Balthazar and the story of a Rolex

balthazar2 I'd heard lots of things about Balthazar - that it was over-rated and didn't live up to the hype. Also that it was too expensive. So even though I'd wanted to go for a while, I'd dropped it to the bottom of the priority list. I'm also not a fan of French food - strike me down! - after too many years struggling over an unappealing menu in Cafe Rouge when I was younger... Everyone I knew seemed to think Cafe Rouge was the height of continental sophistication, I just wished we could go to Superfish instead.

Anyway. I'm pleased to say that Balthazar won me over as soon as I set through the door. Similar to The Woleseley and The Delaunay, its decor is the kind of thing that instantly makes me smile: beautiful high ceilings, wonderful warm lighting, delicately tiled floors, plenty of mirrors and lots of textures. I loved it, even our tiny marble-topped table (which O complained was far too small, and it was, but I didn't care).

And best of all, the menu had one of my favourite dishes on it: steak tartare. I now basically have to order this whenever I see it, I'm so obsessed.

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It was the 'mildest' steak tartare I've ever eaten, and O said he thought it was a little bland, but I didn't mind as it meant more for me.

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I was tempted by the Steak Frites, but given the tartare starter, decided to go for the roast chicken breast with fregola, grilled vegetables and tomato and lemon puree. I still don't know what fregola is... hang on... *googles it*. Ah as suspected, it's a kind of couscousy pasta thing. Anyway, it was nice, as tasteless carbs go. The chicken was the best bit of the meal, and weirdly had a curried aftertaste which totally threw me, but was really nice and unusual. And the chicken was cooked amazingly - so tender.

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O meanwhile, had roasted fillet of cod with broad beans and salt cod brandade. He enjoyed it but said it didn't blow him away. I think he was jealous of my chicken.

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Just to prove the 'compactness' of the table...

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After our mains, I went for a wander and fell in love with the loos...

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Look at that floor!

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I wasn't going to go for pud, but we were celebrating, so we decided to share a pavlova. Which was really delicious - with a kick of alcohol in it that I didn't expect. And so pretty!

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Fresh mint tea finished things off just perfectly.

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And the main reason for our meal, was to celebrate O's acquisition of something he's wanted since I met him; namely a Rolex Submariner (not 'sub-ma-reeena' as I kept pronouncing it). Now I know I waxed lyrical about expensive handbags, but I have to say I'm missing the 'watch' gene - I don't really get it. For that money, I want diamonds! But he's got the watch addiction as badly as I have the handbag one, so it was only right that I humoured him in his quest, and after he recently inherited some money, I managed to finally bully him into treating himself.

And eventually, after some interesting 'experiences' in many many jewellery shops - not least the fascinating emporium that is the Vintage Rolex shop in Burlington Arcade (to quote Ab Fab: 'you only work in a shop you know, you can drop the attitude') - he finally found HIS watch. And I have to admit, under the lovely lighting in Balthazar, it did start to look very pretty...

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