Square and Threadneedle Street the latest to receive makeovers worthy of their locations. In Bath, a redesign earlier this year saw the installation of a new bar and bespoke 18-seater kitchen table, while in Milton Keynes the interior also underwent a major transformation. Those projects fit into a wider refurb programme that has already seen much of its estate given a stunning new look. But it is not only Brasserie Blanc that Clive and his colleagues are intent on growing. Plans are also afoot to develop the White Brasserie Company, a quality pub dining sister business that blends the standards of Brasserie Blanc into local settings in the south of England. Collectively there are close to 30 sites across the group, but that number is only set to get bigger in 2016.
“Refurbishments have occupied the chain’s time over the past year, with key London sites receiving makeovers”