While Balthazar may have started life on the other side of the Atlantic, as soon as you step through the doors in Covent Garden, you are transported straight to Paris, with high ceilings, wooden tables, red leather seating and brass railings – all the quintessential hallmarks of Parisian bistro interior design.
Brunch here is served from 10am-4pm at the weekend, with a menu that draws inspiration from both sides of the Atlantic, from a Full English to New York waffles, plus a choice of French pastries and a variety of brunch-essential egg dishes. If you wanted to avoid somewhere that would be full of rowdy tables seeking a two-hour bottomless Prosecco-fest (no judgement to these places, I am an avid fan of the bottomless brunch) then Balthazar fits the bill perfectly.
If you’re in the market for something a little more substantial there is also a large variety of entrées, anything from Steak Frites to Macaroni Cheese. The brunch dishes run from between £5.50-£28, while the entrées are priced from £14-35, which for a central London restaurant are standard and not unexpected prices.
I opted for Eggs Royale, and my Mum went for the scrambled eggs with Cornish crab. As we were celebrating, we both had a glass of fizz, in the form of peach Bellinis. Balthazar’s brunch cocktail menu is pretty extensive, and the drinks are all priced around £10 (another reason to love brunch – it’s perfectly acceptable to order cocktails pre-midday). While I can’t really say that I’ve ever had a bad Bellini, I equally don’t think I’ve ever had one as good as the one that arrived that morning. It was the most beautiful blush pink colour, and the use of fresh peach as opposed to liqueur gave it a lighter taste than others I have had.
After an impressively short wait (given how busy the restaurant was) our food arrived, and speed had not led to a falling in the standards of execution. The Eggs Royale were poached to perfection, with ever-so-satisfyingly runny yolks, atop a generous portion of pink smoked salmon, all covered in a light hollandaise. The scrambled eggs and crab were topped with a flash of vibrant green watercress, and served on Balthazar’s freshly baked sourdough. Although not a crab-eater myself, I am assured that there would be no hesitation to order this again.
Now, you only have to Google “best brunches in London” to find Balthazar sitting on almost every list, so it was really no surprise that the food was of such a high standard; however, it is unfortunately true that once a place becomes well-known and highly recommended, the reality stops living up to the hype as complacency sets in. This was absolutely not the case with Balthazar, and what made the place really stand out was the quality of the service. When you make your reservation you are advised that there is an allotted time for your table (which for two people stands at an hour and a half) and once you arrive it’s clear to see why they ask for their tables are time limited – the place is buzzing with a constant turnover, and no table left empty for more than a few minutes before the next hungry diners take their seats. In some places, especially given the central location, this would mean that the mentality is to get people in and out as fast as possible. We were finished eating within about 45 minutes, so only halfway through our reservation time, but at no point we were made to feel that we should pay up and move on. There were no raised eyebrows or rolled eyes as we ordered two more coffees to sip at our leisure, and we were even gifted a plate of mini macarons to celebrate my Mum’s birthday.
The altogether charming service (perhaps the only betrayal that you are not actually in the French capital after all…) elevated an already wonderful meal to exceptional. Coupled with the outstanding food, our experience that morning meant we were already planning our return visit before we had even paid our bill.
And if you have room for anything more when you do leave, or want to stock up for later, you can always pay a visit to Balthazar’s Boulangerie next door and pick up a freshly baked loaf of sourdough or a croissant to keep you going, as you step back out of this little corner of Paris into the bustle of Covent Garden.
London Lamppost Score – 4/5
4-6 Russell Street,
London, WC2B 5HZ
020 3301 1155