After the most excruciatingly tedious and prematurely middle-aged Saturday of our lives – cleaning out the cupboard under the stairs and installing a wine rack – Mike and I popped into town with the vague notion of perhaps going paint shopping after a nice brunch at Mayfair brasserie, The Balcon, which I’d been invited to review.
I say brunch. It wasn’t brunch in the slightest. I mean, there were eggs on offer, but you can only book a table from 12:30pm, which I think proves once and for all that this brunch business has gotten completely out of hand, and that brunch is now more of a ~lifestyle concept~ than anything governed by by something as trivial as time. Basically, get up at 4am and whop some hollandaise sauce on a cream cracker and you’ve got brunch. A shit brunch, but a brunch nonetheless.
We lucked out and were seated at a big round corner table near a window with a good view of the other diners, which I always enjoy because I am very nosy. We sipped glasses of champagne while trying to work out whether the bloke two tables across from us was a particularly obnoxious contestant on Come Dine With Me. (Close friends and internet stalkers may have noticed I’ve got seriously into CDWM lately. This is because, most amusingly, Mike’s mother bought Mike a television licence for Christmas, so for the first time in ages I’ve been able to (legally) watch All 4. Reliving my hungover student TV binges has helped to abate the aforementioned tedium of domestic drudgery.)
The new brunch menu at The Balcon can be taken a la carte (perv on the menu here), or you can pay £49pp for a main course, a sweet dish, a Chase vodka Bloody Mary and unlimited Moet & Chandon Imperial champagne dispensed by magnum-toting waiters in crisp shirts and braces. It’s a posh bottomless jobby, basically. I can personally take or leave a Bloody Mary, but the DIY table is indeed a thing of beauty (if you can’t be arsed experimenting yourself, the staff will make one to your taste).
The menu is heavy on eggs – naturally – and altogether doesn’t deviate too much from what you’d expect. It’s a crowd-pleasing offering with a few really healthy options – birdseed and so forth – and a posh burger with duck confit and truffled mayo for the people who think avocados are for sissies. Mike chose a classic Eggs Benedict; I, the soft-shell crab with celeriac remoulade and fried egg roll.
The Eggs B. game was strong: perfectly poached eggs, i.e. no snot with good ooze factor; ham as thick as a plank and a rich hollandaise sauce. I was less impressed with the soft shell crab – there was too much brioche, lettuce and under-seasoned remoulade, and not enough of the crab, though the little I found was very nicely done. I should have got the burger.
I did take solace in what was probably the most enormous bread basket I’ve ever had – it included three kinds of bread, two kinds of butter and a selection of viennoises – though I was faintly horrified by how much must get thrown out.
On to the puddings, which were actually really impressive despite their being no chocolate option. Mike’s blueberry pancakes, made with coconut milk, were light, fluffy and sweet with a cinnamon kicker, but also crispy-skinned, like big flat doughnuts. I chose the French toasted with lemon curd and berry compote because who can resist the pull of sweet, zippy raspberries and tart, tangy lemon? Not I, but I had to have half of it boxed up to go. Had it for breakfast the next day, like the fancy bastard I am.
It’s a lot of food, even if you don’t commit to a full assault on that bread basket. Needless to say, paint shopping was duly sacked off and we went home to instead work on our mutual Pinterest boards from a prone position. As brunches go, it’s good value if you take advantage of the unlimited champagne but food-wise it’s best to keep to the classics. And don’t make plans to achieve anything productive afterwards.
The Balcon, 8 Pall Mall, St. James’s, London, SW1Y 5NG
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.