London Larder was devised in 2012 to bring you the ultimate eating and drinking guide to London. It was borne out of a need for up-to-date, quantitative and whole-heartedly recommended places to eat and drink.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Covent Garden

Opened earlier this year to much fanfare, we’d been meaning to try Keith McNally’s Balthazar for some time. We finally got around to it one gloomy Saturday evening, and it did not disappoint. Already a huge success in New York, we were keen to see whether their fine French cuisine would stand the transatlantic move. Many have attempted to launch sister restaurants in new cities around the world: sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t. The reviews for London’s Balthazar have been generally positive so far, so we visited with optimism and with the hope that a little New York glamour could become a permanent London fixture.

Every table in the venue was packed with many different types of people – younger couples on dates, older people meeting friends, even a table of women on a hen night (the classy-dinner type - not the plastic L plates-and-butler in the buff type… luckily). Watching the other restaurant-goers was almost as entertaining as the menu and we had prime position in the corner of the room. And what a room; huge with heavy-looking mirrors dominating the walls, seemingly straining under their own weight; brass is buffed and the wood furnishings are dark and highly polished. This is no regular bistro, this is high-class cuisine.

The wine list is long and detailed, but seemed to omit any suggestion of bottles of rosé, but a friendly and knowledgeable sommelier was on hand to recommend a bottle not listed. An excellent recommendation; we enjoyed a medium, crisp wine with our meal. Luckily the food was much easier to find. To start, we ordered mushroom ravioli served juicily in a creamy sauce, and steak tartare; two exquisite dishes that whetted our appetite. The pasta was stuffed with mushrooms and very moreish, with a perfectly balanced sauce. The steak tartare was chilled, but not too cold, and melted on the tongue, served alongside a healthy portion of crispy bread, which warmed up our taste buds ahead of the main course.

The lapin a la moutard (or rabbit in mustard sauce for those of you that don’t speak French) was simply outstanding, the meat falling from the bone with the merest touch of a knife. The sauce was bursting with flavour (delicate and not too rich) and complemented the subtleties of the meat. The roast rack of lamb was equally delicious, succulent in the centre with a crispy, herb-encrusted exterior. The portion size was smaller than the rabbit dish, but with a side order of sautéed spinach and creamy potato dauphinoise to complete the meal, it stretched our stomachs to near bursting point. It did mean that we were too full to order a dessert, but that’s a great reason for us to go back another time.

Balthazar isn’t cheap, but it is exceptional. While for most of us it’s far from an everyday restaurant, it’s certainly worth considering for special occasions. It’s ideal for a partner’s birthday, or perhaps impressing the in-laws when they’re in town. We can say in all certainty though, that the London launch has been a success, this was one of the best restaurants we’ve visited in months and definitely one of the frontrunners for our restaurant of the year. Well done Mr McNally, you’ve done it again.

4-6 Russell Street, WC2B 5HZ

Average price of main course: £20
Average price of glass of wine: £9
Food/Drink: 5/5
Service: 5/5
Value: 4/5

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