Returning to Balans on Kensington High Street was like visiting an old friend who had had a complete image change in the intervening years. My colleagues and I used to come here for a post-work glass of wine of two, sitting squashed into the tall velvet banquettes which lined one wall and made the narrow restaurant look even narrower. Now it’s called Balans Soho Society, the banquettes are gone, a skylight has been opened up in the roof making the space a lot lighter and airier, and oh yes, there’s a tree growing out of one of the tables.
Having been a Kensington fixture for 15 years, which must be something of a record, Balans has rebranded, refurbed and is keen to attract the new generation of local drinkers. The cocktail list has been totally revamped, so as well as high-end classics such as Death in the Afternoon (Hemingway’s favourite – absinthe and champagne) and the Porn Star martini, there is also a whole range of sours, plus home creations with names such as Slap on the Rum and The Society Teddy Bear (served in a honey bear bottle). Continue reading Balans – it’s smarter, sexier and has its very own tree→
‘Location is everything’ so the saying goes – but when it comes to the afternoon drinks and Italian nibbles at the Baglioni hotel in Kensington, it seems location can be a double-edged sword.
I was invited to come along and spend the evening in the sunshine (yes, it was one of those gorgeously warm summer evenings which sadly seem to have ended…) on its outdoor ‘Bellavista terrace’ which, said the hotel, ‘is the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a delicious lunch, dinner or aperitivo after work.’
This all sounded a rather lovely way in which to slide from the working day into a pleasant evening. As a former inhabitant of Rome and Florence I used to love the tradition of having a glass or two of something in the early evening, along with some delicious olives, bread, freshly-sliced salami and wodges of strong cheese.
The Baglioni’s aperitivo menu, available from 5.30-7.30pm every day, costs £15 and included, according to the hotel, ‘a sparkling glass of Bellavista sparkling wine or a delicious Italian cocktail accompanied by a selection of antipasti, salumi or cheeses.’
Equinox London could possibly be one of the most expensive gyms in Kensington, London or even the country. And it doesn’t even have a swimming pool.
But the US fitness chain Equinox, which is huge across America but which has only one outlet in the UK, in London’s posh Kensington postcode (a sister club purely for personal training opened last year in the even posher St James’s district by Piccadilly – check out E by Equinox – also called E St James) is not going to apologise for its eye-watering prices.
‘It’s not fitness – it’s life,’ proclaims its website. And who is going to cut corners on ‘life’?