There are times that even the best of us get carried away by all the ‘good press’ a place gets. Even if that place is in Covent Garden. It’s not that I don’t like covent garden, but having lived in London for such a long time, I tend to avoid the typically tourist places. Saying that you do get street performers, and the overpriced market and the most elegant building, being of course the Opera House.
So when Balthazar, which came all the way from New York, opened it’s doors into it’s massive interior, almost right in the heart of Covent Garden, all the London foodies seemed to be flocking there. The only reservation I could get for a weekend was for 2.30pm.
It was actually quite empty when we got there, or rather many diners but even more tables. The interior is a typical charming French bistrot, multiplied by 5. That’s how large it is, with gloriously high ceilings. But try getting seated. The rows of tables are so tightly packed that any woman with larger than a size 4, UK that is- for you Americans that’s a 0, will struggle to get through to the seat on the inside, against the wall, and will instead be tempted to head instead straight to the gym for a 45 minute spin class.
We of course had starters, which despite my incredible memory for food, I don’t remember, so average were they. Then we shared a platter of fruits de mer. Bad choice. Not because there was anything wrong with the sea food. It was all you can expect. But the tables were not only so tightly packed that I was closer to the lady at the table next to ours than to my friend, they were also tiny as if they were brought in from a children’s nursery and put on high support. I kid you not. So in come the two layers of fruit de mer, and not only is a stranger closer to me than a friend, I now can’t see the friend. And we are struggling with our sides as there is no space, then I knocked over one of the sauces. Slight disaster. I did ask if I could leave the drinks menu on the next table so I could choose the wine when we were done with our Bloody Mary’s but, no. Of course no. At any time someone could walk in a request to be crammed in to one of the tiny tables.
If you do decide to dine at Covent Garden, then may I suggest you stick to one of the original tourist traps. At least they give you more space.
Expect to pay around £90, 3 courses for 2 people, no alcohol.
Balthazar 4-6 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HZ