While suffering the effects of too many cosmopolitans the night before, a team of very friendly waiters served up some of the best bacon and eggs I’ve ever tried. So good, I still remember it a year on.
So when Belle was invited to Balans, this wonderful café’s sister restaurant, we were keen to try out their evening menu.
We were also invited to enjoy a dining experience in one of the venue’s private booths. Intrigued? Absolutely. We got our best LBDs on and went to check it out.
On arrival, the restaurant on Old Compton Street was teaming with couples, weekend party seekers and casual diners.
First impressions? Balans likes to give off the party vibe which Soho is renowned for. And with dozens of disco balls glittering above, and house music booming, it certainly seemed to do that well.
While we got seated with a Prosecco aperitif in one hand, the dinner menu in the other, we took in the party atmosphere. Birthday revelers chinked glasses on one side of us while a lively group enjoyed dinner on the other. I was expecting an L-plate –adorned ‘hen’ to descend on us soon. But thankfully, Balans manages to just about stay on the classier side of Soho’s cheesy establishments. And if it’s ok for the likes of Rihanna and Lady Gaga (so rumours say,) then it should be almost good enough for we Belles.
A very attentive waiter served up some starters of duck spring rolls (£5.95) and chicken ‘potsticks’ (£6.75). The spring rolls were as good as any we’d tasted before but the potsticks – five steamed dumpling-like parcels – were delicious.
With sliced chilies and spring onions sprinkled over the top, a tasty meat filling and a hot chili sauce on the side, it was a delicious way to whet the appetite.
Feeling adventurous, I went for the Jambalaya main (£13.95) – a dish more at home in a traditional Louisiana restaurant. This traditional Creole Spanish dish had juicy chorizo pieces and seafood in it – mussels, clams, shrimp, and deep-fried squid. I imagined it might have been even nicer if there was a higher ratio of tomato sauce to rice. But the fish and chorizo made a tasty contrast and it was great with a glass of Chilean sauvignon blanc, (£7).
Balans seems to be a bit of a mixed bag. I counted at least five different themed cuisines on their menu. But after an Asian-inspired starter and Spanish-American main, my guest went for a very traditional roast duck (£15.95). And I must confess, the waiter’s recommendations paid off. It was juicy and tender, and delicious with the citrus flavours of the burnt orange and calvados sauce. Served with a fluffy fondant potato and sweet Chantenay carrots, it went down exceptionally well with a glass of smooth Rioja tempranillo (£7)
To round off our ‘VIP’ night, we were enticed by a banoffee pie and a greek yoghurt pannacotta with amarena cherries and valrhona chocolate (both £5.75).
The chocolate sorbet would have knocked our socks off had we been wearing any – it was deliciously bitter and contrasted perfectly with the juicy cherries and smooth pannacotta.
The banoffee was thick, creamy and sweet, just like it should be.
As we stepped through the twinkly bead curtains and left our celebrity booth for the real world, we had a new outlook on Balans. I’m not sure what their theme is but it’s fun, lively and only wants to serves up good food and a good time. And if you indulge in a few too many cosmos, you can always go back for an unforgettable bacon and eggs.
Balans restaurant, 60-62 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 4UG, 0207 439 2183
by Lucy McGuire