DINING OWL AWARDS: 1st – for friends; 2nd – for repeat visits
When I visited: Several times from 2014-2017
Location: London, Covent Garden
Team: Robert Reid (Executive Chef)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: Recommended
What to wear: Could go casual
Ambience: Replica of the NYC version; French; friendly; buzzy
Course of the meal: Balthazar steak frites
If I could change one thing: Bring back the free bread
I have been a big fan of Balthazar since my first visit there. It used to be a bit of a celebrity hotspot (like Berners Tavern), and still is during London Fashion Week, but the rest of the time it is just a great place to visit for pre-theatre food or spontaneously (although you should book if there are more than two of you, just in case).
The staff are extremely friendly and the menu is full of traditional French favourites, such as steak frites and French onion soup. The cocktails and wine are also delicious as are the seafood starters (try the seabass ceviche), and you can eat at the bar or in the restaurant section, which is big enough to accommodate walk-ins a lot of the time.
On a recent visit, they dealt with our table of 6 people (including people with complex dietary requirements) really well and even though one of our meals came late, they handled this professionally, apologising profusely and then giving us a free dessert and all our post-dinner teas and coffees on the house. They are also good at the old ‘dessert with a candle and piped messages’ for guests on their birthdays.
The service is very consistent and prompt – there is a good staff to guest ratio. My one complaint is that they should bring back the free bread – it is delicious at Balthazar and used to be free but now you have to pay and select it as one of the ‘amuses bouches’. I think that in a restaurant as pricey as Balthazar you should get the bread for free. However, this won’t stop me going back pretty regularly.