Apr 29 2013


This has been the most anticipated opening of the whole year. For 2 years now I have been reading how the New Yorks’s famous Balthazar will be opening in London, and finally a few months ago it finally happened and Balthazar is now located in Covent Garden. The London born Keith McNally is behind Balthazar, and he has opened up many restaurants in New York, but arguably Balthazar which he opened in 1996 in New York is his most famous one, hence everyone has been so excited about this British man opening the same restaurant in London. The design of Balthazar is the same in London as it is in New York, and it feels a bit like a very crowded brasserie full of mirrors and lights. Note I did think it was very crowded and noisy and there is not a lot of space in between the tables and by the tables so they definitely have tried to get as many tables there as they could. I did like the design overall though and Balthazar had a pleasant expensive brasserie feel to it.

Balthazar serves traditional French bistro fare from breakfast through late-night supper, and there is also a raw seafood bar, so you can also eat lobsters, prawns, oysters and many other seafood things. When I looked at the menu I was pleasantly surprised as I could see a lot of things I wanted to eat like various salads, onion soup, steak tartare, prawn cocktail as a starter and steak, cheeseburger, fish en papilotte and pork belly as a main course. The water that we ordered was served in these clear water bottles with a big orange B at the front, which I thought was a great touch.

The service I have to say was excellent. The waitress brought us baguette bread and dark brown bread and butter and when my friend Fayez asked for some olive oil and balsamic vinegar she brought it to him. When Fayez then asked for some old age balsamic which was thicker and better the waitress politely told him they did not have it, but still went to the kitchen to check. And when Fayez asked for some slices of parmesan cheese to go with the bread even though this also was not on the menu, the waitress went to the kitchen and got us some parmesan cheese nicely cut in thin slices. I did like the bread, it was tasty and soft, nothing too complicated but nice and pleasant.

I chose the onion soup gratinee for my starter, which was good, served in a pot topped with toasted and soaking bread with cheese. There was a lot of cheese in the soup, and in general all the dishes had a lot of cheese, but I will get to that. Overall a good not a great soup and nothing out of the ordinary. My friend Karim chose a plate of six Fines de Claire oysters, which he said were average, although he did not have one of them as he thought it looked a bit bad, which I don’t think they should have served. Fayez ordered the soup du jour which had vegetables and blue cheese, and which Fayez did not really like as he found it too salty, and I agree the blue cheese made it extremely heavy and overpowering and salty.

As for the main course I had read a lot about their duck Shepherd’s pie, which I was keen to try, so I ordered that. There was a lot of duck in the Shepherd’s pie and it was topped with some potatoes (there was 2x more duck than potatoes) and a lot of cheese, so theoretically this was a good value for money Shepherd’s pie with more protein than carbohydrates, but for me it did not quite work, the duck was nice but it felt like it was not a duck breast fillet cut into pieces but lots of different pieces of duck from around the bones, so the pieces were small and I would have loved to have more potatoes and less cheese. It was a small plate as well, which I did like as I could attempt to finish it, but I was expecting a bit more. The two men chose New York strip steak which was served with rocket leaves and a sauce of their choice and Karim also ordered a plate of gratin dauphinois potatoes. Fayez asked for a rare/ medium steak and his was cooked perfectly and delicious, but Karim asked for medium/ well done steak and his steak was totally cremated and there was not a sign of any pink bit, it was properly well done, even more than well done. I have tried to take a picture of this just to show how overdone the steak was and the taste of it was not great. Fayez’s steak was nice though. Karim did not like the gratin dauphinois potatoes at all. They had so much cheese and crème on them, it felt like an extremely heavy dish, and I could also manage only a few spoonfulls (Karim almost did not even touch it), hence I say a lot of the food (like the onion soup, the duck Shepherd’s pie and the potatoes) had too much cheese.

My friend Vatchy says Balthazar is like “Café Rouge” and he said he was extremely disappointed with the food as he was expecting a lot more. Whilst I do think the ambience, décor, service and the food is better than at Café Rouge (you can see the creativity in Balthazar in dishes like the duck Shepherd’s pie which you would not see in a typical French brasserie), Balthazar does let you down a bit, as you expect so much more. When Balthazar first opened you could not get a table and even all the food critics were complaining they could not get in, hence expectations are so high, and the food is average. I think Balthazar is perfect for a casual brunch on a weekend with friends if they can afford these prices which are higher than in an average brunch restaurant, but if you go there for a special occasion I think you will be disappointed. And remember, I warned you about Balthazar over-cheesing everything.

Date: 29/04/13
Price for 3 people, no alcohol and service charge: £142.03
Location: Covent Garden


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4-6 Russell Street, WC2B 5HZ
United Kingdom
Balthazar Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 3