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A guide to brunching in London

I don’t think this is a particularly controversial thing for me to say (as I can’t imagine anyone will disagree) but brunch is easily the best meal of the day. Probably because if you’re working a 9-5 then brunch is a meal that is only possible two days a week so it has more of a novelty value. Poached eggs with a runny yolk, pancakes, Eggs Benedict, bacon … these are some of my favourite things. As such, I’ve brunched often since my move to London so I’ve complied a list of where I’ve been. Since I’ve done this alphabetically, I didn’t mean to leave the best until last but that is basically what has happened (although there are some other greats elsewhere on the list as well) – so make sure you make it to the end of this post!

1. Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings

Where: Clerkenwell

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If there are sweeter words than “bottomless brunch” in the English language then I do not know what they are – and that is exactly what Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings offers. I went for a friend’s birthday and I could not have been more excited. We arrived to find our table wasn’t ready for the time of our booking. I was a little concerned as we’d been told we could only have the table for an hour and a half but thankfully the clock didn’t start until we were finally seated (and then I’m pretty sure we were there for closer to 2 hours).

The bottomless option only applied to drinks: bellinis for £18 or Bloody Marys for £17. I went for the former. I want to like Bloody Marys, I really do (they look amazing) but I just don’t. I thought the prices were quite reasonable, particularly considering the fact the waiters were so attentive. Once you put down an empty glass, it wasn’t long before it was getting replaced with a full one. The waiters kept a tally of exactly how many we had – lets just say we got our money’s worth by quite a way.

We were seated in a white room, full of hanging plants and chairs with floral patterns. It felt like a luxurious conservatory. It felt like somewhere you’d stay on holiday. It took me a while to choose what I actually wanted but I settled on the crispy potato hash with braised beef, hollandaise sauce, crispy shallots and an egg. It just sounded so good – and it was. Although this place is at the top of this list because it’s ordered alphabetically, it was also one of my favourite brunching experiences. Ever.

If you want to read more about my amazing brunch, click here.

2. The Bluebird

Where: Chelsea 

UK - London The Bluebird

If you think you’ve heard of The Bluebird on the King’s Road before, it’s because you’ve watched Made In Chelsea and the cast seem to hang out there often. The Flatmate and I decided to go when we were looking for somewhere nice to do afternoon tea. We called to book one Sunday morning close to Christmas but discovered they need 24 hours notice and their afternoon tea (£22.50) in the restaurant was already fully booked. However, they offered a walk in “Tiny Tea” (£10) in the cafe section from 2pm, which consisted of tea and a scone and no bookings were necessary. That worked.

The Bluebird has a nice outside seating area but on my visit it was too cold, so I queued for a short while for the cafe. As I was led, I was greeted by a long counter top, surrounded by coloured tables. The place had the feeling of a diner but less American and more quaint. The floor was covered in black and white tiles and the walls were partially covered by hanging china plates. The restaurant, which was lavishly decorated for the festive season, was a bit more sophisticated. Underneath the blanket of decorations, I recognised the scene from MIC.

I couldn’t spot Tiny Tea on the menu but planned to enquire until I was distracted by the brunch options. I didn’t want to spend too much, which ruled out many options, but I settled on the Eggs Benedict (£9) and an Earl Grey tea, which came in a deconstructed form –  a glass pot of hot water, a plate of lemon slices, one teabag and a teacup and saucer. For the price I would have liked tea leaves. Instead I had to repeatedly soak one teabag – since I was at least given enough water for more than one cup. My drink took a while to arrive but my food did not. My portion size wasn’t as small as I had feared so I finished pretty full but not stuffed. The Eggs Benedict was nice but not the best I’ve had. The hollandaise sauce wasn’t as overpowering as it can sometimes be but it did lack flavour a bit.

3. The Blues Kitchen

Where: Brixton, Camden and Shoreditch 

UK - London Blues Kitchen brunchUK - London Blues Kitchen

Not only is The Blues Kitchen somewhere you can go for breakfast, lunch and dinner but it also a night-time destination if you’re looking for a few drinks and live music – or so I’ve heard. So far I’ve only made it for brunch at the Brixton branch. The interior is pretty interesting, with ceramic tiles on the walls and pillars, brown leather booths with wooden backs and bare, rustic walls. It was very Southern America (by which I mean New Orleans, not Brazil) – which made sense for a blues bar. At 1pm on a Saturday, the place was busy but I was still seated in a booth right away.

