New? The Balans Soho Society Café is the newest edition to the Balans Soho Society chain. Having just opened this summer, it is making quite the impression on the crowds of Seven Dials and Covent Garden.
Where? 32-34 Monmouth Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9HA www.balans.co.uk
On the Menu: This menu is short and sweet, but manages to cover a range of dishes that can suit anyone’s taste. You can choose from a variety of dishes from pulled duck to seared scallops or red curry to a classic club sandwich. The option to choose between small plates and large plates really comes in handy when you are unsure how big of an appetite you have. There is also a brunch menu for those looking to start their shopping experience on a full stomach, complete with pancakes, two types of eggs benedict, sausage or bacon sandwich, kedgeree, and of course a full English.
First Impressions: Upon arrival, the restaurant was full and there was already a queue forming out the door. The staff was moving through the restaurant rapidly, but they were still extremely attentive so that the fast-paced environment did not make guests feel rushed. Even whilst I waited for my table, the staff–including the manager–were making sure that guests were being catered to on the floor as well as in the queue.
The Look: The size of the restaurant is quite small with low-hanging lamp lights that create a coffee shop feel. The color scheme was made of reds, browns, and whites which reflected the style of an American diner, especially through the large booths and open floor plan. My favourite attribute of the café was the arrangement of framed photos and drawings and loose papers posted on the walls that created the homely atmosphere of a classic Italian restaurant–not to mention the black, white, and red patterned floors. The eclectic design of the restaurant easily complemented its all-encompassing menu.
What We Ate: If there is anything I miss about dining in America, it is starting off a meal with a complimentary basket of bread. When we were brought a plate of sourdough, I knew I was going to enjoy the rest of my night. After this, I started off by ordering a small plate which was house-cured salmon with avocado mousse, beets, orange, and soda bread. The salmon was a bit on the salty side, but the beets and orange brought a sweetness to combat it. I was already full from the small plate (probably due to the amount of bread I ate), but I moved onto a larger plate which was the black garlic roast chicken with shiitake mushrooms and broad beans. This was suggested to me by our waiter who said it would be a better option for wanting to eat more but also wanting a lighter portion. I can confirm that this was a great choice as it was about the size of a quarter chicken with a small leg piece that I was able to enjoy and finish without feeling like I was going to explode. Another suggestion he had for lighter dishes that is popular amongst guests is the hand-picked cornish crab linguine which has a very simple dressing of olive oil, black pepper, and salt. My last course a very simple dessert of vanilla ice cream which was definitely large enough to be shared, but delicious nonetheless.
I enjoyed this meal with a friend who is vegan and we couldn’t get over how accommodating the staff was to her dietary needs. She started off with the roast vegetable pide which came with courgette, peppers, cherry tomatoes, feta, and hazelnut dukkah. She ordered without the feta, but shared how the roast aspect of the dish gave it the right amount of flavour that wouldn’t leave vegetarians or vegans feeling like they are just eating a plain plate of vegetables. She went with the special for the day for her main course which was a beet salad with a creamy, walnut-based dressing. She described it as being simple in ingredients, but full of flavour and ultimately one of the best salads she has ever had. I should also mention that the sourdough bread we had at the beginning was prepared for us egg-free!
What We Drank: I stuck with one drink for the night called Lavender Collins which is Broker’s gin with lavender, lemon, and soda. My friend had the Slap n’ Tickle which was lemongrass-infused Broker’s gin, elderflower, and lemon. For this drink, they actually infuse their lemongrass and gin in-house. The way we decided on our drinks is that we both wanted to go with gin, but I wanted a sweeter taste whilst she wanted to go for something more dry. Even though I generally prefer sweeter drinks, I actually thought the Slap n’ Tickle tasted better which was probably due to the stronger lemon flavour. Out of curiosity, my friend ordered the Beeta-Rita which is El Jimador tequila, lime, and beetroot which she fell in love with. Our waiter and the manager also said this is the drink that has an acquired taste, but having more than one can make things a little crazy. For all the beet-lovers out there, this is the drink for you.
Go With: This restaurant is perfect for eating out with friends who can’t decide what they are in the mood for or for a more casual date.
Final Word: If you are looking for something affordable, great service, and you have a taste for more than one type of food, Balans Soho Society Café has the answer to your prayers.