My reservation about whether a 5 star hotel experience would be lost on a three year old was unfounded.
After our trip to Legoland and stay at Sofitel St James, Robyn told ever Tom, Dick and Harry that we stayed at a "posh hotel" and quickly learned to pronounce the name "Sofitel". Really, this hotel chain has got its marketing strategy all wrong. Instead of spending thousands on advertising, the marketing department just needs to interview a bunch of toddlers, select the most chatty ones for an overnight stay and afterwards let them loose upon the world.
One thing I wasn't able to do during that stay was to review The Balcon's dinner, not thinking it apt to take a tired little one for a meal in a roomful of adult diners. So, I came back. Shhhh, don't tell Robyn.
Knowing already that The Balcon serves the best breakfast in town, I was curious to try its other menus. Snobbery is rife in some food circles and hotels' restaurants have had a good bashing in conversation about being boring and the food simply not being good enough. Talk about first world problems. For some critics a lesson in gratitude is in order.
As for me, my main focus is the food. Admittedly, I'm almost oblivious to the surroundings and instead worry about the quality of ingredients, no matter how simple the dish is.
The Balcon's menu is anything but unimaginative, peppered with French flair throughout. Mackerel tartar (£5), tainted with avocado and chili was unsual but divine. Perfectly balanced Beef bavette tartar (£6) was served on toasted hazelnut and raisin bread and the slivers of foie gras (£7) melted on my tongue, making me yearn for more.
For once, I had the perfect partner in crime when it came to the doneness of meat. Rare! Fiona, from London Unattached, and I shared the stunning hunk of Scottish beef rib (£52) which was perfectly cooked and carved at the table. It was served with cheesy potato gratin and a dark peppercorn sauce. The side dishes of crunchy asparagus pieces and spinach (£3) in a cocotte couldn't be faulted.
After such a heavy meal I opted for elderflower marinated strawberries, jelly and sorbet, which was the lightest dessert on the menu. The rum baba which was quaintly served in kilner jars was a hit too.
Hotel restaurant or not, The Balcon proves that hotel food can be just good as the hippest restaurant in London - the only difference is that along with providing solid service it doesn't need the fanfare to survive.
9/10: If you're a gallophile, you'll love the food.
7/10: Pricy, but considering the setting and quantity of food, it's apt.
9/10: Staff were attentive and friendly.
8/10: All good.
6/10: The elegantly decorated restaurant itself is in a spacious room with high ceilings. My only gripe was the choice of music which happened to be soulless thumping that consistently vibrated through my bum.
8/10: If you're in the Piccadilly Circus or Leicester Square area, be sure to check out The Balcon.
The Balcon London
Sofitel London St James,
6 Waterloo Place,
P.S. I was a guest of The Balcon.
Wow, the steak looks amazing, how I've missed a rare steak! On the list!