187 Kensington High Street
020 7376 0115
by H.P. Seuss
Wondering why anyone should find his character of any particular interest, Vladimir Nabokov remarked: "I present no particular fascination. My habits are simple, my tastes banal. I would not exchange my favorite fare (bacon and eggs, beer) for the most misspelt menu in the world. I irritate my best friends by the relish with which I list the things I hate - nightclubs, yachts, circuses...".
What would the author of Lolita and Pale Fire, who peppered his fiction with fascinating breakfast allusions and wrote the most elegant boiled egg recipe in existence, make of Balans? His beloved eggs, bacon and beer are offered in abundance, but they must be consumed in surroundings uncomfortably close to his loathed nightclubs. Balans is a thronging cocktail bar by night and a humming brasserie by day. The blandly insistent beat music, alas, is a permanent fixture.
Still, much love has gone into the comprehensive breakfast menu, available until 6pm. The muffin family is particularly well represented, with father Benedict and sister Florentine joined by rich Kensington aunts Scallop and Royale. My companion opted for a bubbly Benedict/Florentine hybrid, which, despite an over-abundance of spinach, she declared a near-perfect example of the dish.
I chose the humble fry-up - two eggs (of my choice, over easy), crispy bacon, sausage (nice OCIS), mushrooms, toms and sour dough bread - toasted to crisp oblivion. The black-topped tomatoes also suffered in the over-grilling, but the general quality of the ingredients and refreshing lack of grease still made for a satisfying chew, and the fresh orange juice was most revifying.
But to what end? This is a hard venue to relax in, not helped by snide service staff. At £24 for two, it's also pretty dear. Well-sourced ingredients notwithstanding, juggling breakfasts and cocktails has proved a tricky balansing act. Still, I couldn't spot a single spelling error in the menu.