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Thursday 24 April 2014

Balthazar London finally opens

21st February, 2013 by Lucy Shaw

Balthazar London, the UK sister site to Keith McNally’s successful New York all-day brasserie, has finally opened in Covent Garden after years of planning.

Keith McNally. Credit: Eric Ray Davidson

Balthazar London’s Bethnal Green-born owner, Keith McNally. Credit: Eric Ray Davidson

The restaurant opened at the weekend in the Flower Cellars building in the old Theatre Museum next to Covent Garden Piazza, originally used as a storage space for Covent Garden’s flower sellers in the late 19th century.

Filled with antique furniture sourced by McNally, Balthazar London offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and brunch at the weekend, with signature dish steak frites with béarnaise sauce making it across the pond.

In addition is an abundance of fruits de mer and classic bistro dishes such as French onion soup, foie gras terrine, steak tartare and moules frites.

As with McNally’s New York flagship, the 150-seater Balthazar London will boast a boulangerie next door offering freshly baked breads, homemade pastries, salads and sandwiches to go.

While Balthazar London’s wine list hasn’t gone live on its website yet, McNally’s New York outpost boasts the likes of Krug, Billecart-Salmon, Mouton-Rothschild, Haut-Brion, Lynch-Bages, Trapet, DRC, Pétrus, Chapoutier and Château Rayas.

Balthazar's signature dish, steak frites

Balthazar’s signature dish, steak frites

The original Balthazar opened in Spring Street in downtown New York in 1997 and quickly became a destination bistro frequented by the likes of director Woody Allen and novelist Jay McInerney.

The idea for Balthazar London came about two years ago when UK restaurant giant Richard Caring, owner of The Ivy, J. Sheekey and Scott’s, approached McNally about Balthazar after securing the Theatre Museum site.

Balthazar London is entering a saturated market with its brasserie approach, and will have to compete with the likes of Chris Corbin and Jeremy King’s Brasserie Zedel in Piccadilly, the Delaunay in Covent Garden and Café Colbert in Sloane Square.

McNally’s main aim for Balthazar is to create somewhere with a palpable buzz and sense of excitement mirroring the electric atmosphere of his New York original.

Rather than overseeing the site remotely, McNally will be actively involved in Balthazar London’s evolution and has no plans to expand further at this point.

The Bethnal Green-born father of five’s first venture, The Odeon, opened in New York’s Tribeca district in 1980.

According to Vanity Fair, it defined the hedonism of New York in the ‘80s, and was frequented by the likes of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Bowie.

In 1986, McNally opened his first club, Nell’s, on West 14th Street, a regular haunt of Patrick Bateman in the Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho.

An in-depth look at Balthazar London appears in the March issue of The Drinks Business.

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