Balans – Shepherd’s Bush, Westfield LondonHALAL STATUS Halal beef & chicken (prepped & cooked separately) • Alcohol & pork served
After being informed by Balans that “all our chicken and beef is now Halal” and that “we treat [its prepping and cooking] as if dealing with in similar way to avoiding allergy cross-contamination [sic]”, we decided to visit them in Westfield London (we can only vouch for this particular branch re cross-contamination).
With four other branches across the capital, Balans offers as eclectic a menu as you’re likely to find, with an extensive selection of dishes influenced by a number of cuisines that range from exotic breakfasts and rustic steaks and burgers, to curries and sandwiches.
Although pork is on the menu, Balans’ head chef assured us that its prep work and cooking is done entirely separately from the rest of the ingredients.
The restaurant itself is a large and spacious one, made more so by the Covid measures in place where tables have been strategically arranged so as to maintain the mandatory 1-metre social distancing rule.
Hence, while the restaurant would normally be able to cater for well over 100 covers, under current climes, the seating capacity is restricted to around 40 each both inside and out.
While there’s QR-code stickers affixed to every table for the national track and trace strategy, cutlery is brought to you wrapped in tissues and contained in a wooden box, with disposable menus to hand.
With a keyhole symbol used as a recurring decorative theme throughout the light and airy interior, Balans’ alcohol bar is confined to one side of the premises allowing for plenty of seating space, including a semi-enclosed booth, well away towards the other end.
A tale of two halves this pair. Despite looking the part, the clinically presented Strawberry & Chamomile Mocktini turned out to be timid, with the fruit flavour far too diluted to offer anything meaningful, and the tea barely discernible.
The balance achieved between the lingering gentle heat of the ginger beer, the sweet-tangy combo of the mango and lime, as well as the fresh undertone of the cucumber, is what defined this Mango Mule, making it arguably the best beverage of the evening.
The Apple & Watermelon Sour was easily the most divisive in that, while the beverage was supposed to deliver the distinct fruity flavours of apple, watermelon, and passionfruit, we were served an indistinguishable ultra-sweet beverage. As such, while one Lion described it as “confused”, the other one, admittedly with a sweet tooth, enjoyed its candy silkiness.
As for the Pineapple & Mint Mojito, then although there was plenty of the latter, the former was lost in translation.
The requested addition of passionfruit might have made this classic Virgin Mojito more than what it otherwise would have been. We thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing affair between its sour mintiness and the passionfruit’s hit of sweetness.
ALL DAY BREAKFAST & BRUNCHRECOMMENDED REMOVE BACON
“High Society” indeed! This was another faultless dish, with the half lobster grilled well enough for the precious tail meat to retain that familiar chewiness of a perfectly adjudged crustacean.
Unfortunately, this High Society Lobster Benedict is originally served with crispy bacon; so be sure to ask for its removal.
Otherwise, you’ll enjoy the lightly toasted English muffins topped with slices of avocado and poached Woodland Farm eggs, all sprinkled in chives.
In the end though, we couldn’t help but wonder how much better this would have been with the smokiness of good quality crispy Halal turkey bacon.
We also ordered a pot of your traditional English Breakfast Tea, which made this entire Breakfast & Brunch experience a memorable start to proceedings.RECOMMENDED
Quality of ingredients and precision of execution made this Steak & Two Eggs Any Way a breakfast of champions.
At the heart of it, of course, was this utterly soft and tender medium steak (so soft in fact that all we needed for cutting was a normal knife and fork) which, while being a joy to masticate in its own right, was made all the more memorable by the addition of the silky iron richness of the yolk from two beautifully poached Woodland Farm eggs.
Then add to that a generous scattering of herbaceous crispy potatoes and a vibrant chimichurri dip, which provided the acidity needed to help cut through all that uber umami richness, and this was one of the dishes of the review.RECOMMENDED REMOVE BACON
Every so often, we’re presented with a dish that’s so well conceived and crafted that it entirely vindicates all that travelling, eating and reviewing.
