Balans Soho No. 60 (the big one) Formerly: Balans Soho Society

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Buzzy gay brasserie

The most recognized name in casual high-definition-gay London 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 queer, especially for first-time visitors, with an open front conveniently looking onto gay-friendly Soho catwalk Old Compton St. The tagline is 'haven for the convivial'. However, since its 1993 debut 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. 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 recommended 24-hour Balans Soho No. 34 (previously Soho Café and before that the historically gay-famous Old Compton Café) — a one-minute walk from this Soho mothership. In 2014 Balans closed its outlet in former gay ghetto Earl's Court. In May 2020 it was reported that owing to the impact of COVID-19, the owner of Balans Soho Society (its 21st-century branding) was auctioning off all seven London sites. But as of 30 July 2020, Balans appeared to be back in business, but without the Victoria or Ealing sites, and with a tweaked name. Oh yes...and apparently Stefani Germanotta (aka Lady Gaga) ate here one night in 2009 at 2am.