One of the highlights of my Paris trip had to be lunch at Balagan, a fusion of Moroccan, French and Israeli cusine, just a stone’s throw from the Tuileries gardens, designer shopping on Rue de Rivoli and the Louvre, located within the Renaissance Paris Vendome Hotel, which has undergone a little makeover since I reviewed it a few years back.
Headed by top Isralien chefs behind the Machne-Yehuda restaurant in East Jerusalem and The Palomar in London – Assaf Granit and Uri Navon, Balagan, a hebrew name meaning ‘joyful bazaar’, is something very different from the other very French restaurants in the area, it has a playful atmosphere, which you get the best view of if you sit at the bar overlooking the open kitchen, we were mesmerised watching the chefs put together ever bit of our meal, as well as getting prangs of food envy when we saw them preparing the dishes we didn’t go for.
At lunchtime, Balagan has two menu options, a starter plus main course or main course and dessert for 24 euros, or the full deal, starter, main and dessert for 29 euros, trust me, whichever one you go for make sure it includes dessert as even though I enjoyed every single moment of our very lazy, long lunch, the memory of the dessert stayed with me the whole trip.
My other tip is to order the Frenavon Bread to nibble on while you wait for your starters. I saw this being eaten on another table and the waitress instantly said to me, “you need to try, it will change your life” and she wasn’t wrong, the Moroccan-style bread, which is served warm straight from the oven, is delicious with the dreamiest Tahini dip.
Balagan – Starter
There were three options for starter, the salmon, which we didn’t go for, the veggie option, the Zucchini Hash Brown, courgette to us Brits, which I went for, and then the Brushetta Roastbeef that my husband nearly ate before I go a picture of, as he was that excited to try it after watching it being carefully placed on the plate.
Let’s start with the Zucchini Hash Brown, served with parmesan and green tzatziki, as it was so delicious and fresh, with a spicy kick and something a little different for a vegetarian dish. This dish kind of sums up Balagan, they’ve found a refreshing way to transform what could have been a dry, boring dish, and anywhere else it probably would, into an exciting start to a meal.
My husband went for the Brushetta Roastbeef, which came with a serving of bone marrow that he absolutely loved saying it was succulent and came away from the bone perfectly. He said it was one of the tastiest starters he has had in a long time, which is high praise as it really is difficult to please.
Balagan – Main Course
I was excited about the mains, I’d seen the Galil Style Linguine come out a few times and each time it looked amazing, and it didn’t disappoint. I love pasta, but normally I cover it in a rich tomato sauce, this was buttery, and gorgeous, which tasted even better with the sweet-tart flavour of the sun-dried tomatoes. The portion was also just right for a three-course meal at lunch.
My husband went again for the meat option, this time the Boucher’s Cut served with potatoes and vegetables, which he said was cooked to perfection, he had asked for medium-rare, and he said it was delicious. But he did look a little jealous when he saw someone order the Sea Bass Shakshuka, which seemed to be one of the most popular mains.
Balagan – Dessert
For most meals out it is the dessert I get most excited about, I have a sweet tooth, but after such delicious starters and mains I was worried I wasn’t going to have room, well that was until I tasted my Jerusalem Cheese Cake, which is a speciality here at Balagan and was recommended to me by one of the chefs as his favourite on the menu.
The strawberry topped cheese cake, presented in a cute jar, is creamy and light, and when you get a spoon full complete with the gingerbread biscuit base it really does melt in the mouth. I love cheesecake, but this wasn’t like any cheesecake I’d ever tried before, it was out of this world.
My husband took the advice of the waitress and went for her favourite the Tahini Ice Cream, which he said was much lighter than normal ice-cream, perfect for the hot summer’s day we visited to restaurant on, and was the perfect dessert to end the meal, and the wafer has a caramel crisp about it.
Would I eat at Balagan again?
Definitely, I loved that we were greeted like family, the staff from the chefs to the waiters were attentive, knowledgeable about the menu and inviting, which isn’t always the case when you eat in Paris. Time seemed to stop, my husband and I had the best two-hour lunch, munching our way through delicious course, after delicious course, and my husband is a hard man to please and he loved every bite.
It was fun sitting at the bar, we really enjoyed chatting with the kitchen staff, and I would recommend it if there is just the two of you, but for larger groups there are some intimate booths and long tables. I would recommend booking as it was even busy at lunch, I can only imagine dinner is even more sought-after.
I also loved the all-blue and brass decor from the talented Dorothée Meilichzon, who has designed the interiors for other Experimental Group locations including the Hotel Grands Boulevards in Paris and the Henrietta hotel in London.
If you leave Balagan without a smile on your face and feeling very full, you’ve done it wrong. I loved the friendly atmosphere, the innovative menu and the very instagrammable decor, and it was even fun helping the chef get his shot for his own Instagram of a new dish he was working on, as once you start eating here you instantly feel part of the Balagan family and I will be coming back here next time I’m in Paris.