The opening of Balthazar London last night marks two firsts for restaurateur Keith McNally: the first time he does a place outside of New York City and the first time he replicates one of his already-established restaurants. For his first foray into London, his hometown, McNally has gone with the seminal NYC brasserie he first opened on SoHo's Spring Street in 1997.
The London space, which opened to the public yesterday, is an unabashed recreation of the original. It shares everything from the red awnings and red banquettes to the adjacent bakery. And its location in Covent Garden, just a block from the Royal Opera House, assures the kind of foot traffic that has made the SoHo original a magnet for passersby, in addition to a destination restaurant. At 150 seats, it's only slightly smaller than New York's 180-capacity dining room.
Like its New York counterpart, Balthazar London will offer food throughout the day and night. At the moment, however, the restaurant is only open for dinner. The executive chef is Robert Reid, who years ago was head chef at Marco Pierre White's Oak Room. McNally has sent along the opening menu, which shows that the similarities between the two Balthazars extend beyond the dining rooms. The shellfish platters, chicken for two, côte de boeuf, duck shepherd's pie, and many more stalwarts of the New York menu are available in London. There are some items you can only find in London, though, like a Pithivier, a côte de veau, and jambon de Bayonne. Reid has also made several tweaks and alterations here and there to fit the city.
Balthazar London is currently taking reservations by phone at +44 (0)20 3301 1155. Their website is live and should be updated in the near future. For additional reading, see recent profiles of McNally in the Guardian and Esquire UK. Here's the menu: