I don’t normally start off a review with an obituary, but the recent passing of Prady Balan reminds us of the tremendous work he has contributed to the restaurant scene in London and across the world. We visited the original Soho branch of Balans Soho Society recently, which has been a fixture of Soho nightlife for what seems an eternity. In fact, the owners have been so enamoured with the Soho lifestyle of pursuit of pleasure above all and the best plan being having no plans, they’ve named all their other branches Balans Soho Society even if they are based in other parts of London town.
With their recent renovations, they no longer have a formal, exclusive look; now it’s about inclusiveness, comfort and relaxation. The brown colour designs along with the homely wallpaper reminds us this is a welcoming place just like home, whether you want to stroll in for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The menu is an inviting list of comfort foods whether it’s their famous eggs Benedict or their irresistible pancakes. We went along for supper to check out their full menu. You are hardly spoilt for choice on their menu; for starters we chose the seared yellow fin tuna and charred squid and chorizo. The tuna was beautifully fresh and lightly seared to retain this freshness and gently marinated with chilli garlic ginger soy and is the perfect choice for the health-conscious amongst us. The squid and chorizo were full of rich flavours, particularly coming from the strong-tasting chorizo and piquillo peppers. The squid was marginally over-charred and tasted slightly bitter.
Although you might be in danger of walking out with black teeth and tongue, their risotto nero with scallops is one of the best you will find in Central London. The thickness is ideal, not too dry or watery, the scallops are large and perky and the gremolata further adds zesty tastes to the dish.
The other dish you cannot avoid to order is the infamous Balans burger. It has been the comfort dish of choice for celebrities as well as regulars over many years. The beef patty is sturdy, meaty and juicy and the combination of cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, dill pickle, red onion are all the essential classic ingredients that anyone wants in their ideal burger. The double-dipped chips were slightly too chunky for my personal liking but no doubt others would find them a delight.
They also have an exceptionally fine list of wine and cocktails to accompany your meal. I would recommend a glass of their distinctly crisp and zesty Lanson Père Et Fils Champagne, which complements the seafood dishes extremely well. We also enjoyed the aromatic delights of the fairground sazerac, served with its own whisky flask. This is a cocktail for the espresso martini lovers amongst us with its use of borghetti, which is a coffee liqueur.
After a few hours of wining and dining at Balans Soho Society, you forget about the hectic nature of London life and that when you visit the right restaurants in London, it is sheer bliss and joy.