Clearly, when it comes to writing about authentic French cafés in the heart of London, my GCSE French comes in rather handy (for once)! Not that I can say much more than ‘Lunch at Balthazar Boulangerie’… But no one needs to know that!
I have to admit that Paris is one of my favourite European cities, and the one that I have visited the most considering it’s a short train ride away from London. Somehow it manages to keep so much charm and French amour, despite the hoards of tourists that are constantly flocking to this beautiful, romantic city. For me, part of the beauty and romance of the French capital are its small, cramped, simplistic wooden cafés and restaurants that are crammed into the backstreets, with menus that even Google Translate can barely help me with. However, I jump for joy when I spot one with fresh sandwiches and cakes piled high on display, assembled to highlight an array of colourful meats, salads, and pastries, so I couldn’t be happier to find that Balthazar Boulangerie has captured my favourite part of Paris right on my doorstep!
The choice was phenomenal, as every sandwich was bursting with a rainbow of fresh ingredients and the salads stood out vibrantly. Eventually, my mum and I decided to share a sandwich and two salads. And at the end of it all, we decided that we couldn’t resist a cheeky dessert to finish off the whole experience! Truth be told, we’d been oohing and ahhing over the sugar-filled treats long before choosing our savoury ‘main’!
We started our Parisian taste trip with a lovely salami, mozzarella and salad-filled sandwich on paysan (potato and onion) bread. The flavours were a beautiful combination, and the bread was so light and fluffy, with a bit of a chewy crunch on the outside. It was quite possibly the best sandwich I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying in London.
The service was absolutely impeccable too. Having told them that we were going to share the sandwich, they served it cut in half for us both to enjoy without having to battle with the cutting it in half ourselves. You would be shocked at how many cafés and restaurants have served us things to share without extra cutlery, plates, or splitting it prior to serving. Balthazar is one of those places that you instantly feel relaxed as the staff are so friendly and helpful and are actually good at their job!
Usually I can give or take a salad, but these salads were to die for and I will definitely be returning for these time and time again! The salad on the left consisted of gorgeous maple-roasted tomatoes with buffalo mozzarella, pine nuts, lentils and caramelised onions. Despite watching the mass of tourists, huddling under umbrellas and hoarding into Covent Garden on a typical London day in the season of April showers, the European and Mediterranean feel of the flavours and ingredients allowed your thoughts to wander to those days of summer, lounging by the swimming pool, basking in the hot, hot rays of the sun and enjoying the freshest and most delicious salads on your sun bed. However, my favourite was the salad on the right: chickpea and cucumber salad with currants, mint, mixed spices, and Greek yoghurt. It was the coronation chicken of salads, but with chickpeas instead of chicken! The dressing was absolutely wonderful with the slight curry flavour sweetened dramatically with the tiny currants that made their way into every mouthful. I literally could have eaten this all day!
I then washed the whole thing down with a powerfully refreshing home made ginger ice tea. It was fantastically fiery and sweet all at the same time. I would definitely recommend one of these, especially if you’re feeling a bit bunged up; it most certainly ‘blows away the cobwebs’ as my dad would say!
And to finish it all off we chose to indulge in a wonderful strawberries and cream choux pastry. I have actually attempted to make choux pastry swans in the rather recent past, and I think my attempt (if it can even be called that) really allowed me to appreciate every little bite of this marvellous treat! The pastry was crisp and light, and the gloriously sweet cream, combined with the freshest of strawberries really allowed the flavours of this beautiful treat to prevail. I doubt I’ll be able to walk past Balthazar in the future without popping in to see what lovely French treats are on display for me to enjoy!