Balans, Bluewater, looks to build on growing customer base with eclectic set menu deal (From News Shopper)
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Balans, Bluewater, looks to build on growing customer base with eclectic set menu deal
BRANCHING out into Bluewater has not been easy for Balans.
Opening up in the shopping centre’s new plaza area last year, the brand’s sixth UK restaurant and its first outside London, it had a slower than expected start.
Up against giants like Nando’s – where punters queue up to get in - and Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Italian, it has been difficult to persuade people to take a chance on a name they have never hear heard of.
Balans is strong in London, attracting celebs like Lady Gaga, Kate Moss and Boy George with its eclectic menu, huge cocktail list and date-night feel.
The Kent version has elegant decor and a large, inviting bar, pitched at its target market of over 25s. It looks perfect for a date night.
But it is a different beast. For starters Balans Bluewater sells much less booze, probably because an out of town shopping centre is not such an attractive prospect for drinking.
There are question marks about how many people would be willing to drive to Bluewater for breakfast too.
But as time goes on, Balans believes it is firming up its place with a lot of repeat customers.
On the night I visited to test out the new set menu, it is still quiet.
The problem is Balans tries to please everyone.
It goes from punting for couples, but then there are booths more suitable for groups or families and a children’s menu.
If the main menu is eclectic, the £9.95 two-course set menu intensifies that to the extent that is all over the place.
The starters – calamari, quesadillas or shredded duck spring rolls – couldn’t be more different. Nor could the mains – Thai red curry, salmon fish cakes, gnocchi and a hefty burger.
Suffice to say the food is very good. The curry has soft roasted vegetables and a gentle heat, while my fellow diner’s burger is a meaty wedge of fat, tasty burger topped with cheese, bacon and accompanied by chunky hand-cut chips.
If you are a pudding person, you can’t lose with the flourless chocolate pecan brownie which comes with creamy pistachio ice cream.
Once again Balans proves to be all over the place. The meal is good value, but then you can expect to wash it down with an – admittedly good – cocktail which costs the same as the food, or a pricey bottle of wine. It is all very frustrating.
Despite this, Balans would be great for a date. The food costs less than it tastes like it ought to, everyone will surely find something they like on the menu and you can impress with cocktails or wind down with a crisp mint tea.
Perhaps they just shouldn’t try to please everyone.