Balthazar was one of those places I’ve wanted to go to for a long time and had just never gotten around to. It’s had a consistent reputation as a solid fine dining establishment for many moons now and I’ve long been keen to sample the food that warranted such longevity.
The stars aligned and an opportunity presented, when I was asked to lunch by some lovely bank folk I know – Mr R and Mrs A. What a treat to go to such a fancy place on a Monday, a real positive start to the week. Sure I parked at the complete opposite end of the terrace and it was raining when I dashed down the road towards the restaurant, but that was a minor self-imposed inconvenience and when I was ensconced in the warmth of the restaurant, perched on a stool waiting for my fellow lunchers, the rainy walk was soon forgotten.
Being first to arrive it gave me a chance to look around. It was a nice looking restaurant, quite a warm feel to it, with plenty of dark wood throughout and one wall near where I was sat had a very cool wine shelf, with numerous bottle of red on show. I liked it. It was a more creative way to display their collection, than just stacked behind the bar.
Mr R and Mrs A didn’t take too long to arrive and we were shown to our table. It wasn’t overly full on the day of our visit, but it was a Monday, so perhaps others tend to leave their lunching until later in the week. We chose a nice bottle of white to share and quaffed that while we decided on what to have for our meal. We ordered some bread to start, which was delicious with the butter that came along with it. There was much agreement amongst the group about the simple joy of good bread with butter. Delicious.
As well as this we ordered the Balthazar Tasting plate (per person – $18.00). It came with three choice items for the three of us to sample. I decided I’d start with the oyster, mainly because I’ve never been a fan and I thought I’d get it out of the way early. Oh my goodness. This is the first (and putting it out there – only) oyster I’ve ever enjoyed. It was served poached, with a fragrant limey dressing and it was amazing. From there we tried the delicate little cones, full of a celery flavoured mousse, with a goat’s cheese and dusted with dried beetroot. Visually very pretty, however celery in mousse form doesn’t really have much zap in terms of flavour. It was fine though. And finally there was like a little croquette, which came with a sauce which had been described to us as hot. We debated the level of heat in the sauce as being on the mild side, but nonetheless this was a tasty morsel. As tasting plates go, I thought this had been a good one. Presentation had been excellent and I liked their careful attention to detail.
From there it was time for mains and while my two other dining companions both went for the beef, I couldn’t go past the Duck breast, quinoa, silverbeat, goji berries, pepper, caramel ($42.00). Again, their presentation is really lovely, albeit I was slightly bemused by the inclusion of popcorn in my upmarket meal. I suspect its one of the new ‘in’ things….. like micro herbs and chocolate soil. But hey texturally, the popcorn did work well with the quinoa, and both had been well seasoned. On to the duck it was cooked to pink perfection, just melted in your mouth. Very nice. I really enjoyed my mains.
From all reports around the table, the Beef fillet, mushroom, smoked potato, creme fraiche ($44.00) was equally as pleasing and did look nice with its dainty fondant potatoes.
Was there going to be room for dessert? It’s always hard on business lunches, you don’t want to be that first person with their hand up for dessert, but for me that’s tough, because I do so like to end a lunch on a sweet note. So when others started looking at the dessert menu I gave a small cheer of glee in my head! Woohoo for dessert!
I ordered the Chocolate fondant, chocolate soil, vanilla apples ($19.00), a rich, indulgent chocolate fondant, which had been trendified with the dusting of chocolate soil and a few pretty flowers scattered here and there on the plate. Quite the vision to look at and equally as magic to eat. Rain outside and a warm chocolate pudding is an incredibly decadent combination.
My fellow diners had indulged me and ordered two different desserts so that I could take pictures of them. Isn’t that lovely! So accommodating of my food fixation :) So Mrs A went for the Date pudding, caramel popcorn ice cream ($19.00), which did look super impressive and further supported my suspicion that there was a popcorn trend on the rise. With its generous pour of caramel sauce it looked incredibly rich. I’m told it was lovely.
The bravest among us was Mr R who ordered the interesting sounding Strawberries, truffle honey cream, black garlic and licorice ice cream ($19.00). It did look different when it arrived. The liquorice ice cream was sort of a dark green coloured scoop, while the little cheesecake looking thing was actually strongly flavoured with the garlic. While I’m all for applauding creativity on the food front, I’m told that this dessert had perhaps slightly crossed the line from pleasantly different to strangely unenjoyable. The garlic was just a bit too intense.
I’d enjoyed my visit to Balthazar. The food had been well prepared and presented and the company was a delight. Service had been good, though on a few occasions did seem a little slow given that the place wasn’t overly full. The same was the case with the timing of our mains. The wait was slightly longer than I’d expected, but I’ll admit I had no complaints on that front, nothing wrong with a looooong, lingering lunch :)
So I’m glad I’ve now experience the institution that is Balthazar and I’ll be able to add it to the list of places to suggest to people in the CBD when they are looking for something a little bit fancy.