Restaurants, French Covent Garden
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • 4 out of 5 stars
(48user reviews)
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A polished imitation of a New York institution - itself an interpretation of a buzz-tastic French brasserie. Booking essential.

In early 2013, Keith McNally’s much-anticipated NYC import Balthazar finally opened, and London got to see what this Manhattan interpretation of a French brasserie was actually like. The response was positive, and for weeks afterwards it was hard to get a table.

Chef Robert Reid has tinkered little with the nostalgic transatlantic menu, and we loved signature dishes such as the onion soup (grilled gruyère lid on thick country bread, immersed in a rich and sweet chicken stock); duck shepherd’s pie was another powerfully flavoured treat. More recently, some of the gloss seems to have worn off (though service remains prompt and friendly).

The cheeseburger, no bargain at £17, was a chunky patty but had little flavour, and needed more than the limited, bland trimmings to give it an oomph that might have justified the price tag. A pleasant gruyère and herb omelette tasted as though it had lingered a little too long at the pass.

Best was pavlova (one of several delightfully retro desserts) – it may not have looked like a classic version (the meringue sat on the fruit, rather than the other way round), but it tasted good.

Bread, from master baker Jon Rolfe, is a must-try. Balthazar London mimics the New York original perfectly, with red awnings, red leather banquettes, giant antiqued mirrored walls and mosaic floors, but to British eyes, the decor can look a little too close to any old chain brasserie.

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Balthazar says
In the heart of Covent Garden, Balthazar is open all day, serving breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, as well as weekend brunch. Great French bistro food, wine and friendly service are the order of the day. The Boulangerie next door serves homemade artisan breads, pastries, and sandwiches.
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Venue name: Balthazar
Address: 4-6 Russell Street
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday: 7.30am - 11:30pm Friday 7:30am: – 12pm Saturday 9am: - 12am Sunday 9am: - 11pm
Transport: Tube: Covent Garden tube
Price: Main courses £13-£37
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