Balthazar set the foodie world alight when it received an NYC transfer and landed in London. However, to overlook the hot new spot's adjoining bakery would be nothing short of madness.
Balthazar Boulangerie sits next door to the restaurant proper and offers hungry diners a pretty darn exciting array of pastries and cakes - the likes of which you only usually stumble across in gay Paris. The venue itself is quite small with every surface imaginable piled high with delicate pastries, pretty cakes and intricate delicacies. It’s the sort of place you used to dream about as a child – think of it as Charlie and Chocolate Factory for adults... kind of. There's no seating, so the focus is firmly on takeaway food. However, if you’re not lucky enough to have an office or a home nearby and don’t fancy sitting on the pavement for lunch there is a little bit of outdoor seating by way of two black benches either side of the main doors for customers who just can’t wait to stuff their faces. These are busy at lunchtime even when it’s freezing cold outside so come the summer you can pretty much forget being able to sit down with your cake as these benches will become very popular indeed.
As has been the way with almost everything associated with this enterprise, the Balthazar Boulangerie customers exude delirious excitement. People babble at each other unashamedly when they spy their dream cake, or drool openly (most, metaphorically) at the huge breads made with various fillings. And the smell – oh the smell - it envelopes you, dopes you up, makes you buy. Be warned, you may come in just for a snack but you’ll leave with bags of bits and bobs.
Everything in Balthazar Boulangerie sounds fancy. It all looks fancy. It all tastes fancy. But it doesn’t necessarily come with a (hugely) fancy price tag. A large, gooey pain au chocolat, for example, is just £2.95. The crisp pastry is sweet and flakes everywhere with each bite and the chocolate filling is rich, dark and sickly – as well as being incredibly generous. You’ll only have room for one but you’ll wish you could eat five. If you prefer something less sweet then the croissants (also excellent) come in savoury forms, with a mushroom, comté and spinach filling (£4) really very good indeed.
If you want something for later then the array of bread is mind-boggling: olive bread; potato bread; various herb-encrusted breads. Freshly made, it smells incredible. The rosemary focaccia is light and salty with a strong, perfumed rosemary flavour. Just dip it in extra virgin olive oil when you get home and you’ll need nothing else. And if you want lunch? They also offer a wide selection of salads and different fillings, enabling you to build your own meal. This is the sort of place you can visit every day of the week and still end up with a completely different meal each time, which will no doubt prove ideal for local workers.
If it’s a drink you’re after you’ll need to head next door to the restaurant – this place is all about the grub.
The Last Word
Balthazar Boulangerie might eventualkly make you pile on the pounds, but you probably just won’t care. Thank God there aren’t more of these places around as resistance is futile… but then who wants to resist when food tastes this good?