Last week Russell and I enjoyed the most magical meal at French restaurant The Balcon.
Located within the grade II listed Sofitel London St James Hotel, The Balcon has been beautifully designed. With double height ceilings and majestic columns set with gilt and marble, the restaurant is famous for its elegantly built Champagne Balcony (the perfect setting if you're thinking of popping THE question, in case you were wondering).
With a finely weaved wire chandelier that lights the room elegantly and foxed glass mirrors, the space has a sophisticated but welcoming air to it. Seated in a corner booth, Russell and I looked out into the heart of London’s West End through arched windows that reached to the ceiling.
Earlier this year The Balcon’s newly appointed Restaurant Chef Matt Greenwood introduced a fusion menu combining classical French cooking with tastes of Asia and beyond - to celebrate the new menu we were asked if we'd like to try the experimental dishes, and we jumped at the chance.
Before I get onto the food, I have to mention how friendly and attentive the staff at The Balcon are. We felt completely at ease in the restaurant and the waiters made our evening feel relaxed yet special - a perfect combination in our opinion.
To start Russell had pan fried snails, chorizo, sweet potato purée, oloroso jus and hazelnuts - his only critique? He wished the hazelnuts weren't whole (I think I've created a monster since he's become my restaurant review plus one). The jus was sweet and rich and gave a great contrast to the buttery, salty snails - I have to admit I had slight food envy!
I enjoyed my sautéed girolles with rosemary polenta, samphire and truffled egg yolk starter as it featured many of my favourite ingredients. Extremely light and subtle on the palette, once paired with a good glass of wine I couldn't think of anything better to start my meal.
As usual Russell had steak, in this instance grilled longhorn sirloin with rosemary salted fries, béarnaise sauce. The steak was perfectly pink, just the way he likes it, and the béarnaise melted in the mouth. The chips were really over seasoned, but that didn't put me off pinching a few.
My main course was a lobster and seafood bouillabaisse served with braised fennel which gave a distinct aniseed flavour to the broth. There was a good amount of seafood and a creamy rouille - I just wish there was more of it.
Dessert finished the meal beautifully. Russell's chocolate tart, spiced orange syrup and clotted cream was utter perfection - not too heavy, not too sweet. My rhubarb and stem ginger steamed pudding, with cinnamon mascarpone and honeycomb was a work of art: I especially enjoyed the contrast of the sharp and sweet in the dish.
If you're looking for somewhere a little bit special but still relaxed, this is the place you should visit.