I WAS at once embarrassed. Who after all visits the restaurant of one of the world’s top French chefs, orders lamb and asks for mint sauce?

The manager at Brasserie Blanc in Winchester smiled, explained politely they didn’t get many requests for the sauce, but was certain they could create something.

Despite my protestations that that wouldn’t be necessary at all, a unique distinctly French form of mint gravy arrived which, I had to admit, was a new yet wonderful sensation.

Raymond Blanc does not, of course, create the dishes himself at his restaurant in Winchester. But the chefs who lovingly craft his instructions are hand-picked and trained in his distinct style. Thus, as far as Mrs M and I were concerned, M.B was indeed somewhere in the kitchens – in spirit at least – helping to create our Sunday lunch.

We had chosen to visit the restaurant in Jewry Street on probably the first truly warm Sunday afternoon of the season. The large patio doors were open to reveal a lovely terrace where diners were already enjoying an al-fresco meal. Did we wish to join them immediately, or perhaps a drink at the bar? We chose the latter, slumping into comfortable leather chairs where we could natter about the decor – lovely bytheway, eye up new arrivals, and ponder the menu. Olives and bread were offered, but we decided that we didn’t wish to fill tums too early.

In the end we decided against a table on the patio, but decided instead to take our place in the wide windows overlooking Jewry Street where we could watch the city’s beau monde parade by.

And so to dine.

Brasserie Blanc have a set menu for those who wish to consider a Sunday roast option.

Tempting, the choices included roast sirloin or Cornish beef, Yorkshire pud and trimmings; or we could have chosen roast rack of free range cherry orchard pork with apple fitter and more mouth-watering accompanying vegetables.

The Sunday menu – priced at £13.80 for the main course with a choice of either dessert or a starter for an additional £2.45 – also included pan-fried haddock fillet with minted pea puree and big chips, as well as goat’s cheese, spinach and roquette shirred eggs.

All very tempting, and the dishes we say being delivered to other tables looked extremely good value, however Mrs M and I had made our choices from the a la carte menu.

Starters here began with chicken and prune terrine, or steak tartare, Maman Blanc’s Miscellany of salads, or even crispy goat’s cheese parcels. In the end I plumped for the pea, mint and marjoram soup and Mrs M the maroilles cheese soufflé. My soup was quite brilliant, of ample serving. Mrs M would only let me sample her soufflé under protestation such was the desired effect.

For mains I was tempted by the corn-fed chicken leg with fairy ring mushrooms, or even the braised beef tongue with mustard sauce.

The backed marinated line-caught mackerel looked superb, as did any of the range of steaks.

In the end I went for the rack of Southdown lamb with gratin dauphinoise and Mrs M the grilled Loch Duart Salmon Fillet, choron sauce and French fries.

My lamb, served pink, was quite marvellous, with or without the mint gravy. The meat was so tender it melted.

Mrs M described her salmon as a simple, elegant pleasure.

For puds I plumped for the lemon sponge and Mrs M a selection of French and English cheeses.

Our meals came to around £55 for the two of us without drinks.

Mr Blanc may not always be in the kitchen – you never know when he might drop by – but in Winchester his Brasserie is true to his name and marvellous reputation.