Sunday, 12 June 2011

What The Hell Am I Doing, Drinking in...

Chiswick? Way less cool than the eponymous song of the 90s, and quite expensive to boot. We're meant to be saving to join the ranks of the 'first time buyers' (not in Chiswick, though, where we could afford a shoebox. In the middle of the road,. With a hole in it). Erk. Imprudent Perdita. To be fair, I have been good of late. In order to further preserve pennies I have avoided high-street and designer (outlets, natch) shops for a while and stuck to charity shops and ebay.

However my wardrobe is still bulging and my clothesrail has collapsed for the umpteenth time. I fear I may have a bargain addiction. Here is one of my recent splurges, plus a little cocktail review...

First, my totally tropical Dune mules. These were brand new (labels still on) in our local Barnardos. The (shall remain un-named to protect the innocent) branch of Barnardos has recently taken to some very random pricing - you'll find 60s Denby (5 pieces £10) for less than 80s Eternal Beaux (6 pieces £30!!) - I think they are trying to compete with the Oxfam up the road and pricing vintage accordingly, but whoever is doing it has little knowledge and just doubles the price on Floral/Victorian-looking items with no understanding of branding, true age etc'. Equally, off-the-market Gucci looking stuff will often gather dust, woefully overpriced- whilst something genuine with a subtle label is snapped up for pennies.

Anyway, although genuine top-end-high-street, there's nothing subtle about these (£3, with the £80 tag still on) mules which I picked up en-route to watch Reading lose in the playoffs a couple of Saturdays ago:

Never mind Reading, these are a Norwich FC WAG's dream shoe
Totally tropical! I wore them to the mysterious Lilac Lady's birthday drinks in Chiswick the next Friday.

Typically for me, I didn't actually get any photos of the rest of my outfit: capri length fitted jeans and a loose chiffon blouse (over a body, I am tres modest) in yellow, green, mauve and orange abstract patterns, tied at the waist. 50s Atomic BBQ crossed with 70s Mustique chic. Via Oxfam and Primarni, natch.

We went to Balans, part of the cafe-bar chain. The one in Chiswick has a terrace in the front, sheltered from the sound of Smartcars, Fiats and yummy mummies saying 'No Tarquin, don't put that in your mouth darling...' by a large board with rather un-Balans-like chalk offers on it and a much more brand-friendly row of neatly trimmed hedges. I was going to say 'neatly trimmed bushes' but that sounds rude. So yeah, I just said it anyway.

So, we sat out. The waiting staff are all young and toothsome (and possibly students at Arts Ed theatre school, waiting to be discovered-if you'll excuse the pun. Which you shouldn't, it's terrible). They're sometimes forgetful but always pop back with a smile rather than letting an error get too far. On weekdays in the early evening, there's a happy hour for a limited number of their cocktails. These are all the same price and come as 2-for-1. The only problem is they have to be the same two: fine if you have an even number of people with similar taste. Luckily that's how LL and I roll:

Sicilian Kiss: deliciously lemony (the pink is passionfruit)
However it can get a bit irritating if someone orders their one (with the other free) and the other isn't too keen: after all, we all have different tastes. As these cocktails are all pretty much the same price, a 'cheapest of the 2 free' deal would surely make more sense? This isn't somewhere where the happy-hour drinks are bulk-made using mixes, so it seems odd that their happy-hour is 'pitcher-esque' (ie more of the same). This particular type of offer reminds me of low-class chains and student bars: a far cry from Balans target customer and indeed not in line with their pricing and ambience. Who knew an innocent special offer could be so socially specific?

Oh No! Blogger has deleted the end of this post including the cocktail reviews. Grrr. Please hang on whilst I attempt to recover it all/re-write it...excuse rushed copy below...

The cocktails at Balans are far from goldfish-bowl-and-pitcher student fodder - they're utterly, deliciously fresh and well presented. Frozen ones ooze, temptingly, over the top of their glasses, leading to icecream moments of 'quick, drink it before it melts!'. I particuarly enjoyed the Margaritas, although LL found them to have too much of a tequila punch (I don't think there is such a thing as too much of a tequila punch, personally).

Frozen margaritas.
They go with my shoes and contain tequila. Happy!
Diaquiri - too sweet fot me but oozingly delicious
for those who like their drinks fruity.
Unfortunately the weather defeated our sunny cocktail efforts. The wind must have got a sniff of those fierce margaritas. A powerful gust lifted menus, napkins and sugar packets Dorothy-in-the-tornado style and sent them tumbling across the small yard, followed pell-mell by toothsome waiting staff and an excitable but portly dog from the flats above. Chaos reigned. For once, we had not been the direct cause of the chaos and merely slipped, unobtrusively, to a table inside.

