In case you did not realise, the Sofitel hotel group has been synonymous with French luxury and elegance since 1964. If you want to sample this excellent French hospitality, you only need to visit The Balcon, at the Sofitel London St James which is extremely well-located in the West End.
On a recent visit, we took advantage of the stunning weather and sat outside their popular terrace, which also happens to be the perfect place for people watching or giving passersby food or wine envy. We enjoyed very quaffable glasses of Viognier, which had invigorating aromas of peach and summery fruits that matched their seasonal summer menu.
We started with a chilled wild garlic and potato soup with truffled crème fraîche, which was ideal for the warmer summer months, but the taste was rather tepid as wild garlic tends to be quite mild-tasting and the truffle flavours didn’t come through particularly strongly.
However, the white crab salad with brown crab meat toast was extremely fresh and delivered 100%. The white meat was moist and delicate whilst the brown meat was stronger in flavour and ideal for spreading on the accompanying toast with the sturia caviar.
The special main courses we tried were all expertly executed. The spinach gnocchi was a pool of vibrant colours with broccolini, carrot purée, roast tomato, grilled artichoke and rocket. The gnocchi was fried to just the right degree and had an appetising chew, with all the ingredients as fresh as you would expect from a top 5-star hotel restaurant.
The longhorn brisket croquette had great textural variation in the dish and the yolk from the fried egg on top soaked invitingly into the Longhorn brisket and it came with divine tasting celeriac remoulade and piquillo jus, which added some welcome heat to the dish.
They take customer allergies very seriously at The Balcon; my guest who has a nut allergy was given the safest option possible which was the roasted pineapple with milk chocolate ganache instead of the financier he had hoped for, just so that there was going to be no mishaps during or after the meal. He was also given some refreshing and vibrantly-coloured sorbets to share with me.
I had a tempting orange cake, which was extremely moist and citrusy and was thoughtfully combined with kumquat compote, which had a fascinating sweet and sour taste and also a scoop of yuzu sorbet.
From start to finish, you feel relaxed because you know the expert French team will make sure everything is looked after from the service to the delivery of the food.