Fronted by a team of seasoned hospitality players, Carte Blanche has opened on Hackney’s Mare Street this month, serving a menu of Parisian classic dishes with an American twist.
It is the brainchild of Andy Taylor, founder of American-French street food outfit Le Bun. Taylor has a colourful past, including a stint as a musician supporting The Who, and hosting a sell-out pop up with R&B star-turned-chef Kelis. General manager Conrad Hulk has moved from west London’s Danish restaurant Snaps & Rye, and bar manager Oscar Flöhr comes from overseeing front of house at members’ club Lights of Soho.
On the former site of much-loved fried chicken and cocktail bar Rita’s, Carte Blanche has settled into an area that looks set to be the next ‘destination’ for new openings - recent new arrivals include Gizzi Erskine’s Mare Street Market development and Bright, which took Michelin-starred Ellory’s former site. The 50-cover restaurant is compact, with several small tables near the entrance and counter seating at the bar. Towards the back of the room are larger tables, which have a view of the open kitchen. The restaurant is relaxed and casual, with clued-up staff and a hip hop soundtrack.
A fusion of Midwest/Southern staples and Gallic flavours, the menu comprises a list of US comfort food rendered almost classy with the addition of a few choice ingredients. Fried chicken comes with a pot of caviar, and smoked short rib is served as a twist on beef bourguignon, with a red wine sauce, braised mushrooms, shallots and a mound of shredded greens. Oysters are deep fried, served with caviar hollandaise and maple bacon; steak tartare is topped with beef fat crisps; and skate wing is seasoned with Old Bay and caper beurre noisette, and topped with clams. There is just one dessert option, which is tarte tatin.
Continuing the theme of French-American fusion, the drinks offer comprises a list of natural wines; and classic cocktails with Gallic influences. A Negroni is given a French accent with Campari substituted for Dubonnet; and a whisky sour incorporates whisky infused with beurre noisette.
And another thing
Taylor says that his cooking career was really a hobby that took off “in spectacular fashion”. Having quit school at the age of 15 to be in a band (which didn’t quite take off as quickly as he’d hoped), the chef got a job as a waiter at a restaurant owned by Michael Caines, which is where his interest in French food was piqued.