It was my birthday on Saturday and what better way to celebrate than a three course meal with a very dear friend? The venue for the evening was The Balcon. A three course the Marché menu with coffee and a glass of wine on a gorgeous art deco setting for £25 each seemed to good a deal to pass up.
The Marché menu offered a choice between three dishes for each of the courses. Well I had three options but as a vegetarian my companion was effectively working with a set menu. I drank red wine and he drank white and we were both happy with our selections. We were soon presented with a basket of rye, olive and white bread rolls and a choice of salted and unsalted butter. We both agreed that the olive bread was the best. However the real star (oddly) was the salted butter. It had a wonderful richness and an underlying sweetness reminiscent of honey. I could have eaten it all night!
As an entrée I had a salad of rocket, croutons, and cornichons surrounded by slices of Parma ham. The quality of the ingredients was excellent, although I still felt that it could have benefited from a light dressing. My companion devoured his cauliflower soup with evident relish, commenting on its pleasing cheesiness. I was surprised by the strength of the aroma of cauliflower wafting towards me from the opposite side of the table. Clearly this was excellent soup.
After pausing to focus on the wine and conversation we moved onto the second course. I had opted for a seafood sauerkraut with salmon, cockles, mussels, and I think sea bass, from memory. It sounded like an unusual combination and I was pleasantly surprised by the combination of flavours. The sauerkraut had a very light pickled flavour and had been dressed in a white wine and cream sauce. This meant it was far less acidic than is typical for this condiment. The result was really lovely and it worked incredibly well with the seafood. Both pieces of fish were unfortunately slightly overcooked, but retained a strong and appetising taste. The quality of the cockles and mussels was outstanding! One mussel in particular had me laying down my cutlery to concentrate on the depth of its flavour. Amazing! Unfortunately my friend’s vegetable biriyani did not rate as highly. He described it as vegetables and rice, lacking any clear sense of having being spiced according to the description. In once sense this was fortuitous because he doesn’t enjoy firey foods. Still it was a little disappointing.
The staff were happy to allow us to sit and digest our meals over more wine and conversation until we were ready for our desserts. This time we’d agreed that the pear charlotte was the only way to go. This was a layered sponge and mousse cake served with dark chocolate sauce. I thought it was nice, but nothing spectacular, but my friend thought it was the best course of the meal, which surprised me given his evident delight in the soup.
Overall I was quite happy with our meal at The Balcon. Obviously some areas for improvement, but in terms of value for money, it was definitely a good choice.