The Balcon at the Sofitel St.James is that rare beast, a French restaurant in a French hotel which has turned its back on its upbringing and decided to go native. What used to be Le Balcon, a rather stuffy eatery on London’s posh Pall Mall with rather heavy French dishes, has been reborn as THE Balcon under the helm of a talented Antipodean chef.
Matt Greenwood is a Kiwi who dares to put audacious combinations of ingredients together which work oddly well. Like foie gras and coconut – surprisingly successful, the coconut crunch providing a textured, slightly sweet contrast to the smooth liver and the unlikely additions of oyster sauce, pak choi and black garlic throwing in an Asian twist.
Sea bream with not only the samphire which is the glory of a British summer, but also the salsify more appreciated in Europe than on these shores, is another triumph of Greenwood’s seasonal menu. Only bouillabaisse raised eyebrows – there was lobster, but the cry came up: ‘Where’s the broth?‘ A crime to have only a soupcon of such a delicious shell reduction usually served by the bowlful.
Much of the menu is pan-global – dishes which would likely have risen the eyebrows of French patrons who made up the majority back in the day before the Sofitel St. James started drawing a cosmopolitan crowd.
Like rare breed beefburgers served with confit peppers, feta and frites and confit duck slightly messed about with by the addition of an unexpected apple and mint risotto as well as truffle jus. But given how well the foie gras worked with the coconut and other Asian , probably worth trying.
Ile flottante with pears and Poire William gives a nod to the French origins of the restaurant, even if the menu now heretically offers English cheese as an alternative to the French cheeseboard and dares to serve both with – mon dieu! – Spanish membrillo.
Gorgeous cocktails precede the meal, there’s a decent selection by the glass of wines from the new as well as old world, and the room itself is a treat for the eyes. Especially on long light summer nights when its beauty can really be appreciated. Book a prime table on the balcony, best of all on the corner where Pall Mall meets Lower Regent Street, and enjoy the view.
Tell me more about The Balcon at the Sofitel St.James
The Balcon at the Sofitel St. James
8 Pall Mall
+44 (0)207 968 2900