Balans Soho No. 34 Formerly: Old Compton Cafe / Balans Soho Society Café (aka Soho Café)

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Soho corner hotspot
One of two major Soho outlets in the gay café/brasserie chain Balans. The mothership Balans, at 60 Old Compton St [see entry], remains the first point of call for many visiting gays. However, this corner establishment might have the edge, particularly with its optimum use of Soho-cruisy window seating on both ‘gay catwalk’ Old Compton St and Frith St, not to mention a generous pick of pavement tables and chairs. In contrast to its local sibling, this is (normally, outside of COVID) a 24-hour affair (including takeaway), from extended-hours breakfasts (fry-ups, eggs benedict and much more) to comfort food (salt beef sandwiche, chicken enchilada etc.), and the standard is decent. For the record, this restaurant stands on a spot where four different businesses once thrived including the original Old Compton Café, where in 1987 the Balans story begins. Current owner David Taylor joined two of the café’s three co-founders – his old friend Prady Balan and wife Sally — in 1989, when the establishment went round-the-clock. This became Soho’s gay haven in the 1990s, as the Soho Café, and in 2015 the then expanding chain stepped up its rebranding as 'Balans Soho Society', and in October reinvented its pint-sized Soho Café as an airy, cosy, urban-rustic café-bar four times the original size.