FOOD & DRINK, THE NOTICEBOARD

Vegetables take centre stage at The Balcon

Patrick Laroche pea at Sofitel

Well this is one way of luring you into eating your vegetables

If your curiosity is piqued by the sight of a huge silver asparagus spear standing majestically outside the entrance to the Sofitel St James hotel, we urge you to step inside – you’ll be in for a treat.

Patrick Laroche artichoke at Sofitel

Situated around the hotel and in its restaurant The Balcon is a collection of giant, vibrant vegetable sculptures (including pea pods, aubergines and peppers) that form part of an exhibition, Vegetables, by French artist Patrick Laroche. And because looking at vegetables isn’t nearly as much fun as eating them, the restaurant has introduced a small special menu inspired by the vegetable sculptures for you to further enjoy for the length of the exhibition.

The Balcon - Braised eggs, spicy chorizo, smoked aubergine and tomato cocoette

The Balcon - Pea slider cornbread Madeleine

The special dishes, marked with spears of asparagus, include a sharing plate hot-pot of braised eggs, spicy chorizo, smoked aubergine and tomatoes (£5) – a cocotte with plenty of meaty bite and tomato tang to leave you craving for more the following morning, and a wonderfully moreish, if-only-there-were-more savoury cornbread Madeleine sliders with sweet pea, shallot jam and a cucumber and mint sauce (£5). And as they are small plates, you’ll definitely have enough room for the braised beef short rib and carrot bourguignon (£7) in which the meat falls off the bone with a simple scrape of a fork.

The Balcon - Octopus Basquaise

The Balcon - Stuffed cabbage with pheasant and foie gras

More substantial mains include an octopus basquaise (£19) – a tomatoey casserole with pine nuts, chick peas and raisins, and some homely and heart-warming Scottish pheasant with stuffed cabbage, foie gras, sautéed girolles and a parsnip puree (£21). If you decide to opt for one of the classic dishes, the chef-recommended lobster and pasta with clams, asparagus and a cheese gratin (£21) is well worth a visit alone.

The Balcon - Parsnip and Maple syrup cake

If you’ve managed to stick to the special menu so far, go all the way with the parsnip and maple syrup cake with clotted cream ice cream (£5), or just celebrate going off-menu with the wonderful blackberry-centred financier with a tangy raspberry coulis and seriously smooth green apple sorbet (£5).

The Balcon restaurant at Sofitel St James

The exhibition and menu run until 31st October 2014 at The Balcon at Sofitel St James, 8 Pall Mall, London, SW1Y 5NG. sofitelstjames.com