Set amongst the cool boutiques and chichi cafes of High Street Kensington, Balans is a cafe with delicious food and a desirable clientele so it’s no wonder they’ve created a loyalty card.
It looks nothing out of ordinary from the street, just a simple restaurant headed with a dark sign with silver lettering spelling out Balans. Step through the glass doors and past the people nibbling on cake outside smoking vogues, and you’ll be met with a modern sophisticated decor that suits the chic customers. Purple suede mirrors line the walls creating a feeling of space whilst adding a touch of colour. Plus it gives a looking glass for fashionable ladies to practise their pout and fix their hair. The cafe area is simple, with black tables and chairs lit up by the light coming in through the windows, creating an airy space which is perfect for the day long coffee break, whilst the restaurant area has much moodier lighting, giving it a slightly sexier, evening look.
Packed during all times of the day, there’s always a murmur of trendy customers over the soundtrack, but everyone here knows innately that this isn’t a wild, loud place but a calm environment for chatting and enjoying food. The staff are attentive and professional and they give you a slightly cheeky grin when they subtly nudge you towards your second cocktail. Most people here are your typical swish London socialites that have the time to relax. There are people of all ages, but only one type – chic Westenders wanting to have a low key meal, but still keeping some form of laid back glamour about them. No one here is scruffy or overdressed, so everyone melds into one style, which for many will put a crimp in their people watching activities.
The menu takes inspiration from all over the world, with no particular theme except a focus on maximum flavour and good quality. Starters such as light seafood, salads and mezze plates are always popular and have just the right portion size to whet your appetite. The calamari has an extremely crisp but light batter and the squid inside is lovely and soft. Its naturally sweet flavour is brought forward by contrasting the lemon sauce which has a subtle spicy kick.
For mains (ranging in price from about £9 - £17) you can have anything from fish cakes to duck so there’s a wide range of choice and all of them are at reasonable prices. The Thai chicken is a spicy medley of tomato and chilli flavours that has a sour taste that complements heat of the dish well. The chicken breast is cooked until succulent and has absorbed all of the spicy flavour along with the red peppers and noodles, and the mild cashews and delicate cucumber cool the taste buds well. The desserts are extremely rich so sharing is recommended, but are a delicious way to end a meal. Banoffee pie is a key favourite, but the chocolate pudding has a proper bitter chocolate richness and a decadently soft texture that makes it very moreish.
The cocktail list is fabulous for a drink, with favourites such as a strong Cosmopolitan and a refreshing Mojito done well at around £6 each. For a touch of class try the sweet Bellini or the colourful Kir Royale for an elegant aperitif before your meal. Coffees are also made well, with all the possibilities available and all of them with a deep espresso flavour.
The Last Word
A buzzing cafe/restaurant that is perfect for a light bite or something more lingering as a break from shopping sprees.