Determined not to become a creature of habit, last weekend I did something pretty radical and ventured outside of central London to go for dinner. Most of my work is based in Soho and the West End so naturally this is my regular feeding ground. Even when I’m working elsewhere I inevitably drift back towards central to meet up with friends as it’s just the most convenient option for everybody. However, last weekend my sister and I spent a very cultured day wandering around the museums in South Kensington and deliberately decided not to revert to our usual routine of heading back into Soho for dinner, she lives in Clapham and so instead we made that our destination.
For anyone who is interested in our museum trip we went to see Whales: Beneath the Surface at the Natural History Museum which I would thoroughly recommend. It’s a brilliantly put together exhibition with some truly awe-inspiring exhibits and accompanied by some beautiful artwork (yes I bought the poster). But back to dinner…
Balans Soho Society is a well established Soho stalwart, a favourite of lunchtime office workers, late night clubbers and celebrities alike due to it’s twenty-four hour offering. Over the years they’ve expanded slowly and now boast 7 locations across the capital, the 30th birthday celebration this year being marked with the opening of the most recent Clapham restaurant. The laidback Bohemian vibe translates well to it’s new South London home and is ideally situated right opposite Clapham Common tube station so it’s easy to get to for locals and visitors alike.
We kicked things off with a signature cocktail, I chose to have a ‘Slap on the Rum’, which is a rather comical one to order as there’s no way of doing it seriously. My sister had the Apple Gimlet and we enjoyed them with some olives whilst we perused the menu and shimmied along to the excellent playlist (available on Spotify). It was just loud enough for you to notice and appreciate the good tunes whilst not encroaching upon your ability to converse with your dinner companions.
We decided to share a couple of starters and ordered the manchego and serrano ham croquettes along with the seared scallops. The scallops were perhaps not, in hindsight, an ideal sharing starter as they were quite small and there were only three on the plate. Nevertheless they were tasty, well cooked and came with some delightful mini arancini balls. If, like me, sharing and eating tapas style is your thing I would thoroughly recommend the croquettes. Five generously sized balls with a delicious paprika aioli dip (I’m a sucker for anything that comes with aioli) were ideal for sharing and seriously packed a punch with their flavour. I’d definitley order these again.
For my main course I had the lamb rump. Cooked to a beautifully pink medium it was really juicy and came with a lovely crispy piece of lamb breast on the side which was a great little treat, a bit like the burnt ends you get on a Sunday roast. My side order of charred corn was also a really great accompaniment, it’s so simple but a nicely done corn on the cob is one of those things you forget how much you enjoy until you’re munching down on one and asking yourself why you don’t make this at home more often. I kind of have a bit of an aversion to ordering chicken in restaurants as one sort of has this preconcieved idea that chicken is boring. My sister, however, overcame this prejudice and ordered the chicken supreme which came resting on top of a pea, girolles and crispy bacon risotto. Of course, I tried a forkful and it had a great fragrant and herby pea flavour. As much as I enjoyed my lamb, I did have slight food envy, perhaps I should be ordering the chicken more often.
Balans dessert menu offers a great selection of classics each with their own unique twist. My chocolate mousse, for example, came paired with a delicious blood orange sorbet and sour cherry granola. The dark chocolate mousse was very bitter, which would perhaps been too much had it been on it’s own, but those two sweeter elements offset it nicely. My sister had the Baileys cheesecake which you can’t really go wrong with. Rich and indulgent it definitely evoked feelings of Autumn and Christmas being just around the corner (I know I mentioned the ‘C’ word but there’s only just over 10 weeks to go guys!)
We visited for an early dinner after our long day of playing tourist in our own city, but since we had so much to catch up on and gossip about we ended up sitting there lingering over our glasses of wine for around three and a half hours. This is a massive luxury on the London restaurant scene nowadays (particularly on a Saturday night). When many restaurants let you know you only have a two hour slot upon booking and whisk you through your dinner, it was really refreshing to be able to take our time, relax and not feel rushed or like they needed to get the next sitting in. Staff were really relaxed and friendly and, although the Clapham restaurant isn’t open twenty-four hours like Soho, with their whole day approach to opening you feel as though you can come and go as you please whether it be for breakfast, an afternoon coffee and a sandwich, a couple of cocktails or a three course dinner. I personally quite fancy popping in for breakfast… pancakes with bacon and maple butter anyone?