By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
Spoilt by pop-up ventures, market stalls and a veritable smorgasbord of world cuisines the hungry residents of Shepherd’s Bush could be forgiven for omitting the behemoth Westfield Shopping Centre as a dining option. But as a short walk from the tube goes to show, there’s a few gems amongst the chains.
Balans Soho Society is one such gem. Founded in Soho but now boasting an impressive presence across London the ‘contemporary global’ restaurant offers casual dining in a relaxed environment. The restaurant has just enough character to carry this through with original, thought-provoking décor, excellent al-fresco dining options and enough ‘She Bu’ style to make the locals feel at home.
The single menu is in keeping with the informal feel, but the food is chic and modern. Oriental and Latin American influences mix with gastro British, the fish and meat dishes immediately stand out and it took a brief appetiser of sourdough bread and olives to whittle down our choices.
I decided on an entrée of Seared yellowfin tuna with Chilli, garlic, ginger, soy and pickled cucumber while my girlfriend tucked into Duck spring rolls. We temporarily eschewed the renowned cocktail list for a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and French Merlot from Languedoc to wash the first course down, and what a lovely first course it was. Quality over quantity, sure, but cooked to perfection and thoughtfully arranged.
The main course threw up one of a couple interesting linguistic choices I feel compelled to mention. I dismissed the ‘infamous burger’ faux pas to start with but on further inspection I found lines such as “a haven for the convivial” and the “pursuit of amusement” on the website and couldn’t help myself. How could a burger possibly be infamous? I skipped and went for the linguine instead, just to avoid the risk of chowing down on beef from a murderous cow.
But it was a fortuitous faux pas, because the Cornish Crab Linguine with Chilli was delicious. Fresh ingredients combined nicely to make a filling but not overwhelming dish. My girlfriend chose the Seasami tuna steak with jasmine rice, bok choi, garlic, ginger and soy, which looked equally good (that I didn’t get to taste is a telling sign).
Very much content with the meal we were ready to make the journey home, but in the interest of full disclosure we decided we could wash a desert down with a cheeky cocktail. On the waiter’s recommendation my girlfriend ordered the Porn Star (Absolut Blue, vanilla syrup,passion fruit purée, champagne shot) and I went for the Coffee and Caramel Flip (Buffalo Trace, Borghetti, caramel syrup, fresh coffee, a whole egg).
The cocktail was a perfect accompaniment to the Desert Affogato 6, which is beautiful in its simplicity. An espresso in a cup lay beside a cup of ice cream and a shot of Frangelico which combined to make an incredible biscuit and hazelnut desert that can be mixed as you please. My girlfriend, wrestling with a sticky toffee pudding, looked as finished as I was before we bid the delightful staff goodnight and made the journey home. A thoroughly enjoyable night all around.