Buzzy gay brasserie
The most recognized name in casual high-definition-gay dining, Balans caters to carnivores and vegetarians with a one-of-each-style international menu at this and other branches. It's a very lively establishment and comfortingly gay, especially for first-time visitors, with an open front conveniently looking onto Soho catwalk Old Compton St. However, historically the 'cooking' has been considerably less than vital, and prices are not at all budget, especially given the quality on offer. But this flagship outlet reinvened itself in November 2015 with five menus (breakfast, lunch, dinner, overnight and weekend brunch) and plenty of new dishes, from cooked-to-order lobster to baba ganoush. The restaurant is divided into three zones, featuring an open and casual café-bistro at the front, followed by slighly more plush and comfy dinning, with a boudoir-like, high-camp, banquette-only space at the back. Other Balans outlets are located in Kensington, Shepherd's Bush (Westfield shopping mall) and Stratford in east London (the other Westfield mall). There's also the 24-hour Soho Café (aka brand name Balans Soho Society), reopened on 1 October 2015 at 34 Old Compton St — a one-minute walk from this Soho mothership. As of 2014 Balans closed its outlet in former gay ghetto Earls Court.