Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Wed Feb 27 2013
By Guy Dimond
Rarely has a new London restaurant been so anticipated – or so hyped. Stories about Keith McNally’s London branch of his New York restaurant have been trumpeted by glossy magazines and newspaper supplements since the rumour began, more than three years ago. Breathless speculation anticipated this Manhattan interpretation of a French brasserie becoming the hottest destination for London dining of 2011... then 2012... and now, in 2013, it’s actually opened.
Balthazar London’s reservation lines opened for dinner bookings at 9am on a Saturday. I rang them at 9.01am to an engaged tone, then spent the next three hours hitting redial before getting through to one of the 20 phone operators. Balthazar was, of course, already ‘fully booked’ for dinner many weeks ahead.
I’ve visited Balthazar in New York a couple of times, most recently last autumn. It’s a good-looking, perfectly adequate faux-French brasserie in Downtown Manhattan that attracts a lot of dressed-up metropolitans. Balthazar is a reverie of France, as imagined by Americans, that removes any items that might stick in the throat – the offal eviscerated, nothing too weird, nothing too European – and repackages it beautifully. it’s a homage to Paris – but the Paris of Disney, not Orwell.
Balthazar London mimics the New York original perfectly, with red awnings, plush red leather banquettes, giant antiqued mirrored walls, beautiful mosaic floors. Chef Robert Reid has tinkered little with the brilliantly nostalgic trans-Atlantic menu. Signature dishes such as the onion soup are still there: a Gruyère lid is grilled over a subtantial bowl of thick country bread, immersed in a rich and sweet chicken stock. Richness pervaded every dish we tried. The duck shepherd’s pie, served in a cast-iron gratin dish, was over-seasoned, but a gratin dauphinois would comfort any French grandmère. Portions are filling, but don’t skip the outstanding bread basket – master baker Jon Rolfe’s outstanding breads can also be taken home from the boulangerie next door.
Haphazard customer service is the main flaw at Balthazar New York, but not here. The measure of great restaurant service is how it deals with awkward situations, but the London crew dealt with everything we threw at them, unflappingly. Dropped cutlery, dishes sent back, ‘lost’ cloakroom ticket – we deliberately put them through their paces, but every glitch was handled with genuine bonhomie and hospitality. Bravo team, you were marvellous.
Lunch reservations will be taken from Wednesday 6 March onwards; good luck getting through on those busy phone lines.
Balthazar 4-6 Russell Street
- Venue phone:
020 3301 1155
- Venue website:
- Opening hours:
Breakfast served 7.30-11am, lunch served noon-3.15pm Mon-Fri. Brunch served 10am-3.30pm Sat, Sun. Afternoon tea served 3-5.30pm daily. Dinner served 5.30-11pm Mon-Thur; 5.30-11.45pm Fri, Sat; 5.30-10.30pm Sun
Tube: Covent Garden tube
Main courses £13-£37
- 4-6 Russell Street
- 020 3301 1155
- 4-6 Russell Street