Decided to try The Balcony after seeing all the great reviews here - and I'm so glad I did! Getting there was easy as they provide a free pick-up and drop off -service from your chosen location in town. You could also make your own way there as it's easy to find, just continue a few km down the main road heading out of town (past Joma) towards the Kuang Si waterfall, probably a 10-15 min ride.
The menu is small but perfectly formed. Two set menus provide 3 or 4 courses and a complimentary bread basket. You can also order a la carte, and there are options for vegetarians too (although stay vigilant as there may be hidden meat bits in the starters - see below).
There is a good selection of drinks, including a few 'signature' cocktails. I tried the one with vodka and basil and it was great. A good selection of wines, many also served by the glass.
The bread was fresh and fluffy, the chef's starter served on a bed of some chocolatey thing which was sounds weird but was perfectly matched.
The main was an absolute winner, Mekong fish with farfalle and fresh vegetables. Who knew Mekong fish could taste so heavenly? The farfalle was home made and perfectly al dente, as were the vegetables (may have been the first time ever in Laos). The sauce was sweet and delicious, bringing everything beautifully together.
Ice cream, sorbet and biscuits for a dessert, served on a long plate that required a panorama photo setting. But it was very yummy and I wish I would've had the guts to lick the plate.
Uuuh. I felt quite stuffed at this point, and grateful I didn't go for the longer menu. My neighbours at the next table had, and were unable to eat their dessert.
The whole fare came to US$25, plus drinks, which were also very reasonably priced. The Balcony may well be the only place in the world where it's possible to have such a dining experience for this price. The restaurant only use fresh, high-quality and largely local ingredients and everything is prepared to a perfection, with lots of attention to detail. I would highly recommend this place anyone travelling in the SEA region to instantly make their way to The Balcony at Luang Prabang.
The only thing I would change about this place would be the plate that my main was served on. Well, it wasn't a plate but a very small wooden board. I know it looks lovely, but it was just too damn unpractical and I ended up getting the chocolate everywhere and smearing the white tablecloth for the rest of the dinner. I was also served bread with bacon bits and a starter with bacon sprinkled on top after telling the waiter I did not eat meat, but luckily I'm quite good at spotting these so no harm done and they were more than happy to change them for me.
The service was friendly and attentive without being intrusive at any point. It was nice chatting with the chef afterwards at the bar while waiting for the tuktuk to take me back to town, sipping a complimentary tea. He is due to leave the country soon so we can only hope that his successor will not let the standards drop.
Can't wait to be back next time I'm in town!
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