Since it opened on Spring Street in 1997 (on the corner of Crosby, within easy walking distance of the Soho and Tribeca Grand Hotels), Keith McNally’s brilliant brasserie, Balthazar, has become one of the area’s most beloved destinations, a “classic”.
Now McNally is about to launch another Balthazar, this one in London – the city where he was born. It is slated to open in a few weeks in Covent Garden – the site of the former flower market – right in the capital’s historic heart.
From mid February (the day has not yet been announced) you’ll find the London Balthazar on the corner of Russell and Wellington Streets, just across from The Royal Opera House housed in spectacular style in an old converted theatre museum, next to the London Film Museum.
Founder McNally, has endeavoured to remain as true to his New York original as possible. Bistro food, good wine and friendly service – just like on Spring Street – will be the order of the day. “I want Balthazar London to have the egalitarian appeal of the New York brasserie” he says, “with something for everyone, all day long: Breakfast. Lunch, Afternoon Tea and Dinner – and of course brunch on weekends”.
Keith McNally is famous of course for creating a brilliant atmosphere in all his places – nowhere more so than at Balthazar. Like the movie director he once briefly was in the 1980s, he decorates and lights his “set” with infinite attention to everything. After all, a great restaurant is nothing if not a stage to make us feel glamorous. To call him a “perfectionist” is to stretch the meaning of the word. He’s a perfectionist’s perfectionist. For Balthazar, London, he has scoured the world to source the interior features and fittings, not only to resemble the NYC doppelgänger, but also to ensure that the style is reminiscent of and authentically faithful to such time-honoured Paris classics as Coupole, and Balzar.
The London menu will be very similar to the one in New York – as will be the wine list with a large selection of French bottles, many from lesser-known regions. As to the food, the menu will include an abundance of fruits de mer as well as a wide selection of classical French brasserie and bistro dishes. The only New York dish, a favourite staple that won’t be available in London are the delicious short ribs, on the Spring Street menu since the start. “I simply couldn’t find a supplier in the British Isles who met our standards” McNally told me. “I searched, but in the end we had to call it quits”.
To find out more about what Keith McNally’s been up to, check back early next week for our exclusive interview with the legendary restaurateur.