I was tempted by the Beef Short Rib Hash (£10.50) –  beef short rib, shallots and potato chips, topped with a duck egg – but settled on the Pig & Biscuits option (£8.50) – biscuits with pulled pork, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce and bacon bits. I’d never had American biscuits before and didn’t think they added much, they just acted as something to fill me up. They were kind of like a harder English muffin. The combination of all the flavours in my dish was nice though. It was certainly better than my companions beef short rib hash, which was a bit mushy. I did find the service wasn’t great. One of my friends wanted to substitute something on one dish but was not allowed, for no particular reason, and when the other complained about the rib hash she was just fobbed off. I think this venue may be better for drinks and music. Although the burgers did look great – I do want to go back and try one of those.

4. The Breakfast Club

Where: Angel, Battersea Rise, Canary Wharf, Hackney Wick, Hoxton, London Bridge, Soho and Spitalfields 

UK - London Breakfast Club

American diner brunches are one of my favourite things ever – the inevitable offering of pancakes, maple syrup and bacon is my main draw – so even though I knew a trip to The Breakfast Club inevitably involved a long queue, I was willing to put in the time. As it was, on the Sunday morning I visited The Breakfast Club’s Battersea Rise/Clapham Junction branch at 11am, I had to wait 30 minutes. It could have been worse. The inside felt like a diner inside an old fashioned kitchen and the furniture was a mish mash of different tables and chairs. The service was a bit slow but it was busy. My virgin mojito was good but £4.30 was a lot for a glorified apple juice.

The menu had a lot of tasty sounding options on it. I settled on the All American option: American pancakes with maple syrup, poached eggs, a sausage, bacon and fried potatoes (£11). My egg whites were a bit watery but the yolk was perfect and I could hardly have it both ways. I could also have done with a bit more bacon to cover my pancakes but I was probably too full to eat anymore anyway. The cherry on top of the cake however was the fried potatoes – I don’t know how they get them to taste like that. Unfortunately, my brunch companions were less impressed. I think sometimes it is better to have fewer options that are done well as opposed to a lot, some of which are less good. I think the secret to The Breakfast Club is the pancake options, along with those potatoes, because I definitely won with those.

5. Cereal Killer Cafe

Where: Brick Lane, Camden

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I am a firm believer that cereal tastes better when its eaten at any time and in any place other than at home in the mornings. Like if you have it at while staying at a hotel or if you have it for dinner. But whatever the time and whatever the place I really do love cereal. So even though there has been some controversy around London’s Cereal Killer Cafe that was not going to put me off going. Many people have complained about an establishment that charges £4-£5 for a bowl of cereal but at the end of the day it’s a small, independent business located in two popular areas of a very expensive city and some of the cereal options are imported. All in all, their overheads must be insane.

I arrived early one Sunday afternoon to helpfully find that my friends had already grabbed spots in the relatively long queue that snaked outside. It still took a while for us to reach the front but that was actually quite helpful because it took me ages to decide what I wanted. There were two options: your own mix or one of the cereal cocktails. I went for the latter because at least that narrowed it down somewhat. The inside of the place was unsurprisingly decorated with cereal boxes and wasn’t particularly big for somewhere so popular. Still, once we’d reached the front of the queue and ordered, we didn’t have to wait for a place to sit so we could tuck in straight away.

I’d finally settled on the Unicorn Poop (£4.90) which was made up of ricicles, party rings, mini marshmallows,  creamy marshmallow “fluff” and hundreds and thousands. It was as good as it sounds. The chocolate milk I had to drink wasn’t as sweet as I expected, which helpfully balanced out the super sweetness of my cereal combination.

6. The Diner

Where: Camden, Covent Garden, Dalston, Gloucester Road, Islington, Shoreditch, Soho, Spitalfields and The Strand

UK - London The Diner

As you can probably guess from the title, The Diner is an American-style… diner. A chain of diners in fact. I’ve been on a few occasions now to the branches in Islington and Covent Garden but I couldn’t tell you what I had (there are a lot of options) – a couple of burger-based dinners (judging by my old blurred photo from The Diner) and a brunch that would probably have consisted of something with pancakes or French toast. Everything was fine but not amazing. That is with a couple of exceptions. Firstly the milkshakes which are practically a meal in themselves. I went for the Oreo one which was marginally more expensive than most of the others – £5.50 as opposed to £4.50 – but when do you pass up the chance of anything Oreo flavoured?! Secondly, on my last visit, I ordered the breakfast burger, which came complete with a honey roasted sausage patty, fried egg, streaky bacon, cheese, caramelised onions and burger sauce, sandwiched in a sesame bun (£7). It was one of those meals I didn’t want to end.

