There is nothing like a makeover to revitalise flagging interest, Balans Soho Society’s Kensington site has been treated with a revamp; not that they had ever suffered with the indignity of flagging interest – as far as I know business has always been extremely buoyant.
The revamp comes courtesy of Simon Costin, a critically acclaimed art director and set designer renowned internationally for his collaborations with Alexander McQueen, Givenchy, Hermés, Stella McCartney, to name but a fabulous few.
Simon has done wonders by hanging tapestries and mismatched paintings. While a cabinet of curiosities has the right amount of accoutrements, think taxidermy, skulls and vintage dolls, to add enough Gothic glamour. The piece de resistance has to be a leafless tree adorned with ornate keys, cut trough the middle of a central table which seats 20.
Although the décor is impressive, I did go there to sample the food, I have dined at Balans for years; admittedly it was my first visit to the Kensington outpost, their Site in Westfield tends to be my preferred site – due to the location and convenient parking, I also was a fairly frequent visitor of the Soho branch when I used to work nearby. Being a non –meat eater I miss out on the Infamous Balans Burger and Rib –Eye Steak, opting instead for either Fish & Chips or the Hand –Picked Cornish Crab Linguine, sitting in a revitalised Balans it seemed fitting to switch things up.
My dining partner – the dashing Riccardo who seamlessly fitted into the fashionable surroundings, and I decided to go for dishes that we have not ordered before at Balans. We started with Olives and Soda Bread as recommended by our affable waiter James, of course we have eaten soda bread before but not like this; it was light and airy and did not make us feel bloated, which is just as well as we certainly filled our boots!
Chicken Thrice Fried (Riccardo) and Shrimp & Avocado (me) – a gorgeous de-constructed prawn cocktail, where the prawns were separated from the Florida cocktail sauce, which on reflection is a more civilised way of devouring prawn cocktail, the generous slices of avocado added to the sophistication. I would urge you to try both the aforementioned starters, which are rightfully billed on the menu under ‘Whet Your Appetite’.
I would also implore you to order the Red Chicken Curry, Riccardo, who was battling a bout of ‘man flu’ felt that the comforting aspect of the chicken bathed in red curry sauce successfully hit the spot, making him feel a lot better. I am officially obsessed with the Sweet Potato Gnocchi: roast chestnut, pumpkin seeds, chanterelle mushrooms, parsley and garlic butter – I ordered mine sans parmesan. This dish was beyond divine, the gnocchi was soft, yet dense, while the sweetness of the potato delicately balanced the garlic butter, not forgetting the undertones of sage and cinnamon.
Our ‘green quota’ came via the Curly Kale with Chilli and Ginger – the wholesome simplicity of this dish has made it a personal favourite of mine.
Slap on the Rum, and Porn Stars were our cocktails of choice – admittedly I broke my try something new pledge by opting for the porn star which is synonymous with Balans and regarded as a classic – but hey when in Rome!
Feeling nostalgic Sticky Toffee Puddings accompanied with Salted caramel ice cream were ordered and quickly eaten with enthused abandon – a perfect way to conclude a delicious meal.
Price – A reasonable £91 (excluding service) considering the quality and amount of food.
Service – Impeccable, the staff’s level of customer service were on point.
Ambience –Relaxed; nice soundtrack playing unobtrusively in the background. Interesting objects d’art to gawp at.
Bathroom – 5/5 clean and comfortable.
For reservations and further information please visit: www.balans.co.uk