Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Fri Nov 18 2011
The French, it seems, want to keep the euro afloat. And they’re also prepared to spend their euros to attract la livre sterling, judging by Sofitel’s latest revamp of its St James’s brasserie.
This restaurant looked pretty sharp before, when it was Brasserie Roux. But with the change of name, and the departure of Albert Roux’s management, the hotel chain has taken the opportunity to give it a full, three-month bling-over. There’s more polished rail in it now than you’ll find inside the Channel Tunnel, and rugs more luxuriant than Nicolas Sarkozy’s hair. To match, the service is some of the best-drilled we’ve experienced in London: lots of it, always smiling, well informed and genuinely helpful. It’s impressive.
Faces might fall on studying the wine list, though. Instead of bottles of wine (750ml) carafes (500ml) are listed – starting at just under the £20 mark and rising steeply. The menu follows suit, with starters hovering around a tenner, and main courses at £15-£25. Clearly, Sofitel don’t intend this hotel restaurant to be a loss-leader.
If you think ‘Welsh charcuterie’ sounds like it belongs with Dutch wine or Greek sushi as ‘things to avoid’, you’d best try a platter of the Trealy Farm charcuterie, from Monmouthshire – the air-dried hams, game salami and lomo (pork loin) match or better anything coming out of Italy or Spain. A dedicated charcutier keeps it all tip-top.
We were less impressed with the burger, in a too-sweet brioche-style bun; and by the cassoulet, which contained good meats, but in meagre portions and with the beans overcooked. The chips (£4 extra) were pale, insipid, and undercooked. Cornish brill was better, garnished with brown shrimps and capers. The head chef and many of the kitchen staff are the same as when it was Brasserie Roux.
Balcon clearly knows what its St James’s business diners want: well-spaced tables, very slick service and prices high enough to keep the hoi polloi out. ‘The curtains are based on a design from the Titanic,’ our waitress cheerfully told us. Let’s hope this one stays afloat a bit longer than the Roux deal did.
The Balcon Sofitel St James
- Cross Street:
8 Pall Mall
- Venue phone:
020 7968 2900
- Venue website:
- Opening hours:
Open 6.30am-10.30pm Mon-Fri; 7am-11pm Sat; 7am-11pm Sun
Tube: Charing Cross tube/rail
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £120
- Sofitel St James
- 020 7968 2900
- Sofitel St James
- The Balcon