The hot new London outpost of one of NYC's favourite eateries


Once a dead zone for serious dining, Covent Garden has recently been transformed. In the past couple of years, the big boys have moved in – Polpo’s Russell Norman with his Jewish-style diner, Mishkin’s, Saltyard’s luxe-tapas offshoot, the Opera Tavern, and MEATLiquor’s takeaway burger little brother, MEATMarket to name a few. And now, Manhattan dining scene stalwart, Keith McNally has sealed the deal with a London branch of Balthazar, his outrageously cool, all-day French brasserie. That’s a UK version of a French restaurant opened by a Brit in New York. Got it?


The provenance may be confusing but the concept isn't. Exquisite location + charming service + menu you want to eat ALL of = instant hit. So much so, that the phones rang off the hook for bookings when it opened last month. Luckily, a good proportion of the tables are available each day to walk-ins.

First: the room. Housed in what was formerly the Theatre Museum, the ceilings are soaring, but yet the noise never gets above an ambient buzz (despite the fact that, when we visit, every single table is taken and a throng of well-dressed patrons hover around the bar). Reviewers have described it as a posh Café Rouge, and although that’s a tad unfair, you’ll recognise the Gallic-style awnings, gold-and-red, brass-buttoned banquettes and oversized, foxed mirrors that characterise the chain. But this version looks WAY more expensive. Oh, and the lighting makes everyone look like either Jennifer Lawrence or Ryan Gosling. If you closed your eyes and imagined your perfect restaurant, it may well look like this.


The menu, too, is near-faultless. All of the Gallic classics are here, plus some additions for the British palate – duck shepherd’s pie and the pork belly with Brussels sprouts and black pudding hash are clearly meant to be new signatures. There is also a glistening seafood bar – the £90 seafood platter looked more than enough to feed four people.

We opted for the sweet and unctuous onion soup (£6.80), which came topped with a giant plug of cheese croute, plus the impressive – and artery-hardening - chicken liver and foie gras mousse (£7.75). Two bar steaks (£16), with a giant pile of crunchy shoestring fries and a dollop of béarnaise, were faultless – but so large that the doughnut-sized onion rings we ordered as a side were left untouched. The wine list is long and well-priced – we chose a carafe of white…and then another of red.

McNally himself was flitting from table to table while we dined, keeping a fatherly eye on a stellar chorus line of waiting staff. Covent Garden has a new restaurant king.

The ELLEuk Score

Food: 8

Ambience: 10

Service: 10

Value: 7

Style of food: All-day Brasserie

Good for: Special occasion, first date, group dinner, work lunch/dinner

Prices and Other Details at Balthazar

Address: 4-6 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HZ, 0203 301 1155,

Opening times: Mon-Fri 7am-12M (Fri until 12.30am) Sat 8am-12.30am; Sun 8am-10.30pm

Average price per person for two-course meal without wine: £30

Set menu: None

Price per carafe (500ml) of house wine: Chardonnay-Roussane VDP D’Oc, Felines Jourdan 2011, £15, Muscadet La Haute Ferrie 2011, £17 (both white); GRENACHE VDP Comte de Grignan, Bois Vieux 2010, £15; 15.00 Beaujolais Ferraud 2011, £17.00 (both red)

Price of glass of house wine: VDP d’oC Bergerie de la Bastide 2011, £5 (white); VDP d’oC Grenache Villa St Jean ’11, £5.00 (red)

Price of bottle of house champagne: Gaston-Chiquet Brut, £60

Price of glass of house champagne: Gaston-Chiquet Brut, £11 .00

Private dining: No

Garden/al fresco dining? No

Best table? Almost any – although the corner banquette near the door will give you pole people-spotting position

Bar? Yes, you can wait there for a table, or eat there if there’s space

Who goes? Anyone lucky enough to have bagged a coveted table – a celeb-spot is almost guaranteed

Nearest tube: Covent Garden

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