7. Dishoom

Where: Carnaby, Covent Garden, King’s Cross and Shoreditch

UK - London Dishoom

I’ve wanted to go to Dishoom for absolutely ages but never been able to. I tried to go to the one in King’s Cross for dinner one Thursday night but arrived to find a 2-hour queue (no that is not a typo). Dishoom is seriously popular but you can only book for tables bigger than 6. So, with that in mind, I tried to book a table for 11 at the Covent Garden branch about 10 days in advance but apparently you can only book for tables of 10 there and I’d left it too late even for that.

Finally, however, I made it for brunch at Dishoom’s Shoreditch restaurant. My brunch buddy and I had to wait for around 35 minutes or so but we could spend part of this time drinking a nice pot of Darjeeling green tea at a table by the bar so it didn’t seem so bad. Dishoom is inspired by the old Irani cafes of Bombay. The Shoreditch branch has a bit of a colonial feel, with lots of dark wood and an old fashioned bar and furniture and black and white pictures on the wall. However, there is also a distinctly Shoreditch feel, with its exposed piping on the ceiling.

My companion and I were seated in another part of the restaurant that felt more like a conservatory, again there was the brown wood and striped walls but there was also some potted plants and comfy chairs, alongside the tables. Next, I needed to decide what to order – which was easier said than done. I’d heard from a friend that the Bacon Naan Roll (£5.50) was delicious but I also was tempted by The Big Bombay (£11.50) – Dishoom’s answer to a full English: Akuri spiced scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, masala baked beans, grilled mushroom, grilled tomato and buttered pau buns. My friend was tempted by both too so we decided to go halves on each. This was a genius plan. There was a lot of hype for it to live up to and it was still good but I still think I need to go there for dinner to really experience the best of Dishoom.

8. Duck & Waffle

Where: near Liverpool Street

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Duck & Waffle isn’t just any restaurant, its a snazzy 24/7 restaurant on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in the City. Going for a late night/early morning/post night out brunch has been on my bucket list pretty much since I moved to London over a year ago. I just never got round to it – if I’m on a night out, it is generally nowhere near Liverpool Street. But then the night tube (starting with the two tube lines I’d need) arrived in London the day before my 25th birthday celebrations – and so a plan formed. A bar in King’s Cross and Duck & Waffle when it closed. We arrived as a party of nine at around 3ish. We had no idea how long we’d have to wait for a table (not knowing what people would want to do on the night I hadn’t booked) but, after having got the glass, vertigo inducing lift (which admittedly has a great view) to the restaurant, we were told it would be a 30 minute wait by the bar. However (possibly after the staff realised we were not going to be buying anything from the bar) we were told that actually there was a table available right away.

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I already knew what I wanted before I sat down: the ox cheek grilled cheese sandwich with a fried egg (£13), which I had heard much about. Either that or the restaurant’s namesake dish: duck confit with a fried duck egg and, of course, a waffle (£17). Unfortunately, by this point in the night, I was tired and not feeling great. I didn’t think I was up to all that bread or even the waffle so I went for the shakshuka (eggs with harissa yoghurt, mint and toast for £12). It wasn’t quite what I usually look for in brunch food but it was still tasty and definitely what I needed at the time. I will most definitely be going back but I will probably try and book a table at a more normal dining time and order what I really want (which will probably be the duck and waffle as I have since checked the menus and discovered the ox cheek sandwich is only available on the late nights)! I also want to check out that view in the daytime!

9. Friends of Ours

Where: Hoxton

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I ended up at Friends of Ours quite by chance, after a visit to the Victoria Miro Gallery near Old Street. My original plan had been to find food around Spitalfields but I bumped into friends en route who told me I had to try this place. So I did. And I was not disappointed. The place is an Australian-inspired cafe, which does not look out of place in East London. (I knew before I arrived if my friends liked it then it would probably be a little bit hipster!)

The menu was full of twists on classic brunch dishes. I can’t quite remember what it was I ordered (unhelpful, I know) but there was pancetta, peas, spring onions and some type of spiced tomato sauce, all topped with a fried egg (it’s not brunch without some type of runny yolk). It didn’t quite satisfy my standard brunch cravings, which to be fair can’t really be satisfied by anything that’s not Eggs Benedict, French toast, pancakes or a fry up, but it was good to have something a bit different. There were also some amazing looking sweet treats on the counter next to my table, which for some ridiculous reason I did order (of all the times to decide I need to save some pennies) but I will not make that mistake again.

