You may or may not be familiar with MasterChef Australia. It is probably the most successful of all the MasterChef series worldwide, with Series 7 currently showing in the U.K. A couple of years ago they filmed MasterChef Australia: The Professionals. It was judged by one of the three MasterChef Australia regulars, critic and food writer Matt Preston, and the guest co-judge and the chef’s mentor was Marco Pierre White, probably better known as The Godfather of British cookery; you know the one who made Gordon Ramsay cry; or as Marco says, “He chose to cry!”
There was no pussy-footing around in the Australian version of MasterChef: The Professional, as not long after they had arrived they were thrown straight in at the deep end. They were divided up into six groups of three chefs, having to prepare a 3 course meal for 120 guests. The worst performer was eliminated at the end of the service.
One of the 18 contestants was Bonny Porter. At the time the series was filmed, a 23-year-old Junior Chef from Bondi, New South Wales. Bonny did very well, managing to reach the top 6 before being eliminated. Not long after the series ended, inspired by her MasterChef experiences, Bonny went on to work in London at a Private Members Dining Club. but now age 26, has recently opened her own restaurant in Soho called Balls & Company. Some may think an unusual name for a restaurant.
However, once you know what they specialise in, the names kind of makes sense. Balls & Company is a restaurant based around the humble meatball. I have not come across anything like it in London before, but I did when I was in Melbourne last year at a place called The Meatballs & Wine Bar. The fact an Australian had opened a similar style restaurant sort of made sense.
Balls & Company is a casual restaurant, located in Greek Street in Soho. They do not accept reservations in the evening, unless you have a party of over 8 people. However, they have a bar downstairs called Company Below, where if necessary you can wait for a table to become free, whilst sampling their range of cocktails or craft beers. When we arrived the evening rush had not started and we had a choice of tables to sit at. Our waitress recommended that to enjoy what the menu had to offer, was to select a few different meatballs and share, which worked perfectly for us. Trouble was what to choose, it all sounded good! We were given a bowl of fried parsnip chips that were moreishly sweet and salty, while we decided.
You can choose from five different meatballs, served in fours. Wagyu served medium rare; Pork with ricotta, parmesan, milk bread, pine nuts, basil and sage; Chicken, thyme, lemon and dijon; Salmon, dill and seeds; Quinoa, beetroot and feta. The sauces were Tomato classic sugo; Bechamel, creamy ricotta and parmesan; Romesco, red pepper, tomato, almonds, hazelnuts and garlic; Pesto, basil, lemon, garlic and cashew nuts.
We chose Waygu with Romesco, Pork with Pesto and Quinoa with Bechamel. As a side dish we had something off the specials menu, a rather good Crispy Brussels Sprout with Lentils and Mint.
The meatballs were delicious, they were moist and all full of flavour. The Romesco and Pesto sauces were punchy and the Bechamel smooth and creamy, exactly what we were looking for and the perfect accompaniments. The side dish of Crispy Fried Brussels Sprouts with Lentils was sensational. They lentils were soft with a good bite and the Brussels sprouts had a good charred flavour, the mint giving a fresh burst to the palate.
Time for dessert. Glazed Balsamic Figs with Ricotta and Brandy Snaps and Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Ice Cream and Persian Fairy Floss. The balsamic and ricotta was excellent accompaniment to the rich figs. The brownie was fudgey and comforting. The fairy floss was like a vanilla flavoured candy floss.
I wouldn’t hesitate returning. Service was very good and the food was a simple idea, but the execution was of an exceptionally high standard. Now, I don’t know how much influence Marco Pierre White had on Bonny during her time in the competition, but she is definitely getting something right.
Balls & Company, 58 Greek Street, Soho, London W1D 3DY