“ Address: The Balcony Hotel and Restaurant, Harrogate Lane, Stockton, TS198HQ „
After visiting this restaurant last Sunday (10th June 2012) and being pleasantly surprised how nice the staff and the meal were - the presentation was very good, we decided to try again on Fathers day. We went again after booking for 5 people and it couldn't have been worse - they weren't prepared for us and the staff were inexperienced. We ordered a bottle of wine - it was off - and they couldn't replace it as they hadn't any other wine to offer us as it was all the same. The beef was fine but the chicken was inedible - dried up, and the vegetables were just average in fact they were swimming in water. We did get a refund on the wine but got no apology for the chicken. We were very disappointed and won't be going back.
Within possibly one of the least suspecting neighbourhoods, the owners of the Balcony Hotel Steak and Fish Bar have whipped up a storm. Taking a run down, local boozer in the Hardwick estate in Stockton on Tees, they've created a tiny, perfectly formed rose amongst a bunch of spiky, ugly thorns; from the outside though, you just would not believe it. A concrete car park awaits you, framing the dilapidated building which used to be the Falcon, Harrowgate Lane. Past the vandalised cigarette extinguishers and through some heavy swing fire doors, you'll be greeted by one of the lovely local, friendly members of staff who seem trained to identify that you're a diner (or I stand out a mile from the locals) - not a local popping in for a pint - and take you straight through to the restaurant.
The restaurant is decorated aptly, leather effect table clothes and cow print upholstered seats - it's a steak bar after all! The tables are candle lit and sweetly subtle lighting really sets the scene - it's both romantic and a cool place to hang out with friends. After someone takes your drink orders you'll have chance to peruse the 'menu'. Drinks wise, there's a large selection of wines, spirits and champagnes, plus soft drinks and delicious, freshly ground coffee. The drinks aren't over priced, but it's not cheap either - a coffee is £2.60 and a pint is £3.50. Drinks are served promptly and hot drinks come with a selection of sugar, milk and cream.
The menu is a little unconventional. The first time we visited a lovely guy, who was working as front of house whilst the place was getting established, came to talk to us about the menu. Basically, all of the food is available to see raw in a huge glass chiller in the restaurant. On our first visit, he showed us that they had half a chiller of fresh seafood, including scallops, langoustines, the biggest seafood kebabs I've ever seen on skewers almost a half metre long and thick sea bass fillets; which had all been caught locally. On the other side, there was steak - more steak than I'd seen in a butchers! T Bone, Ribeye, Sirloin, Rump and rich, dark Fillet. He explained that the way it worked was that we ordered our choice of steak (or one of the many other dishes like the seafood, Teesside Parmesan, Mixed Grill, Chicken wrapped in Parma Ham, etc) and then we could either have it cooked to our liking out in the kitchen, OR the chef could sear it for us, then we could cook it to our liking on a Volcanic Rock at the table! He also explained that the market prices were on the board for steak and that we ordered by the ounce.
For my starter I chose Scallops, cooked in a lemon and garlic sauce. These were like no other scallops I've eaten, they were exceptional so chunky and meaty but with a delicate lemon flavour. The garlic was served separately and it was so concentrated, but complimented the lemon perfectly. For 8 Queen Scallops it cost £4.95. I chose Sirloin for my main as it's my favourite 'budget' cut of steak - ideally I like Fillet, but my purse strings wouldn't stretch quite that far! It was £1.30 market rate per oz for Sirloin, so I took a 6oz steak (Fillet was £2.60 per oz). Side orders are ordered and chargeable separately, you get three for £5.75 or individually they are priced between £2 and £3. I chose chips (of course!), mushrooms and Diane sauce. In total it cost £13.55 for Sirloin, Chips and Mushrooms, which I personally think is reasonable for pub standard grub - but when it was served - it was worlds apart from pub standard.
Firstly, the steak was literally seared. I like my steak rare and when I get it and it's medium / rare, I get seriously disappointed. This way I got to add a few steak spices to it and turn it over a couple of times on the rock and then it was ready; perfectly done for me. I left a little piece on the rocks for my partner to try, as she likes it well done. The side orders were huge - I would say that if we both had steak, the three side orders could have easily done the two of us and we are both big eaters. My partner got Parmesan and said it was the best she'd ever had - and she's a connoisseur when it comes to those delicious béchamel covered, breaded chicken breasts! The taste was incredible, the sauce spectacular and the service second to none - I have absolutely no criticism of the place, just bundles of praise.
Our bill was £31, for one starter, two mains and two drinks. I think this is pretty great value for money given the quality you get in return. There are also offers throughout the day and early evening where you can get two courses (not steaks) for £12.95 each - I can't comment on dessert though, we've never actually managed it, but based on the starters and mains I have no reason to doubt that dessert will also be phenomenal. We've been back a few times and plan to make it a regular haunt; and we definitely want to treat our families to a meal there. I highly recommend it, even if you have to travel from local towns; we came from Darlington, but Middlesbrough, Hartlepool, Bishop, etc are within reasonable distance, given the superb quality of the Balcony Hotel.
Oh, and as its name would imply, it's also a hotel. You can reserve a room on laterooms.com, e-bookers, etc and by contacting the restaurant. Their website is www.balconyhotel.co.uk and they are on Facebook with lots of offers, themed nights and recently they offered pie, peas and a pint for £4.50 while the England match was on! Recommend you try to pop by and if you're not local but planning a trip in the North East, make some time to visit The Balcony.
Steak and fish restaurant