The Balans menu is an eclectic mix of dishes from Thai to Italian and a wide variety of cocktails. It is a café style restaurant, which specialises in cocktails. If you can’t agree where to eat out, then this is a great place for you as there’s something for everyone on the menu.
In hindsight the starters were the best part of the meal; I really couldn’t fault them. I generally believe in asking the staff what they would recommend and they do know what’s best when it comes to the menu. Our waiter was really helpful (and flirty may I add), and gave us some useful pointers. We took his advice on sharing starters. We ordered the truffled chicken liver parfait with balsamic red onion marmalade and sourdough toast; it was fantastic. I love the combination of the meaty liver and the sweet onion marmalade. I may have to learn how to make this in the near future. Liver is an acquired taste so I wouldn’t order it on a whim. Our second starter was the chicken potstickers with a sambal olek dip, which the waiter encouraged us to order – and rightly so – it was really delicious. This is something anyone could order, as (excluding vegetarians) who doesn’t like a chicken dumpling?
By this point the sauvignon blanc was flowing (I’m no wine buff but it was tasty) and a live Jazz band started playing. They were great and it did lure the punters in, maybe because of the small surface area of the lead singer’s skirt, or maybe because it created quite an atmosphere. If you like that kind of stuff – live bands that is, not short skirts – I heard that they have a band on every Wednesday night. I should mention that it was pretty empty when we arrived, but that was probably because it had just turned 7pm and it was a weekday night. Nevertheless it never reached full capacity. Maybe the Soho branch (where Balans originated) or others are busier earlier.
On to the mains: we had salmon fish cakes, tuna steak and a side portion of green beans. My fishcakes were really great and well-seasoned. The chive butter sauce complemented the fish well. It also came with a poached egg on top, which I personally prefer more cooked, but it went well with the fish. There was a large amount of wilted spinach but in my opinion the more the merrier when it comes to vegetables. It was great to have something lighter with the rest of the main. The tuna steak came with a sauce of cherry tomatoes, capers, pine nuts, olives and gremolata. The tuna was well done but I don’t like capers so I’d never order that dish (but I’ll avoid having a rant about them). It definitely needed something on the side so the green beans were an essential addition; they were perfectly cooked and had a nice seasoning. A sign of a good chef is one that doesn’t overcook their veggies. I will mention that the waiter did advise us to order the Thai curry which is apparently their signature dish. I’d had a curry the previous night so I wasn’t in the mood for another but when someone next to me ordered it I instantly suffered from severe food envy. It looked and smelled amazing and it is also one of the cheaper items (only £10.95) on the mains section of the menu.
By this point I was stuffed to the brim. I didn’t manage to finish dessert. I don’t know what possessed me to order the largest, sweetest thing I could, but I ordered the banoffi sundae which came with a large helping of ice cream and crushed amaretti biscuits. This was hard to enjoy as I was so full but if you have a large sweet tooth/ stomach you’d enjoy it. We also ordered a lemon sorbet which was much lighter (note to self: order sorbet after massive starter and main) and it was delicious – it really freshened up the palate after a massive meal.
All in all the food is reasonably priced, and if you optimise the use of the 2-4-1 deals they do on cocktails and the live music it would be a great deal too. A main sets you back around £14 but the burgers/ wraps/ salads set you back a mere £8-£9. We didn’t invest in cocktails but they did look impressive. I get the impression that Balans seems like a great place to order several items on the menu to share, have a cocktail, and a natter. I’m going to head to the Soho branch soon. All in all there was good food and good company: it’s a thumbs up from me!
Balans (Earls Court branch)
239 Old Brompton Road, London, Greater London SW5 9HP
Friday / Saturday: 7.30am-1am