Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Balthazar, SoHo

Petstarr braves the hipsters to sip a crappy latte in Soho. Hold her. Tightly.

80 Spring St
WEBSITE: www.balthazarny.com

Cappuccino (Petra) - 1.5
Caffe au lait (Greg) - 1

What is the BCACB? Click here for an explanation.

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SoHo is very cool. It is not, as one New Yorker described to me recently on Twitter, "an outdoor mall for the people of New Jersey". (Actually I guess it literally IS, as it is indeed outdoors and I'm sure that there are probably people from New Jersey there, but I'm sure he meant it in a condescending way and therefore, it ISN'T.)

It IS the kind of place you would expect to find a decent espresso. However, still burning from the Museum of Natural History disaster, Greg and I were less than enthusiastic about sampling one. Surely it was safer to wait until we got home to our beloved espresso kettle?

But among the fashion forest of skinny jeans and Wayfarers (by the way, it is illegal to even set foot in SoHo without at least one of these items, unless you are heading there to BUY one of these items, in which case you need to have your passport stamped at the NoHo border first) we kept noticing one other popular accessory - a cream-coloured take away coffee cup with old fashioned writing on the side.


Just like the old saying goes - "When you're lost, find a hipster and follow it home". So we grabbed the nearest cream-coloured-cup-carrier and soon found ourselves at Balthazar, a bustling, uber-popular lunch spot on Spring Street off Broadway. I'd like to describe the inside of the bistro to you but I can't beyond saying it was "rather French", as I was concentrating too hard on not being crushed to death in the lunchers' mosh pit. There must have been at least 30,000 people in there, and maybe three waiters, all of whom were extremely pissed off (so the French theme was very authentic). The source of the cream-coloured cups was nowhere to be seen.

Tossed out onto the footpath like characters in one of those depression-era cartoons, we were lost, coffeeless and alone – until we noticed Balthazar's tiny bakery-slash-cafe next door, and the horde of cream-coloured-cup-carrying 20 somethings coming out of it.

When you're over 30, Wayfarer-free and caffeine deprived, there's nothing like a whole room full of croissants to lift your mood. Balthazar's pastries are simply amazing – madeleines so moist you don't even need to dip them in tea, lemon meringue pie so tart your mouth waters just thinking about it and pain au chocolat so... well, look, no one can fuck one of those up.

There is a reason the French are known for their pastries. However if Balthazar's barista's efforts are anything to go by, there is also a reason they are not really known for their coffee.

In fitting with the Parisian theme, the coffee at Balthazar tasted like heated up samples from the Seine.

If you look closely, you can see used berets and bicycle parts floating past.

Tasteless but for a burnt, bitter twang, the coffee came in gigantic cups (even though we ordered smalls), meaning the coffee-to-milk ration was something like 1:85. For this we were grateful – the less of this French bong water the better.

Greg declared his "undrinkable" and angrily ditched it at the nearest bin, narrowly missing a teen in skinny jeans.

I drank half before giving up, but decided to award an extra half a point for presentation – the cups really ARE nice, and they come with a nifty closeable lid. Which is handy for when you're angrily ditching your latte at a bin and don't want to splash anyone.

In summary: Balthazar coffee, c'est le merde.

For more BCACB, click the "American Coffee" link below.


  1. Don't you remember we first visited Balthazar in November 2006 after being at The Poet's House,almost next door? We had lunch at The Bakery. Don't remember that we tried the coffee, though.

  2. Yes of course I remember! It's a lovely restaurant (well, it LOOKS lovely, the parts you can see through the 20-deep crowd...). The pastries are great. Coffee is MERDE.