Which brings me to my only other gripe with the bar. Two gripes are, for me, quite a low number. I am a notorious fusspot. Twas this; in most cafes, bars, restaurants-with-bars and indeed hotels, you can usually buy nibbles for pre-dinner drinks. Things like cashew nuts, rice crackers or wasabi peas: essentially, posher versions of crisps or peanuts. Indeed at some - pricier - places, a bowl is offered gratis. To make you thirstier, natch, but still offered. At Balens, it is cooked starters/sides or nothing; the jars of nuts and twiglets most mid-high end bars and cafes have behind the counter, and the pre-starter bites section on the menu are absent. This seems odd when they clearly cater to a happy-hour crowd who will be eating later (whether with them or elsewhere) and might well want some salty snacks to share. We had booked for a Thai at 8pm and wanted a little nibble to for the table. The waiter suggested a 'side' (mmm, yes, I'll have a bowl of mash with my Singapore sling). Very odd.

All in all, a delicious afternoon. Balans have branches all over London, so check out their website for a full drinks (and food) menu.


  1. Loving the shoes - what a bargain! My local chaz shop does similar, I got my Galliano dress for £6, or there was a (trashed) Monsoon one next to it for a tenner.

    I had the best cocktail while I was in Malta - Berry Mojito. I don't normally approve of attempts to alter the classics, but it was amazing, with a load of blackberries at the bottom, drink plus healthy snack in one.

  2. Hmm, perhaps the Mash Mojito could have been the answer to your woes!

  3. What cute mules, they look the perfect footwear for knocking back cocktails. Shame you didn't snap the rest of the outfit, it sounds gorgeous.
    When I snaffled a mid-60s Jean Varon cocktail dress from £4.95 from a local chazza the other day they had a Dorothy Perkins dress next to it for £9.95...madness!
    Our local pubs often have dishes of black pudding on the bar, not very veggie-friendly but, my carnivorous pals assure me, taste excellent with a pint of ale. xxx

  4. First off thanks so much for your lovely comment on my blog post, much appreciated :-)

    I really love cocktails so I now have a hankering for some. Will have to sit tight till next Friday. I hope you do find somewhere to buy soon and I love your mules too.

  5. You mean you're not a fan of mash and cocktails? Perfect combination, surely?

    I've given up on Barnados. They colour sort the rails (which I really hate) and everything is horrendously overpriced - an Oasis dress last time I went in was marked up at £39.99!

  6. Noms, those cocktails look gooood. My local charity shops are so overpriced, I rarely buy anything from them. I ahve to venture further for proper bargains. And I'm with Alex, colour coding drives me mental! xx

  7. Another for the colour-coded overpriced chazzas!

    Those mules are gorgeous, as the rest of the outfit sounds.

    I've never really had cocktails, but those sound great and looks like you enjoyed yourselves x

  8. Hi Perdita, loving those Norwich City mules and what a barg. Don't get me started on charity shops and their, sometimes, odd and annoying pricing - it's my favourite topic of conversation!

  9. Actually - I AM a fan of colour coded rails. Make my charity shopping a LOT easier. But prices are on the up ladies - everywhere.

    Mmmm.... frozen margarita!!!! *slurp*

  10. Hi my dear-those mules were definitely a fabulous find and the cocktail bar sounds deliscious, sounds a great time out-I spelt delicious wrong, but it seems quite appropriate all the same, lol!!

  11. Cute mules, wish we could of seen your outfit amor.
    What a bargain, i know charity shop are well over priced, but still love looking.
    Mmm frozen margaritas, how yummy.

  12. Colour coding in shops really drives me mad, it is just insane!! Lovely shoes what a find x

  13. Sweet shoes! I haven't been out in Chiswick for a long time, I like it but it has always had some slight Sloaney pretensions (whilst obviously Hammersmith (where I am from) is class personified. Errr...)

    Come charity shopping in Reading with me, there are still bargains to be found outside of the town centre. I was disappointed Reading weren't promoted, I wanted so much to get all my football friends down my new local

  14. Just found your fabulous blog! Now going off to have a good read :o) Scarlett x

  15. Those shoes are gorgeous!


  16. Love the mules and your description of your outfit is brilliant. Hope all's good with you xx


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