There is certainly an atmosphere about the place when you enter the doors of Balthazar in Covent Garden. Opened six years ago to much fanfare, this New York import still draws in the crowds. We went for a lunch at 1pm last Friday and within a few minutes of being seated, almost every other table in the vast auditorium of food was filled. That being said, if you bag a corner table right at the back of the restaurant (by the window), there is still a sense of intimacy if you go for a table for two. The décor certainly channels all things brasserie; from the Parisian-inspired menu to the very classic, and very strong, cocktail list.
It was past midday, and so we thought it only right to have a cocktail each to start. I went for a Vieux Carre cocktail; meaning “Old Square” in French, this classic offers a great Cognac twist on an Old Fashioned. Katie, as usual, opted for her staple in a Bellini and, after some very nice bread and butter, we got down to the starters. Being in a brasserie, it only felt right to sample the Foie Gras on the menu which was beautifully rich and well balanced, hitting all the right notes. Katie’s Seabass Ceviche (which annoyingly I couldn’t try) looked delicate and light and, according to Katie, was a great lighter alternative to some of the heavier options on the menu. With our cocktails finished and the ice bare, we then moved on to a bottle of the Provence Rose to share and sip with our mains. Provence is always our go-to region for wine, especially as a red wine-lover who still needs a bit of depth of flavour in a wine glass, and this did not disappoint.
Moving on to mains, and it was a bit more of a mixed affair. My Filet de Boeuf was beautifully cooked to my choice of medium rare and, along with a few greens and thick cut chips, was a rich and tasty meal. Katie opted for the Confit Duck; while the duck was beautiful we did both feel there was a touch too much of the very strong red wine jus that accompanied it. It slightly took away from what was an otherwise beautiful dish and it was a bit of a shame that, for us at least, it felt over-seasoned. Of course, if that’s how you prefer your dishes then it could be a good choice for you. To finish, desert really did hit the spot. My Tarte Tartin transported my straight back to Paris and Katie’s Raspberry and Vanilla Vacherin was a beautiful tower of raspberries, meringue and Chantilly cream, finished with a rich raspberry sauce.
If you’re in the Covent Garden area and looking for brasserie dining then I’d recommend checking out Balthazar. They are open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and you can find the menus on offer here.