New kid on the Covent Garden block – Balthazar restaurant

Balthazar Restaurant, 4-6 Russell Street, London, WC2E 7BN – £60 per head (incl service).

Fresh off the boat from New York City is French restaurant Balthazar in Covent Garden, nestled in the heart of the bustling piazza and tourist central. It has long been a staple of downtown NYC, but was fast becoming a tourist destination to be avoided with hip New Yorkers. Let’s hope this won’t be the case with the London offering.

We can’t get a table until 9.30pm, on arrival this place is absolutely buzzing and still relatively packed three hours later, but then it’s new and even the celebs are keen to get in on the act. We spot Dexter Fletcher aka Lock, Stock and Smoking Barrel, Guy Ricthie film and know we were probably lucky as mere mortals to get a table on a Saturday night!

The restaurant reminds me of  ‘La Coupole’ in Paris and  has a smart Parisienne cafe/ restaurant style to it, with beautiful mirrored walls, traditional dark wood tables and chairs and red leather banquette seating. There is a fresh seafood bar with everything from razor clams to scallops and lobster.  The menu has some tasty options and we decide on a traditional prawn cocktail with King prawns and an endive salad with lardons and poached egg. Not to be difficult but the poached egg arrives firmly cooked, I don’t think I’ve ever had a hard boiled poached egg so after a slightly embarrassing would you mind taking this back at £10 a plate I felt I could ask for this. A new salad and new poached egg arrives and it was very good, with the perfect French dressing, lardons and crunchy croutons – vive la France!

The wine list for an establishment such as Balthazar is extensive from the very expensive to the well priced and I liked that I wasn’t about to be fleeced – house wine starts at £4.50 per glass which for central London is a bargain. We chose the cheaper bottle of Touraine Allion at £25 a bottle, it was average and I wondered if we had opted for the £33 bottle of Touraine if it would have been slightly less acidic.

There is also a good choice of mains and something for every discerning palate, from confit of duck to fillet steak and many fish choices. After my recent disappointing spaghetti lobster I decided to try this dish again and it proved to be a  delight, with a lobster bisque sauce, fresh lobster meat and tail and al dente spaghetti, it was delicious. My dining companion chose a whole Dorade (seabass) and a side of spinach which was perfectly cooked.

For dessert I was tempted to my favourite creme brulee or tart tatin with butterscotch sauce, but had the chocolate profiteroles with freshly made choux pastry buns, filled with vanilla ice-cream and lashings of warm chocolate sauce, extremely good, but nothing replaces fresh cream with this classic dish in my opinion.

I enjoyed the buzz of the restaurant, the servers were extremely caring and friendly, which always adds to the appeal of a restaurant especially for central London. We also weren’t rushed or told we had a two hour time limit another bonus, I would recommend you go there with at least 4 people as this seemed to allow for more elbow room. We were slightly squished into our table with a table of four directly to our left and a table of two to our right, who could have listened and probably joined in our conversation if they had wanted.

http://www.balthazarlondon.com

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Panoramic views from Tower 42 – Rhodes Twenty Four

Tower 42 | 25 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1HQ, England (London Bridge) £80 per head (incl service)

Gary Rhodes’ restaurant, Rhodes Twenty Four loacted on the 24th floor of tower 42 in the City of London. It was a restaurant I had been anticipating many great things from, from the food and wine to the panoramic views.

Luckily we had a fantastic table with fabulous views over the city overlooking the Gherkin and Canary Wharf, it certainly set the tone for a memorable evening, even though there was no sign of Gary.

The British menu held lots of tempting and exciting choices, with a good selection of fish and meat main dishes and very good wine list – slightly too tempting and after my Burgundy days I had to reign myself in slightly.

My dining companions opted for fish and meat so a well matched white for the fish and light red for the meat and summer weather was required. With the help of the sommelier we chose a Burgundy, Saint Veran – a light, crisp white with supreb minerality and slight buttery taste and for the meat eaters a Beaujoulais Village, light with some body for the duck and beef dishes.

As complimentary amuse bouche we had a broad bean and mint green jelly with truffle oil, which although tiny all jokes aside was a little mouthful of heaven. For my starter I decided on the scallops with mashed potatoes which were cooked to perfection with a beautiful jus. I thought however, that the mashed potatoes while designed in a stylish conical shape was slightly too heavy for a summer menu and I would have preferred something lighter with the scallops. The Saint Veran however, was the perfect accompaniment and I would recommend this for most light fish dishes and even meaty fish as the acidity and minerality adds a clean and pleasing taste to each mouthful.

For the main I couldn’t resist the fillet of British beef with garlic and parsley potato dumplings, snails and beetroot, cep mushrooms and red wine sauce and you guessed it I requested medium rare, which was rarer than at The Brigade but again not as rare as I would have liked. The meat was superb in quality and the red wine sauce worked very well with the beaujoulais village wine.

My companions chose the roasted monkfish in black olive emulsion, British seaweed,wilted greens and asparagus risotto and the pan fried sea trout with tempura scallops, oyster mushrooms, sweetcorn puree and tarrgon butter sauce, all delcious and cooked to perfection.

It was actually so good that nobody could manage dessert, but we were pleased to see some rather yummy looking petit fours of carrot cake, chocolate flakes with fresh cream and rice jellies.

For a special night cap and digestif we headed to Vertigo bar with some views of Tower bridge and the river and a cheeky bottle of bottles.. well it would be rude not to right.

For a special evening or impressive date venue it’s worth the price tag, but you can also look at special deals with toptable and timeout.

http://www.rhodes24.co.uk

Images to follow