Balls & Company in the heart of Soho serve proper soul food. Instead of playing around with ball-based puns in this post, let’s cut to the chase: the outstanding food. The concept is simple: the restaurant specialises in balls – both meat and vege – which Australian born Bonny Porter (previously of the Arts Club and Village East, and a finalist in Australia’s MasterChef) elevates to a gourmet level. Although single-dish restaurants can be a bit puritanical, sometimes honing in on the simplest things in life is often the best. Here, Porter’s aim is to make the humble meatball more refined. And she’s definitely succeeded.
The façade is largely undistinguished with a simple blue awning hinting at what’s inside. The interior is much the same, with unassuming white walls dotted here and there with triangles and very cozy seating for no more than 35 people, all eating elbow to elbow. Indeed, my two companions and I, having waited almost an hour in the bar beneath and built up an appetite, squeezed onto a table for two, eager to eat! As our table at the back was right opposite the tiny open kitchen, we had a prime view of the balls (and company) being prepared. Watching the sauce being drizzled over the balls, as they rested on the counter, added a sense of adventure.
Unsurprisingly, the menu is simple and succinct: you pick your balls and sauce, and they arrive as a quartet. Balls are an infinitely adaptable base for seasoning. But just as difficult as choosing the balls was picking the sauce accompaniment: classic tomato; romesco studded with hazlenuts and almonds or a cashew pesto?! Keen to try both vege options, my companions and I shared Quinoa, beetroot and feta (£9), dressed with pesto, and the Carrot, parmesan and sage (£8.50) with romesco.
Each set of balls came served in a small frying pan and garnished with a herby topping, looking sophisticated and delicate. The pesto on the quinoa balls was incredibly seasoned, and the earthy vibrant colour of the beetroot lit up the plate…or saucepan. The highlight for me, though, were the carrot balls. Expertly cooked, it was moist and very well-flavoured. The romesco sauce – something I haven’t yet experimented with in my kitchen – was flawlessly executed: sweet and nutty, it was the perfect accompaniment to the rooty carrots.
Balls & Company, as the name hints, don’t just do balls…The “Company” part of their name plays on the company side dishes which, amazingly, are all vegetarian. I was utterly spoilt for choice: BBQ Corn with pomegranate, jalapeno dressing and puffed wild rice (£7), or classic Polenta Chips seasoned with rosemary and some aoli dippage action (£6). As our waiter recommended the charred Hispi Cabbage (£6), we went for this. Its smoky flavour conjured up all the fun of a summer barbeque – fitting for what has been a very warm April – whilst the almonds added a welcome bite. The effortlessly scattered chilli also just highlights how this place really focus on serving food full of flavour.
In the mood for more smoky vibes, we also shared the Charred Courgette (£8), assembled artfully with tea soaked raisins, pinenuts and ricotta. The courgettes came in all shapes and colours: yellow, green…Here, the sides are more than just “company”; they’re starts of the show in their own right.
Whilst some specialist eateries tend to be momentary (matcha, avocado, the list goes on…), this place is a proper restaurant, serving hearty, well-seasoned food made by highly skilled chefs. More than just a fad, these balls are very likely to keep on rolling…
Balls & Co., 58 Greek Street, Soho, London, W1D 3DY