Breakfasting venue: Lower East Side Deli
Date of breakfasting: 8am, Wednesday 18th November
Location: 28 Scrutton Street, EC2A 4RP
Nearest tube: Old Street
Breakfasting venue: Lower East Side Deli
Date of breakfasting: 8am, Wednesday 18th November
Location: 28 Scrutton Street, EC2A 4RP
Nearest tube: Old Street
Continuing our ongoing odyssey to discover new and exciting breakfast experiences, October was the month for a taste of down under with Kiwi contender Kopapa. Despite what the wisdom of the internet is liable to tell you, .Kopapa is not at Turkish outfit, but is the brainchild of a couple of New Zealanders
As such it apparently has a semi-mythic status in the London Kiwi community as a place to offer a taste of home, or at least a feel of home – and their menu does appear to offer a few “off the beaten track” options, so it seems worth a look in. I arrive ten minutes before 8, and operation opening up is clearly still in progress with the door locked, so I perch at a table outside for the requisite ten minutes. I’m still not sure why some places seem to prefer their potential customers to loiter out in the cold than to invite them to come and sit in at least, even if they can’t order until the ‘official’ opening time.
Full English doesn’t really seem to be making the most of the opportunity here (not to mention that it isn’t really a proper option on the menu, and would have to be constructed from a combination of the egg dishes with various sides (I suppose that being a proudly non-British institution, one can’t really argue that the presence of the Full English should be compulsory, but come on guys … a courtesy tip of the hat to your physical location is always going to be a winner!)
As it is, Brekmeister goes fully native and opts for the spiced banana French toast, grilled bacon, orange blossom labne, tamarind raisin relish and orange vanilla syrup – despite only knowing what approximately half of the ingredients actually are. But what the hell, it sounds exotic, right? With a side of chorizo, more as a backup plan than anything else. Co-breakfaster plumps sensibly for the slightly more straightforward Turkish eggs (from Changa restaurant, Istanbul, allegedly).
The Turkish eggs are a veritable grease-bath, it turns out. One of the advantages I suppose of offering weird and wonderful options is that it’s harder for people to tell what they are actually supposed to be like, and despite the potential hypocrisy of a self-avowed aficionado of the greasy-spoon breakfast raising qualms about the greasiness of a breakfast, there is something about two eggs served floating in a bowl of oil that just feels like it could do with some refining, even if that is how it’s supposed to be.
The French toast was, well, certainly good for what it was – although it did unfortunately confirm my preference against sugar-laden starts to the gastronomic day. No blame for anyone but myself there, however – although even with that consideration put aside, it seems pertinent to note that the exotic and delicate flavours suggested by the dish description are a bit lost in the whole sweetness explosion of the dish. In fact, it’s even a bit of a task to taste the bacon through all the sugar at some points. In that sense, the chorizo is indeed a bit of a reprieve, and certainly comes in generous quantity.
An honourable mention for the coffee, which is certainly invigorating. If I came here again, I’d make a better choice of dish – but at £10 for any of the fry-up options, none of which appear to consist of any more than 3 items, it’s certainly an expensive place to go for what I would consider to be a proper fry up breakfast once you’ve added the requisite sides to fill it out – and at that stage there are many better options. So I probably won’t be coming again.
It’s a sad month for Breakfast Wednesday, as we note with mournful heart the end of the road for London Review of Breakfasts. LRB was a repository of all that was best about breakfast on the net – fantastic write-ups, mouth-watering snaps and good humour to boot. Fortunately this treasure trove of breakfasting wit and wisdom will not be lost to us, but there will be no more additions. Farewell LRB, you have served us well. One fewer cheat’s route to finding a new breakfast spot!
But as always, the end of one era is the beginning of another. The Brekmeister is most pleased to confim his induction as a Fellow of the English Breakfast Society – a most worthy addition to the web presence of upholders of the mighty institution of breakfast worldwide.
With that aside, it is time to survey the breakfast offering at Eastway, by Liverpool Street Station. The restaurant is attached to a hotel and, rather unassuming from the outside, is a hustling hubbub inside. The sheer force of numbers makes it fairly inconceivable that the trade is purely, or even largely hotel guests – clearly it has acquired a reasonable reputation as an early morning dining destination, which is a good sign. The menu does not disappoint either – all the essential breakfast options present and correct, and even the offer of a smoked kipper for those of that inclination. Neither of this morning’s attendees being of that inclination, we opt instead for the Full English.
