Nicholas Balfe

Nicholas Balfe is a restauranteur and business leader with over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry.

Starting out as a pot washer aged 15 in a friend’s dad’s restaurant in his home town of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, Nicholas was no stranger to the energy and passion of a professional kitchen. Following a degree in Manchester that was as much about having fun as it was studying, Nicholas set out on a career in marketing, working for a global advertising agency. Following a pitch meeting for a world-famous rum brand who will remain nameless, Nicholas decided this path wasn’t for him after all, craving the integrity, honesty and hands-on immediacy of cookery. Nicholas staged at St John, Moro and the River Cottage amongst many others, before landing a role at Rochelle Canteen working under the tutelage of Margot Henderson in 2009.

Next up was a role at Brunswick House in Vauxhall in, alongside renowned chef Jackson Boxer. Nicholas set up the kitchen, and over an eighteen-month period, set the wheels in motion for Brunswick House’s transformation from a fairly stripped back cafe into a pretty dazzling restaurant.

After a number of other stints in London, including running the kitchen at Franks Cafe in Peckham, Nicholas worked under Isaac McHale (latterly of the Clove Club) and James Lowe (latterly of Lyles) for the duration of their landmark Young Turks pop up in 2011/12. James and Issac’s focus on finesse and precision was a gamechanger for Nicholas, forming the backbone of cooking alongside a commitment to provenance and seasonality.

At the tail end of 2012, Nicholas embarked on his first solo-venture, Salon, on the site of an old hairdresser in Brixton Market. What started out as a pop-up event became a semi-permanent fixture, before Nicholas took on the lease of the space himself in January 2013. Strongly guided by the seasons and serving a stripped-back, ever changing ‘set menu’, Salon was inspired by the Parisian Bistronomy movement; democratising high end cuisine at an extremely accessible price point. Critical acclaim followed as Salon’s reputation grew steadily amongst food lovers and the restaurant community alike.

Salon’s success led to the opening of Salon Wine Store in 2016, then Levan – which riffed even more consciously on the Bistronomy theme – in 2018, and Larry’s – the younger, more casual, New York-inspired sibling – in 2020, both in Peckham.

As Salon’s time drew to a close in the wake of the post-pandemic fall out, another opportunity presented itself, in the form of Holm, in Somerset. A restaurant deeply rooted in its Somerset surroundings, but taking cues from Salon, Levan and Larry’s before it. Nicholas now lives in Somerset with his family and this year, Holm was listed in SqaureMeals’s prestigious top 100 restaurants in the UK – as number 11.