Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Like with most American exports, I was so looking forward to the opening of Balthazar. I had been to the original in New York six years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. Even though I was restricted with what I ate (being a first time mum I followed all the food rules), I had a fabulous meal and adored the buzzy environment.

I was most excited about Balthazar opening in Covent Garden and had been salivating over the menu as soon as it was posted online – there was so much on there I liked I figured one trip would never be enough.

I booked to go with three girlfriends and was surprised to be able to reserve a table at quite short notice. Like in the States the restaurant had a very busy, lively atmosphere and we had to squeeze past packed tables to get to our seats. While this does create a great ambiance, in practical terms it meant that we could not hear each other speak, there was nowhere to put our handbags and we actually had to pick up and move our table slightly as my friend Corrie kept on getting knocked by the staff.

There were plenty of waiters and we were given menus and offered an aperitif straight away however unfortunately the service went downhill after this. We waited a while to order our food and then it took FOREVER to receive our wine (a big no no in my book)!

I found it difficult to choose from the menu as I wanted everything – in the end I chose dressed crab and mac and cheese with gruyere & bacon – two of my favourite things. I was also tempted by the escargots, the frissee salade aux lardons  & obviously the burrata for starters. Then for mains I was also keen to order the moules or the cheeseburger (no surprise there).

Unfortunately I think I ordered badly.

Don’t get me wrong, the crab wasn’t bad, it just was not great nor particularly flavoursome. The sauce tasted like it was a marie rose sauce from Sainsburys or something. I obviously ate it all & the crab itself was good quality but all together it was nothing compared to other London restaurants.

My mac & cheese certainly looked good and it was very very cheesy but once again it wasn’t bursting with taste – I had to season it repeatedly and it was definitely not worthy of main course status. I think I would have been ok with it as a side but as a main it was a let down – my mac & cheese is far better (even if I do say so myself)!

On the plus side my friend Ceri had Nettle Agnolotti , which was absolutely amazing and the fries were exceptional.

All in all, the restaurant did not live up to my expectations and was a little bit of a disappointment. My friends and I had a great night together and the restaurant definitely had a fun, party element to it but the service and food needs sharpening up. I am not sure whether I would return for a while, however if I did I think I would try lunchtime as hopefully it is slightly quieter so you can actually hold a conversation with the person next to you!! 

I think my friend Corrie summed it up very well when she said it is just a “posh CafĂ© Rouge"!

4-6 Russell Street,
Tel: 020 3301 1155

Square Meal  
Balthazar on Urbanspoon

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