Grade II listed Sofitel London St James is one of the most glamorous building in that weird area down from Piccadilly Circus, at the bottom of Regent Street. One of the most sparkling areas of the city, the streets are so clean you feel as though you could eat your meal from the pavement. We went for the next best thing: dinner at The Balcon in Sofitel St James.
Instantly grand, the restaurant is an architectural feat. The double spiral staircase is of course the attention stealer (with staff continually going up and down to retrieve bottles of wine and Champagne) but the food puts up a very good fight. Service is highly polished, as you’d expect of a restaurant connected to a 5-star hotel and new chef Matt Greenwood’s debut French fusion menu is now a couple of months old.
Despite being smart (this is definitely fine dining) we felt relaxed and welcomed throughout. Gentle chatter throughout the restaurant came from mainly couples, with a few lone businessmen who were most likely staying in the hotel. Scallops with black pudding – or should I say boudin noir – and apple sauce were gorgeously and delicately presented and my guest’s seared mackerel was delightfully unusual with Middle Eastern flavours of sumac yogurt and falafel. Chef Matt Greenwood’s history at Blixen and Caravan come through on the menu with original takes on French classics and modern British dishes. Healthier options were highlighted which we were drawn towards but the Yuzu cured salmon with edamame puree and roasted hake with ratatouille weren’t quite enough to tempt us away from our waiter’s suggestion of sea bream. Perfectly crispy skinned fish sat on top of tossed samphire, clams and chunks of salsify, all in a creamy but not rich chive beurre blanc – that’s why it’s not the healthy option…
The pudding was one of the best I’ve had in a long time. I did go vaguely healthy here with yogurt pannacotta dotted with fresh and freeze-dried raspberries and cubes of raspberry jelly. My guest’s profiteroles came piled high with vanilla ice cream, frangelico ganache and hazelnuts, with the actual profiteroles almost crunchy like amaretti.
The whole experience was memorable from start to finish. Walking in and out through the restaurant’s main entrance on Pall Mall, back onto the pristine and deserted streets you feel very special. The Balcon themselves sum it up by saying “for a sense of arrival, a sense of place and a sense of being part of a scene, The Balcon is the place to [be]”.