…And that’s the one and only innuendo I’ll make in this post, I promise. We’re both better than that.
London’s recent fixation with single-dish restaurants is one I’m not yet sure what to make of. On one hand, surely focusing on just one thing allows smaller restaurants to really carve out a niche. On the other, part of the joy of eating out is the choosing. Who knows what mood you’ll be in when the exact moment of ordering rolls around? I suppose it does cut down on FOMOOF – Fear Of Missing Out On Food – which occurs when you suspect someone else has ordered something better than you, but…well. It does take some of the fun out of it.
That said, Balls & Co. does quite a good job of keeping its meatball concept playful. There are no starters – except olives, which don’t count – but you do get a little pail of crisp parsnip shavings to start. It’s a nice touch (especially as the service was a little slow; I needed something to do with my hands while I waited ten minutes for a glass of Malbec to materialise).
While you eat your parsnips you can select your balls with mix ‘n match-style sauces. We chose the Wagyu with ‘Romano’ – red peppers, tomatoes, hazelnuts and garlic – the pork with ‘Bechamel’ – creamy ricotta and paramesan – and the arancini from the Specials menu, which, lamentably, came with no sauce at all.
The arancini was fine, but at £7 for four it seemed a poor deal compared to the meaty alternatives, £9 and £8 respectively. Special my ass; next time I’ll order the chicken. Or more of the pork, which was sensational: juicy balls of succulent meat seasoned with ricotta, parmesan, basil and sage, topped with the thick Bechamel sauce. If I was going to be picky I’d say they need to serve the sauces on the side in a (warm) boat; they were a little cold by the time we finished.
The Wagyu was good – I think in hindsight I may have preferred the traditional tomato sauce to the red pepper – but it wasn’t the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen done with Wagyu. I’d like to see a bit experimentation in the beef ball division. The owner, Bonny Porter, is an Aussie Masterchef finalist, so surely it’s not unreasonable to expect something a little bit more memorable?
Other options included quinoa, beetroot, and salmon, dill and seeds. It’s nice to see Balls & Co buck the curious correlation of London’s side dishes, i.e. the more you pay, it seems, the fewer chips you seem to get. Fortunately, our £4 bowls of chunky chips and side salad were generously sized. What I really wanted was a side of that glorious Bechamel sauce to dip my chips in to, and Balls & Co are missing a trick by not offering side portions.
Lots of people seemed to have plumped for the’ polenta chips, also £4 on the Specials menu, which looked good enough to warrant a second visit.
Like everywhere in Soho nowadays, Balls & Co do not take reservations, and there was a short wait for punters arriving after 7:00pm on a Wednesday night. It’s a teeny tiny restaurant with quite a cosy vibe, good for a date or a catch-up with close friends. At the back three lady chefs were slinging their balls in an open-kitchen more suited to a studio apartment than a fully-functioning restaurant, but they were getting the food out in good time.
Our bill came to around £50 for three portions of balls, a bowl of chips, house salad, two glasses of wine, a G&T and service. Not bad, though if you’re more than moderately hungry you might want another batch of balls. We decided to skip pudding and instead finish up our evening at Crosstown Doughnuts, a late-night doughnut shop sandwiched between Paul A. Young’s Soho branch (try their Aztec Hot Chocolate ASAP) and Agent Provocateur on Broadwick Street.
We were both pretty full so we went for ‘classic’ doughnuts, which start around £2.50. Their ‘premium’ brethren, adorned with fancy sprinkles and pumped with all kinds of exotic fillings, cost more like £3.50, which is pretty steep for a doughnut, even one that’s trans-fat free. I chose the Vanilla Tonga Bean, Hannah the Belgian Chocolate Truffle Ring, which came dusted in cocoa powder. They were both great but extremely heavy-going; Crosstown use freshly baked sourdough, so its doughnuts are dense and bready rather than doughy (like Krispy Kremes).
They are, IMO, a little expensive for doughnuts, but as a one-off treat they’re fine. If you’re in Soho just before it shuts at 10pm, it’s worth stopping by as they often reduce their stock. I scored some
doughnut bargain brownie points bringing a couple of mini ones back for Mike for 50p a piece.
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in East London and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.