Review date: 9 April 2015
It all looks very esoteric – the gold, Victorian-style key, the Roman portal with a golden keyhole, the leaping hare, the Eye of Providence… but that’s Balans Soho Society’s website logo, not its eatery outlets. The haunt’s original eatery opened on Old Compton Street back in the late 90s as plain old – well, more ‘flamboyant old’ – Balans, but it has since undergone a bit of a wash and brush up and is opening more doors and its eating heart all over London to lovers of good food and welcoming service.
We head to Balans Soho Society in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush on what feels like the first really warm day of spring. I’ve never been to Westfield before, and, situated at the top of the entry parade of restaurants on the shopping village’s south entrance, Balans Soho Society’s alfresco tables offer diners a great opportunity to take in the midday passeggiata, and, in their own right, to be seen.
Today, we’re definitely ladies who lunch as my companion and I – he doesn’t mind being called a lady – nibble on fat-cut chips (brought to our table in error, but given gracefully as an amuse bouche) as we sip glasses of a fruity, crisp Valdivieso Sauvignon Blanc (me) and smoky, blackcurranty Malbec (he), which prove to be excellent selections by our waiter, Adam, for our starters. My golden wine is the perfect compliment to my buttery, creamy Burrata Mozzarella (it’s a Puglia dish, and my friend, Italian and food-savvy, declares after his taster mouthful that he will ‘help me with it’. Praise indeed). His punchier Malbec holds its own very well with his strongly-flavoured Wild Hare Pâté, served with celeriac remoulade, quince jelly and toast. My mouthful is picante and sweet, as the pâté, jelly and celeriac create a taste and texture combination that is hugely promising.
Our mains are not quite as exciting, however. My Kedgeree served with a poached egg topper and broccoli side is a little over-fishy and a tiny bit dry at first, but the egg adds the missing moistness. His special of Rib-eye steak and weave-cut chips is an excellent cut of meat, but the chips might have been left waiting a little too long, and they are oily and soft on top – the crunch, however, is further down the pile, so only a couple of points lost.
The ‘wow’ factor of the savoury section is a Curly Kale with Chilli & Ginger side dish that positively zings in the mouth – points fully restored. Then come the desserts: in true Italian style, my companion chooses an Affogato, and is at first a little surprised when it is served deconstructed – an espresso cup of coffee, a glass of ice cream and a shot glass of Frangelico liqueur. This is so that customers, Adam explains, can choose their own ingredient combinations, and my friend is won over as he tries it out for himself. My Pineapple & Chilli Tart Tartin takes 15 minutes to bake, but this gives us an opportunity to watch the world go by and enjoy the warm afternoon as we gently digest. The wait is not altogether worth it – the pineapple slice is a little thick, and there is not quite enough of the tasty coconut ice cream, but the sweet tobacco glaze and crisp base add good flavour and texture. After a very good espresso finisher, we saunter off along the parade to indulge in a spot of shopping.
It’s Balans Soho Society’s philosophy that too much of a good thing is a good thing, the best plan is no plan and that the pursuit of pleasure is a noble one. We couldn’t have agreed more.
Starters £16.50, Mains £30, Desserts £12, 175ml glasses of wine £5.30 (mine)/ £6.10 (his). 2-course lunch menu also available £11.95/ 3 courses £13.95 Monday to Friday, 12pm-5pm. Balans Soho Society Westfield Shepherd’s Bush: Unit 1034, Westfield Shopping Centre, Ariel Way, London, W12 7GA. Tel: +44 20 8600 3320.
For more information please visit www.balans.co.uk/restaurant/westfield-shepherds-bush
Mon-Sat 8am-11pm, Sun 9am-10pm
Reviewed by: Bryony Weaver. Bryony is the former Food & Drink Editor of Gay Times magazine and a Freelance Food & Drink Journalist. She is one of iLoveMyGrub’s events compilers.