I visit the newly revamped Balans Soho Society in High Street Ken, for a seriously mouthwatering brunch….
If someone says the word brunch, Balans is actually up there in terms of the places I always remember getting a good fry up. The portions were enough to fend off the toughest of hangovers, the staff were fabulous and the cocktails so tempting, I do remember my pal ordering a pornstar martini when it was barely nearing midday (hair of the dog if I remember).
So when I heard that some of the cafes within the Balans group had received a bit of a nip and tuck, I was very keen to investigate. The two I’d had such fond memories of were the two in Soho (One restaurant and bar and another, more smaller cafe, both on Old Compton Street). This time, I was heading South West, to High Street Kensington, where this crowd-pleasing group were now going by the name Balans Soho Society.
Things were all about the leather booths, black fringe curtains and low lighting when I was last in Balans. And I think they still are if your local is in the Soho neighbourhood. But soon, all of the restaurants in the group will be catching up with the fresh new look you’ll find in Westfield, Shepherds Bush and High Street Ken where we were. They’re light, vintagey and dare I say it, a little bit ‘shabby chic’ to please the yummy mummys and well to do Kensington crowds.
I loved it immediately. It was cool, but they’re not trying too hard and the tree that grows out of the middle of the centre table is, well, just brilliant. There’s also a key theme going on here, seen in the keys that hang from said tree, the giant key that hangs from the shop front and the engraved cutlery.
And then there are the miniature drawers that have been turned into containers to house the ketchup. And the weird little pots of salt marked ‘sodium chloride’ to shake onto your chips. And the quirky little matches that have little messages on them.
And the butterflies…
And the vintage chandeliers…
And, and, and….. I could go on and on about my love for this place. And I haven’t event got started on the food.
One thing at a time. Let’s start with the Bloody Marys.
They’re reasonably priced (around the £8 mark); are nicely chilled with the obligatory celery, and they taste surprisingly delicious, thanks to a rather unique touch of horseradish (it actually works). This one went down a treat.
I was still on a bit of a health kick after my TruBe PT session so something drew me towards the rare beef salad. It looked ever so pretty on the plate with a colourful mix of cucumber, carrots and shredded cabbage. Had I seen it before I ordered though, I have to say I may have picked something else. It didn’t look like it had much sustenance, (I was expecting more salad leaves and perhaps noodles or some kind of carbs) and it was extremely hot, with hidden hunks of chilli setting my mouth on (almost painful) fire.
My food envy heightened when BC’s UNBELIEVABLY huge beef burger arrived.
But as I munched on, I actually found the salad grew on me. It was packed with flavour (I particularly loved the mint leaves which helped cool my mouth down a little bit) and the very rare beef was spot on. I think in hindsight, I wouldn’t have ordered an equally spicy Bloody Mary to accompany it next time! And I urge Balans Soho Society to include descriptions on their menus. But all in all, it was a very tasty dish.
The burger was just as good as it looks. The brioche was soft, the beef was chargrilled and it was packed with flavour. The only point I’d make is it was cooked a little bit over medium rare (as BC had ordered) but hey, the flavour and presentation massively made up for it. So did the tasty bacon and delicious chunky chips. You definitely get your money’s worth if you order the burger here.
The atmosphere here is jovial and lively, just the way Saturday grazing should be. And your eye is constantly drawn to its various quirky interiors.
We decided to try the doughnuts for dessert and the pineapple tart tartin. The tartin was not quite what I expected, I have to say. The pastry was a little tougher than hoped to slice your spoon into, and the coconut pieces and warm pineapple just didn’t do it for me. The ice cream also had quite a sour taste to it, I’m not sure why, but I’m sure some with a different palate will love it.
That said, the presentation is great here and the doughnuts were absolutely out of this world.
There’s something even more delicious about warm doughnuts you can slather in as much strawberry compote and cream as you like, than the traditional jammy middle variety. They were elegantly presented and really hit the spot. I can’t recommend this dessert enough. The lattes here are excellent too.
We were off to Malaga a few days later so we left the brunchers to it and went off to stick our noses into the travel section of Waterstones.
My only regret about Balans Soho Society is that we didn’t visit early enough in the day to enjoy the breakfast menu and ours was more a brunchy/lunchy affair. Because to be quite frank, The High Society Eggs Benedict (poached eggs, LOBSTER, avocado, bacon and hollandaise sauce on an English muffin) sounds spectacular.
This and the flawless presentation and delightful quirks that will put a smile on anyone’s face, I will be going back for.
Until next time x
Huge thank you to Balans Soho Society for hosting Oh So London as part of this review. All views are my own. For more information on Balans and for refurbishment updates on all of the restaurants in the group, visit their website Balans.co.uk.