10. Hood

Where: Streatham Hill

UK - London Hood

Hood Streatham has a modern, yet still characterful, interior and was quite busy on the early Saturday afternoon I visited, but so not busy I had to wait for a seat. The menu had a mix of interesting looking dishes at varying prices, with some classic and some less-classic more-quirky options. I chose the Dirty Dexter (£8), an English muffin with rib hash or bubble and squeak, a fried egg and melted cheese. I went with the rib hash option. I can’t say it was a taste sensation (and I was also a bit disappointed that my orange juice seemed to just be out of a carton) but it was certainly good enough for me to want to go back to the place. The Flatmate’s pork belly (£14.50), however, looked amazing and apparently tasted just as good. I’d get that next time.

11. The London Particular

Where: New Cross

UK - London Particular

The morning after the Friday-night before, my friends and I were after something for brunch- my favourite meal of the day. We ended up at the quirky London Particular, located on the busy New Cross Road, next to the station. The cafe itself can be found in two, small adjacent buildings, one of which is airplane inspired: including airplane seats, doors, life jackets and portholes (I don’t know the equivalent for airplane windows). Since it was relatively busy and there was a big group of us, we sat at the big tables outside.

To the food- I went for the aptly named the “bad vegetarian sandwich” which is basically a code name for a bacon sarnie. But that’s not all it was, it also had halloumi, tomatoes, rocket and mayonnaise. I don’t know how all bacon sandwiches don’t have all that- it’s genius. It is easily one of the best I have ever had, up there with Adnams Brewery’s bacon. My friend had an English muffin with cress, mushrooms and a soft-boiled egg which looked insanely good.

12. Senzala Creperie

Where: Brixton

UK - London Senzala Creperie

As its name would suggest, Senzala Creperie has a pancake-based menu with no shortage of options. You might wonder how filling a pancake can be but these ones come so stuffed that that really is not a problem. The decor inside Senzala’s Brixton Village eatery is Brazilian inspired which contrasts with the menu’s many options of French crepes and galettes, both sweet and savoury. Given the fact I was there for brunch, I ordered the English Breakfast option, with came with cheese, mushrooms, bacon, tomatoes and topped with a fried egg. It might have been a bit more expensive and there were similar dishes that were cheaper but it just had everything that I wanted. As much as I love all things cheese (and rarely eat a meal without it), I did think the amount of it here did mask some of the other flavours in my pancake but it was still pretty good and I certainly got my money’s worth filling-wise.

13. Tried and True

Where: Putney

UK - London Tried and True

I’ve tried Tried and True on a couple of occasions now, after Putney nights out with a friend who used to live across the road. The first time we visited, I wasn’t exactly feeling great. However, I can never not order brunch and since I have an obsession with pickle, I ordered the sausage sandwich with onion jam and Branston pickle. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to motivate me to actually eat and so I preceded to pick at it whilst I drank my nice loose leaf tea. I think traditional sausages sandwich with just ketchup (and maybe, if you’re splashing out, a runny fried egg) are the best.

On my second trip, I shared the Eggs Benedict  and the creamy portobello mushrooms with pesto on toast, with an optional poached egg, with one of my brunch companions. The only tiny issue was that, as a vegetarian, she ordered the Eggs Benedict with spinach as opposed to my preferred bacon option. Everything tastes better with bacon. Both dishes turned up looking delicious but, I have to admit, neither hit the spot. They tasted fine, they just were not as full of flavour as I’d hoped or expected. I had a nice pot of loose leaf tea again though.

14. Wild Caper

Where: Brixton

UK - London Wild Caper

Wild Caper is the first place I went to for brunch since becoming a Londoner and nowhere has topped it since. The small restaurant serves Eastern Mediterranean food as well as some classic brunch options. On my first visit, I did have to wait a while for a table amongst the stands of freshly baked bread, which smelled awesome but did make me even hungry. On my second visit (which may have been less morning and more early afternoon, I think) I was able to walk right in. On both visits I went for the option with grilled smoked Gloucester Old Spot back bacon, poached Clarence Court free range eggs & Hollandaise sauce on toasted sourdough bread. It was so good the first time I didn’t need to think twice about ordering again on my next visit. I also had a nice pot of Earl Grey tea with actual tea leaves, with went very well with my amazing breakfast.

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1 Comment

  1. Great stuff Ellis – we will try some of these places. Our favourite place for breakfast/brunch is still The Table Cafe see: wadeandrockandfood.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/breakfastthe-table-cafe-southwark

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