You couldn’t choose a more perfect building for a posh(ish) restaurant aimed at food- lovers, biz lunch blokes and special occasions. The Lawson apartment building is a mix of art deco and Gotham noir. Balthazar fits right in. It’s not posh in the “white glove” old school way. Rather its moody, dark-timbered, French-tiled floor is all about comfort, welcome and intimacy.
In a word, Balthazar is old-school charm delivered by new-school, young restaurateurs.
Co-owner Emma Ferguson is a self-confessed wine geek and it shows in the restaurant’s superb, hand-picked wine list. Ferguson’s passion for “orange” and low- intervention wines is on show, but the list remains accessible and exciting for less adventurous drinkers, looking for great vintages from good wine producers. There are about 100 titles on the list.
By a quirk of a decades-old liquor licence, Balthazar is the only similar venue in town with a restaurant licence allowed to sell bottled wine, perfect for city-dwellers who want to keep the good times rolling after dinner.
The food? Bistro-meets fine dining. Skye Faithfull is head chef and her dishes deliver the easy posh style. A glossy, rich chicken-liver parfait comes with a sticky, nicely-acidic onion jam. Seafood risotto is clean-flavoured and nicely wet, but dark with smoked tomato flavour. Want something seriously warming? Braised lamb gnocchi with zucchini and (ricotta’s highest calling) salatacheese. Duck breast with rhubarb and spring onions is direct from the bistro playbook as is a steak with asparagus.
The wine service, under Ferguson’s steady hand, is informed and generous.
If you’re not up for the full sit-down experience, lob into Balthazar’s soigne bar and enjoy freshly shucked oysters and a bone-dry Chablis by the glass.