The Balcon is situated at Sofitel Hotel London, St James and for a sense of arrival, a sense of place and a sense of being part of a scene The Balcon is the place to eat, to drink, to see and be seen. Dining with me tonight was Editor Lady Charlotte, we went to The Balcon to see for ourselves the qualities we had heard of, we were not disappointed, from the grand welcoming entrance to delicious food and drink. We were greeted by the lovely Rakel, the Restaurant Manager, who professionally ushered us to the best seat in the house with a beautiful vantage point. Inside there is beautiful decor and the balcony the restaurant is named after is very impressive and leads up to a wondrous collection of champagne, I had to have help from the waiters to prise Charlotte away from the fine champagne on offer!
The restaurant has the feel of a fine French Brasserie, the waiter’s waistcoats look like something from an era by-gone, traditional in design and rich in gold colours that match the interior and menu, the hostesses also looked very smart and professional. It was a selection of old styles meeting new: art deco meets renaissance. The restaurant also has beautiful Parisian music at a level where you can have a discussion and hear each other clearly and not have spying eyes and ears! We started the meal with Moet rose champagne and a generous selection of breads while we looked at the selection on the menu. There was lots of choice on the menu and also in the breads we were given: mini baguette, walnut and olive breads, we were also treated to special salts, from French sea salt to smoked salt, to add to the butter, this gave many different tastes to the breads we were eating. We had a super waiter: Julien who looked after us well with taking our orders food and assisting with wine matching for our courses. Julien had a real passion for his role and made our ordering process faultless and educational in the details he told us about the menu and wines.
I started with a chef’s recommendation: Pike Custard with King’s Lynn brown shrimps, crustacean veloute and sourdough toast. This starter was unlike any other I have ever tasted, a very interesting flavour; I would describe it as a perfect starter for a winter’s evening as it was very warming. It made me feel like I was in Cornwall with potted shrimp in the style it was done. The starter was very bountiful in size, both pretty and delicious, a delicately flavoured dish with punchy shrimps scattered on top and a jug of rich sauce. Very delicious with the wine Julien had chosen: Sauvignon Blanc Pouilly-Fume, Grande Maison, Loire vintage 2010. The wine was light, smelled fresh and brought out the different flavours of the starter. Charlotte went for one of her favourites, which was also a Chef’s recommendation: Herefordshire snails, garlic jus, parsnip puree, Mas air dried ham and country croutons. The snails were unusually de-shelled and the smell of garlic drew you into taste the dish, presented on a wooden board, which looked impressive it was a generous portion for a starter. The dish had a surprising sweet taste due to parsnip puree, it was not taste too garlicky, Charlotte was impressed with such a different way for the snails to be cooked and enjoyed. Julien chose Viognier Domaine de Pennautier, Languedoc also from 2010 for Charlotte’s starter wine match, the Languedoc is a vast region stretching across much of the South and Mediterranean and is France`s single largest vineyard entity for its Vins de Pays wines, it is an aromatic wine and bolder than the Sauvignon Blanc, a perfect match for the meatiness of the snails and added flavours of the puree.
For main course I went for was Label Anglais rotisserie chicken with baked potatoes, sage and onion stuffing. The food was served on interesting plates, which could be spun round with ease to eat all the delight on your plate, a great design idea! This chicken was wood fired, homely cooking and wholesome, I would also describe it as French rustic, in keeping with the restaurants French cuisine theme. The use of onions offset the meatiness, the potatoes were soft and the stuffing was full of flavour. A side dish of ‘Gratin of the day’ worked well with the jus from the chicken and this was a selection of asparagus and courgette with cheese. Julien went for Malbec Tilia, Mendoza from Argentina to match the dish, this wine is 2009 vintage and this red has characteristics that fall somewhere between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. A midseason ripener, it can bring very deep colour, ample tannin, and a particular plum-like flavour component to add complexity to claret blends. The wine matched well with the dish and worked with all the different flavours of the chicken and accompaniments. Charlotte also went for a Chef’s recommendation for the main course: Rump of Devon lamb with juniper-infused jus, seaweed and garlic green beans. The seaweed was salty and brought a new flavour to the lamb, which was cooked to the chef’s recommendation of rare. This dish went well with the side order of spinach we ordered, the spinach was cooked in an infusion of garlic and butter and was amazing in colour and aroma. The lamb satisfied all cravings for a meaty main and once again a generous size of dish. Julien matched a 2006 Tempranillo Izadi Rioja reserve, Alavesa from Spain, this red is transparent ruby-red, pretty on the nose with a bouquet of flowers and fresh cherries, clean and elegant palate, medium-bodied, feminine in style, balanced red fruit, leather, some real vivid pomegranate, anise and other spices a highly elegant taste and smell and did not over power the delicate lamb.
To follow mains we went for the cheese selection which is four traditional French cheeses beautifully presented with grapes and celery. The French always get cheese right and The Balcon does not disappoint with a great attention to detail and presentation: the bottom of the grapes were cut off so they sat on the plate and did not roll, much easier for picking up! Julien gave us Taylor Port 20 years old and served in an antique design glass. The Taylor port with a strong smell and sweet taste worked well with the selection of cheeses, the sweetness of the Port cut through the saltiness of the cheese. The dessert menu has lots of choice for every restaurant goer and we just couldn’t say no to the Chef’s recommendation of Apricot Soufflé! This dessert has a ginger tasting crumble topping and lemon curd ice cream. Presented unusually (and beautifully) in a jam pot style container, with one section frozen for the ice cream to settle on….but not for long as the taste was to die for! The lemon curd ice cream was like lemon meringue pie and melts in the mouth full of flavour. The Soufflé came in a warm section of the pot and the design kept the warmth in. This dessert is fragrant and light, mix the ice cream and soufflé together and it is a taste sensation! This dessert worked well with Julien’s choice of Sweet Wine: 2007 Leduc-Piedimonte Ice Cider from Quebec, Canada. Ice cider is unique to Québec because it depends on an abundant crop of quality apples and winter temperatures that dip well below zero (-25°C). The aromas and flavours are transformed as the apples over-ripen and are then naturally concentrated by the cold. The resulting sweet, complex & intensely fruity nectar boasts brilliant balance between sugar, acidity & alcohol. This was a perfect end to a très bon meal at The Balcon.
If this was not enough we were then spoilt by The Balcon and served Magdalenas! These were divine the smell and texture was perfect and worked well with the cocktails we ordered: the famous Bespoke choice of Espresso Martini made with rum.
As we left for the adjoining bar we were waved goodbye by all the great team we had met and got the chance to thank them all for a perfect evening. We finished our evening in the St James Bar which is just past the famous Champagne balcony and hidden from the reception by great Chinese blinds and comfy leather seats. The bar was still popular after midnight and we were treated just as graciously as in The Balcon by Gregory and Stefano who made us “something special” and off menu. The Balcon is one of the best dining experiences I have ever experienced in London! The service was impeccable from the moment we were seated to the moment we returned for breakfast. For this style of cuisine The Balcon offers great prices and interesting flavours served with finesse, the taste and portion value is superb. For a le goût de la France in London head to The Balcon.
6 Waterloo Place
London, SW1Y 4AN