Who? Chef-owner Bonny Porter was a finalist on Australian MasterChef in 2012. After coming to London Town to cook in the kitchens of The Arts Club and Village East, she decided that a better use of her talents would be to set up a restaurant dedicated to the international marvel of the meatball.
What? The clue’s in the name. Specialising in balls, the choices are mainly of the meat variety but with some fish and veggie options thrown into the mix.
Where? With no obvious name or logo on its shop front, be prepared to take a couple of laps of Soho’s Greek Street before realising this restaurant’s location… It’s trendy to be elusive though, so we’ll forgive them for any embarrassment caused.
With edgy burger joints cropping up on almost every London street corner, there’s no question that Bonny Porter spotted a gap in the market by launching a restaurant specialising in an alternative minced meat form – the ball. Consisting simply of meatballs, accompanying sauces, and a handful of sides, it’s certainly a menu that has a focus – and one that I was intrigued to try.
Nestled discrete and intimate in the heart of Soho, the interior of the restaurant epitomises minimal Scandi chic. The two budding set designers from the Royal Shakespeare Company who are behind it have done a good job at making the most of what is ultimately a very small space. Be sure to check out Company Below, the restaurant’s speakeasy-style bar thriving in the shadows of its Soho basement and the ideal place to enjoy a cocktail or two whilst you wait for your table (as per most recent Soho jaunts, Balls & Company does not take dinner reservations for groups smaller than eight).
An Almond Sour cocktail got the meal off to a good, if a little sweet, start – perhaps I should have foreseen that a combination of amaretto, bourbon, almond butter, egg white, lemon juice, and maraschino cherry spray was going to be more suited as a dessert than an aperitif… In any case, it certainly left my taste buds craving the savoury meatiness of the food that was to come.
It was time for the balls, which came presented in sets of four neatly assembled in a mini copper skillet pan. Salmon and quinoa options were on the menu, but seemed like a somewhat half-hearted attempt to appeal to the non-meat eating crowd; we stuck to classic meat other than one item from the special’s menu – mac & cheese flavoured arancini (Italian deep fried balls of risotto). These were delicious for their deep-fried cheesy naughtiness, but otherwise somewhat lacking in flavour or pizzazz. First up meat-wise; Wagyu beef balls with a romesco sauce. A Spanish king of sauces made from red pepper, tomato, almond, hazelnuts and garlic, this delivered a delicious combination of sharp and sweet to the tongue. The Wagyu, however, served rare and cut into small chunks rather than minced, had a texture that was somewhat at odds with my meatball desires. Pork balls were made with ricotta, parmesan, milk bread, pine nuts, basil & sage, and definitely stole the show with their creamy and savoury delicacy. The pesto sauce we chose as an accompaniment was as any good fresh pesto should be – vibrant green and subtly nutty.
Rather than go for the classic hand cut chips or spaghetti to accompany my balls, I opted for the special of polenta chips with rosemary salt. This was a reckless move which I ended up regretting – I was mistaken in thinking that the polenta would be a lighter accompaniment, but it actually proved to be uncomfortably sickly. Maybe, when it comes to chips, it really is best to stick with what you know.
Cheesecake doughnuts with salted caramel and a brownie with persian fairy floss were shouting, if not screaming, my name from their place on the dessert menu – but meatballs make for a heavy meal, and I decided to settle with ogling over them on Instagram instead (the alien and intriguing Persian floss concoction is sure to have featured on any foodie’s feed at least once).
Would I go back? In short, probably not. Yes, the menu was fun and novel. But to go back a second time would leave me with little option but to choose the exact same dishes – and whilst the food was enjoyable it was also rich enough for me to have had my fill of balls for the foreseeable future.
Price? Surprisingly expensive for what you get, though I feel the £9 cocktail might have been what really tipped the bill over the edge. The balls come in at £9 a pop and the sides at £5 – one of those irritating menus were obligatory sides turn the meal from one of good value into one of not so good value.