Once a year, Sofitel hotels around the world celebrate fine wine, superb food and art-de-vivre! And what a very good idea I say, as I can think of no better way than to spend lunch in a lovely restaurant with good company pairing nicely chilled white wines with delicious French cuisine.
Now in its sixth year, Sofitel Wine Days coincide with the traditional wine harvest period in France and is an opportunity for wine lovers and guests to sample and experience a wide variety of wines chosen by Sofitel’s wine experts and master sommeliers, as well as some wine-based cocktails, all paired with superb food.
So it was on a recent Thursday that I ventured over to The Sofitel London St James and their lovely Balcon Restaurant to sample some of this year’s pairings that run from 21st September to 31st October 2017.
Everything about The Balcon, from the double height ceilings to the spiral staircases leading to the Champagne Bar, oozes elegance and grandeur. The dark mahogany floors are beautiful and the huge windows provide a wonderful view looking out to Pall Mall and even the light fittings are extraordinary giving an air of French ambience with a touch of 20th Century chic and providing the perfect setting for this wine pairing experience.
The standard of both food and service is first class and very much in keeping with the bar set by the rest of the Sofitel St James Bar and Rose Lounge. Whether you want to just stop by for some charcuterie and glass of wine or Champagne with a friend or settle down for a three-course meal, you are sure of a warm welcome.
However on this occasion, before I begin my wine and food extravaganza, I was offered a fabulous new ‘Born Wild’ cocktail, presented in a monkey’s head, not literally of course, but it sure makes a powerful first impression which carries through to the cocktail itself which is really rather delicious and refreshing. It is made with Grey Goose pear infused with white tea, lychee liqueur, lemon juice, lavender syrup, Campari, a couple of dashes of peach bitters, egg white and topped with Charles Legend Brut Champagne. You really must give it a try!
It was then on to the main event. The first of three wine and food pairing choices being a 2015 Cave de Ribeauvillé Pinot Blanc which is paired with a seared mackerel, pickled vegetables, horseradish and fennel purée. The second, a 2010 Cave de Ribeauvillé Reisling Grand Cru Osterberg, is paired with a flavoursome foie gras ballontine on a toasted brioche and gooseberry jelly. And the third wine is a 2009 Cave de Ribeauvillé Clos Zahnacker, paired with a tasty roasted goat’s cheese, pomegranate and almonds.
In addition to these three pairings, The Balcon also offers a special Plats du Jour Wine Pairing, five days a week. So on a Monday there’s a Coq au vin with a 2014 Domaine Alain Gueneau Sancerre rouge. On Tuesdays a 2014 Château Vognol white Bordeaux is paired with mussels in Breton cider, mascarpone and house cut French Fries of course! Pop in on a Wednesday and you can enjoy a Bavette steak with house rosemary fries and a 2010 Château Lucas Cuvée Prestige. On Thursday the kitchen will prepare you a Welsh lamb navain with a 2009 Château du Cayrou. And finally, the Friday special is fresh hake, served with ratatouille and green olives and paired with a Domaine Bassac Cuvée du Manpot Blanc – making for the perfect end to the week.
With a glass of wine starting from under £8 a glass and the food plates from £7, you can enjoy either a shorter small or rather longer larger lunch if you choose the Plats du Jour and catch up with a friend over some very nice French wine which you may well have not tried before.
The Balcon, 8 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5NG
Tel: +44 (0)20 7968 2900
Located on Pall Mall right opposite the Institute of Directors. The closest Tube Station is Piccadilly Circus (Piccadilly, Bakerloo lines) and Charing Cross Mainline Station is only a seven-minute walk. The restaurant is also accessible via The Sofitel London St James on Regent Street St James’s. All day dining is from 6:30am to 11:00pm Monday to Friday. Saturday from 7:00am to 11:00pm and Sunday from 7:00am to 10:00pm.
Simon Burrell is Editor-in-Chief of Our Man On The Ground, a member of The British Guild of Travel Writers and professional photographer.
Photographs by Simon Burrell