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After almost two years of anticipation, the London version of New York hotspot Balthazar has officially opened in Covent Garden today – and is already booked up until March.
The eatery shares its prime location (on the corner of Russell Street and Wellington Street) with the London Film Museum, and will operate as an all-day venue serving everything from early breakfast and weekend brunch to afternoon tea and late-night suppers, with favourite dishes from the New York menu such as duck shepherd’s pie crossing the pond to London. Former Savoy Grill maître d’ Byron Lang is heading up front-of-house, while ex-Rules bar manager Brian Silva is in charge of the bar.
Balthazar London’s 150-seat dining room is kitted out in much the same style as its New York sibling, with faux-Parisian brasserie fittings including a brushed-chrome bar, red-leather banquettes and illuminated mirrors. A bakery next door serves takeaway sandwiches, soups, bread and cakes, and a second bakery site, in Waterloo (which currently supplies the restaurant with bread), will open to customers later this year.
The NYC original (pictured above and left), which opened 16 years ago, was one of a string of ‘It’ restaurants, bars and nightclubs launched by NYC golden boy Keith McNally since his first restaurant, Odeon, opened in 1980. But Balthazar’s enduring popularity has made it one of the restaurateur’s – and New York’s – most famous establishments.
McNally is famous for creating destination restaurants that are as much about the vibe and the celeb-spotting opportunities as they are about the food. This will be the Bethnal Green-born restaurateur’s first launch outside New York; for this challenge, he has returned to his London roots and teamed up with safe-pair-of-hands Richard Caring, owner of many of London’s hottest eateries, including The Ivy and J Sheekey.
The Covent Garden site of this hotly anticipated restaurant was in the news long before Balthazar’s name was attached to it: restaurateurs Jeremy King and Chris Corbin originally wanted to launch The Delaunay on the site, but their bid was gazumped by Richard Caring in 2011, before McNally came on board.