Fanfares and permanently engaged phone lines heralded the arrival of Balthazar – the hottest ticket in town and a deserved winner of the BMW Square Meal Award for best new restaurant. Based on Keith McNally’s legendary New York eatery, this ‘amazingly attractive’ big-time venue occupies the Covent Garden Theatre Museum – cue high ceilings, fantastic lighting and big mirrors, plus effortless showmanship from ‘absolutely fabulous’, hyper-attentive staff. The all-day offer runs from breakfast and brunch to afternoon tea and late-night suppers, taking in everything from onion soup, garlicky escargots or velvety lobster and black truffle risotto to Balthazar burgers, excellent duck shepherd’s pie and ‘orgasmic’ chocolate soufflé – although the odd notion of ‘Americanised’ French food exported to London inevitably means ‘safe choices and lots of garlic’. Even so, you can’t help but love the place – it’s everyone’s idea of a Parisian brasserie, yet feels like it’s been part of the London scene for years.
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