Balans Soho Society, Kensington
Balans in Soho is famously open 24 hours and a big hit with all the theatre luvvies. But, lets be honest it's a bit scruffy. Also, I tried to get a glass of champagne there once at 10am (normal) only to be told they don't serve until 11. Annoying. I'm pleased to report that the High Street Ken Balans Soho Society has prosecco, bloody marys and more on its breakfast menu serving from 7.30am. Also, they have given it a proper revamp with Simon Costin (who has created shows for Alexander McQueen) so the decor is quirky and cool with colourful artwork and ironic postmodern knick-knacks against a darkly glamorous backdrop. Plus there's a tree in the middle of the room a la Clos Maggiore, which is nice.
Balans is the perfect place for a restorative boozy brunch, and we started ours properly with a bucks fizz (Rich) and a bloody mary (me). I think almost every other table had the same idea, as the place was packed full of twenty-somethings fending off hangovers with bruncable cocktails and fizz. This is encouraged, with signs everywhere proclaiming 'a brunch without prosecco is just a sad breakfast'. Very true.
My Bloody Mary was perfectly made - I like it lemony with loads of heat and minimal worcestershire sauce - and it had been garnished prettily with a celery salt rim. Why haven't I seen this done before?
The weekend brunch menu is extensive and it was *really* hard to choose what to eat. They have lots of lovely egg dishes, all the usual classics and some interesting world food type items like Rare Beef & Green Papaya Salad and a Feta Quinoa salad with cauliflower and pomegranate. Tempted as I was by the Masala Omelette and the Lobster Benedict, I'd heard a lot about the Infamous Balans Burger (this is how it's listed on the menu) so I felt duty bound to order. Our succession of friendly servers also spoke highly of the Steak and Eggs with the ubiquitous Balans potatoes, which Rich duly requested and we popped a couple of Light Bites on the side too. The Chicken Thrice-Fried was first to arrive:
It is no exaggaration to say that it was one of the best things I've eaten this year. The chicken inside was succulent and juicy, but the triple cooking meant that the coating was super crunchy, light and yet robust. It's a completely different beast to the current (very good) fried chicken going on in American style diner restaurants at the moment as it has more of an Asian feel to it. The seasoning was spot on, with sweet and savoury notes balanced with a good level of warming spice. I could have eaten just a plate of that to be honest.
The quesadilla that followed was also good, and far too generous to be classed as a Light Bite. The mango salsa is something I make at home a lot and was a nice change to usual tomato and onion based salsas that often accompany things like this:
Moving on to the main event, my burger arrived in all its vast towering glory:
As you can see, the patty was sizeable and it was packed with bacon before a good smothering of melted Swiss cheese was squeezed in too. Served in the standard brioche bun, the Balans burger was definitely up there with some of the best. The meat is discernibly good quality and served pleasingly medium rare.
Throw in some well executed triple cooked chips, and it's no surprise that I could only manage half. But oh, what a half it was.
The Steak & Eggs was also not insignificant in size, and really good value for £13:
The scrambled eggs had been lovingly cooked and it showed. I would have gone for a poached egg, which would have provided some nice self-saucing, as the chimichurri specified on the menu is just used to season the Balans potatoes, whereas it would have been great to have a big herby pot of it to douse the steak with.
Really, having been defeated by the burger I should not have looked at the dessert menu. Sadly, as soon as I saw the Banoffee Pie listed my fate was decided. I can never resist it.
It was spectacular and I don't regret it for a second.
Thank you to Balans Soho Society for inviting us for a complimentary brunch. I can't wait to see the Soho one revamped, and I'll be ordering that Lobster Benedict stat! PS. the Thrice-Fried Chicken really is that good.
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