The first thing to come through, and around which the rest of the tastes and flavours revolved, was the mellow heat of the gochujang chilli paste. Then came through the sourness of the pink pickles, the light tanginess of Japanese kewpie slaw, the sweetness of the airy doughnut buns, and the crunchy goodness of the lightly spiced battered chicken.
Despite wondering over how much better this would have been with some Halal turkey bacon, the Togarashi Buttermilk Chicken Doughnut is currently our front runner for the best burger had this year. As one Lion summed up: “One of the most memorable burgers I’ve ever had!”
A generous portion of American Pancakes these; so don’t expect the thin British version, but rather the wonderfully thick and expertly judged spongy variety.
In this case, these were lightly sweetened enough for the maple butter to properly play its intended part, and for the accompanying fresh berries to play theirs in helping to harmonise this delicious plate of food.
MAINS & SANDWICHESREMOVE BACON
The Infamous Balans Burger wasn’t quite as infamous in comparison to its doughnut cousin above; but it was, nonetheless, a very good one.
And while it was both a few sprinkles short of seasoning and a tad dry, this was well masked by the smoky sweetness of the caramelised red onion marmalade. A simple yet perfectly good burger which, had it been executed to a tee, could have well been one to remember.
As for the accompanying fries, then these were dangerously addictive, with that familiar McDonald’s taste and texture about them.
This Thai Red Curry, though perfectly good, lacked that deep richness and layering of a really well made one, which succeeds in delivering a little more on the heat, the lemongrass, and the oomph-factor.
So, while we enjoyed its relatively thick and creamy texture, the tenderness of the shrimps, the crunch of the vegetables, the thin egg noodles, and the jasmine rice, it quickly became a monotonous affair.
A hearty dish this Mexican Chicken Enchiladas that’ll be remembered for its generous quantity of melted cheese, which managed to remain gooey throughout, as well as the sour cream all liberally poured over the top of some crispy tortilla wraps, which rested in a pool of spiced tomato sauce.
The marriage between the sweet and spicy tomato sauce, and the strong, piquant cheese, made this a delightfully messy and enjoyable munch.
While not forgetting to pop that pickle garnish into the sandwich itself, you’ll encounter lightly salted beef with the light vinegariness of the sauerkraut marrying well with the mustard therein to offer a scrumptious meal.
To be sure, we would have all preferred at least one more slice of that New York-style salt beef for it to really hit home.
Not as strong as the cheese used in the above Chicken Enchiladas; but, no less flavoursome either. And with a baked, crispy top, this Mac & Cheese was an extremely satisfying side order.
These freshly made doughnuts were light and airy, dunked and rolled in plenty of sugar, and presented with an outstanding chocolate sauce and some vanilla flavoured cream.
We couldn’t get enough of splitting open these warm balls of fluffiness and coating them equally in plenty of sauce and cream.REPLACE CALVADOS CUSTARD WITH ICE CREAM
Here again we had a case of imagining how much better this Warm Brioche Bread & Butter Pudding would have been had a normal custard been made available in place of the default alcoholic version.
As good as the improvised scoop of vanilla ice cream was that replaced the calvados custard, this pudding, with its crumbly top, could have passed for a joyful apple crumble with said Halal custard.
- YES/ YES
- CHILD SEATING
- DISABLED FACILITIES
The menu has everything one could hope for really, with most dishes we tried being executed with precision and skill, including the Steak & Two Eggs Any Way; High Society Lobster Benedict; Togarashi Buttermilk Chicken Doughnut; Chicken Enchiladas; and the Warm Doughnuts. As for the few dishes that contain bacon, Balans would do even better to consider having equivalent ingredients to hand, in this case, good quality Halal Turkey bacon. With other restaurants having accommodated for such alternatives, this would be far better than simply opting for their removal, particularly when such ingredients are often critical to the overall balance of the dish.
Having said that though, Balans is an impressive establishment and a definite consideration if you're in and around Westfield London, and looking for something truly varied at one location.
Balans are also continuing their own Eat Out To Help Out scheme through September with 50% off food Monday to Wednesday (up to £10 per person).
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