The Balcon restaurant is situated in the Sofitel St James Hotel in Picadilly, if that name rings a bell well, we posted a blog post about this place about 12 months ago for the Rose Lounge where we had afternoon tea. Well I don’t normally go to hotels for dinner as I find them lacking charm and character but I had been here before for drinks in the bar which leads on to the restaurant. The friends who had invited us for drinks last time showed us the restaurant and in particular the dried meat counter (yes they had a section dedicated to meat slicing). It was basically a bar where you could chose a meat and could eat it as it came of the slicer – delicious.
One thing to mention about this hotel, which I am sure you already know, is that Le Sofitel is a French Hotel chain (a bit like the Hilton but nicer and well um…French) so we were invited for dinner with French friends and their child. Previously when we had some nibbles at the meat bar, I had seen people eating and ordering a steak tartare, which they created it to your taste at the table and since then I secretly knew what I wanted to order if I ever did come here for dinner.
We had not booked but as it is quite quiet it was not an issue and we were seated next to the window overlooking Pall Mall and St James Park. Bear in mind when you picture this place in your head; it is a French restaurant in a French hotel with French waiters, who are relaxed in ‘their’ environment. They are impeccable polite and gracious but I really do think you see the best standard of them if you are French (which our friends were) In that case they are chatty, friendly and funny instead of professional and aloof as the English can easily take them.
We decided to skip starter as we had a little one with us, so obviously for main course, I chose the steak tartare and our friends had the lamb hot pot and the braised beef cheeks. Now, please do tell me if I am being obtuse, but in a French restaurant with French waiters, that is almost OTT in French style, why would you offer two 100% English dishes on the menu?
Anyway my steak tartare came out first, I could choose what flavours I liked/disliked or wanted more of. This was minor entertainment to the meal which we all appreciated, however as I like all ingredients, I would prefer a chef just to judge his own pallet and serve me the best tartare he can create. If you are a picky eater I can see the beauty of this. The lamb hot pot and beef cheeks came out in French style straight after my dish was placed in front of me. The hot pot had a caramelised burnt topping with rich braise lamb in its juices and the beef cheeks were the top choice of the night, melting when the fork touched them with caramelised roasted vegetables. My tartare was delicious though needed a lot of bread to substantiate it. It was tasty and full of flavour, but what else would I expect as I practically told the waiter not only what ingredients to put in but how much.
For dessert I ordered the espresso crème brulée and my friends ordered the sticky toffee (not that I want to sound too repetitive but sticky toffee in a French restaurant? Really? Just really?) the espresso crème brulée was deliciously rich and creamy, served in a white ceramic pot. The espresso worked well as it was bitter and intense, working well with the creamy rich texture of the crème brulée itself and had a striking contrast to the burnt sugar on the top. The sticky toffee was rich and intense, served in an iron pot and served with vanilla pod custard – the dessert was faultless. We also ordered a cheese board and were blasted with a massive list of cheese. I really think there can be too much of a good thing. I mean if they have too many options surely they cannot sell it. Anyway it was served on a slate plate and looked delicious although short on the fruit.
We were satisfied with our meal and I would definitely go again. The only issue was that although the waiters, décor and people are all French, the menu seems to try to cater for all, which does not go in its favour. Saying that the food was delicious, the dishes well thought out and service professional to a fault. In that case The Balcon at Sofitel St James gets:
Food Atmosphere Service