Balthazar // Covent Garden // London

Two steps from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden is the carbon copy of a New York City restaurant, Balthazar. After ten years, Keith McNally decided that diners this side of the Atlantic needed to experience his version of a Parisian brasserie. Despite all the hype that surrounded the launch, Balthazar aims to deliver simple dishes made with high products. And the result? Well, it fulfills the brief well.

As you arrive you’ll be struck by the magnificence of the dining room, with its high, decorated ceiling and sumptuous chandeliers. Certainly one of very few complaints would be that the day time menu is quite limited in comparison to the evening offerings, so bear that in mind when booking. Balthazar, however, is spot on with its sourcing of its products. While most of the dishes are absolutely spot-on, the team in the kitchen are still perfecting a couple of things.

Like the frisée aux lardons, a classic entrée. This should be more acidic, more garlicky, and a little more crisp – though it’s not a bad attempt. The ingredients are great (and it’s a big plate of food!), it just needs some fine tuning.

Dishes that they have perfected are pure bliss, like the prepared steak tartare. You won’t need to add anything as the seasoning is just right, which really highlights the seriously high quality of the meat. Served with the usual frites – which are crispy and golden – and a micro lamb’s lettuce salad on the side; this dish is superb.

Well tuned too is the ceviche, which strictly speaking isn’t very bistro (perhaps an American interloper), but even so it’s amazingly prepared with top-notch ingredients like scallops, octopus and lobster. The lime and sweetened red pepper marinade is elegant, and balances the light, fresh meal.

Though where Balthazar really stands-out is on the dessert menu. The classic baba au rhum (which is actually more of a savarin in this case) is delightful, though, not served with the bottle of rum on the table as it would be in Paris. But the best of best is the soufflé, which is big enough to share. An amazing combination of stunning berries (chocolate on offer too), with an execution as good as a fine dining restaurant. It’s light too, not eggy and verges on having a mousse-like texture – it’s also outrageously flavoursome.

It important to remember that Balthazar is simply a brasserie (despite that classy soufflé). If you’re looking for creativity, then this isn’t for you. Though if you’re looking for a simple tasty dishes to share with friends, then Balthazar will certainly deliver.

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