This is prompty rustled up, along with the requisite coffee and looks a fine affair – as indeed it is – all perfectly cooked, the sausages being the master of the plate as far as quality goes, but with no disappointments anywhere. The one curiosity of the offering is the provision of little pats of butter to accompany the fried bread. This is such a unique practice that I decide I must try out the experience in case I am missing something. Indeed I have been missing something – and that something is the feeling of pure fat coursing through your veins like you just shot up with catering size can of pure cooking oil. Don’t try at home.
That near-death experience aside, this is a great choice for a good fry up brekkers, and you’ll certainly struggle to find a better cooked egg, just look at these beauties! Glorious!
A short walk round the back of King’s Cross brings you to the steps of the glossy front of the only branch of Vinoteca that currently deigns to offer breakfast. Judging by the general absence of trade, I can see why they haven’t extended the concept to their other sites yet. But you need a real draw to bring punters even this modest distance back from the hustle and bustle of the station front, and the various competing venues there.
You can’t help but feel that this is being trialled in the wrong place and one of the city centre locations might have been a better bet. But as it is we share the premises with only one other patron. As a choice for a discreet conversation it could hardly be better, if only we had anything of such sensitivity to discuss! As it is we merely cover the usual small talk and order a kedgeree and a ‘Gypsy eggs’ respectively. With a side of fresh avocado because, well, why the hell not?
Both dishes are well presented and reasonably proportioned. Gypsy eggs, to the uninitiated, is a chorizo and spicy tomato base topped with baked eggs and parsley and accompanied here by that avant-garde breakfast favourite – sourdough toast.
The fare itself is pleasingly good and it’s nice to see a menu with a little originality on offer. The egg on the kedgeree is just right, and the Gypsy eggs pack a decent kick along with the rich flavours. With so few customers you would imagine that the service would be impeccable ..but unfortunately this is the slight letdown of the place. The single member of waiting staff, presumably under the baleful eye of a grumpy manager somewhere in the back studying an empty looking till, seemed to need to spend every moment not at the table of a customer filling in other chores, such as cleaning invisible smudges from the gleaming front windows. As a result it was somewhat harder than it should have been both to place our order when we had decided our choices, and to get the bill when we had finished.
This minor quibble aside, it was a good meal and – certainly for the moment – a pleasant haven from the hubbub of nearby King’s Cross and Euston Road. Would I go back? Certainly if I was in the vicinity, perhaps waiting for a Eurostar or something. But it feels does feel that running the breakfast experiment here Vinoteca are somewhat missing the boat – get one of those City joints dishing up the eggs and bacon, where folks can roll out straight to their desks and it might be a better bet. Oh, and let the waiting staff concentrate on the customers instead of filling in on other tasks.
First off – finding the location. If you’ve not been to Broadgate Circus before, you can spend quite a while wandering around it before you realise there’s a lower level. That is where Jose Pizarro’s is. This minor hurdle traversed, prepare yourself for a high class eating experience.
Initial impressions are promising, with a gleaming interior, albeit rather sparsely attended, both on the client and the staff side. The staff are clearly still getting the hang of the systems, as we spend several minutes of our coffee time enduring a piercing smoke alarm until they figure out how to turn it off.
Teething problems aside (and they do still have some way to go before they threaten the all-time record held by the Troy Cafe, of three smoke alarm incidents in the space of one breakfast), it is a smooth and pleasant experience.
The ‘full Spanish’ option is certainly the best of the various Iberian options that Breakfast Wednesdays has sampled so far. The prosciutto is delicious, and the thick rolls of juicy chorizo are absolutely delicious. The chips (sorry, patatas fritas)are just the right portion size and perfectly done, and oyster mushrooms are exactly the right choice to accompany this feast of flavour.
If the full plate affair is a bit to much for you to contend with before work, Jose offers a range of gentler-on-the-digestion alternatives, including Sobrasada on toast, with honey & Mahon cheese. Duly enlightened as to what sobrasada actually is (basically it is sausage spread), we tried this also. The verdict: excellent.
Overall breakfasting experience: superb. Definitely one to try .. and if you manage to get in before the crowds discover this place exists, then consider yourself lucky!
What do you think when you hear the word “breakfast”? Chances are, no matter what your culture or background, what springs to mind involves neither lobsters nor burgers – and almost certainly not both. On the other hand, the same could be said for “lunch” and that hasn’t stopped Burger and Lobster carving out a very successful niche for themselve in the City lunch space, so will they manage the same with the breakfast crowd?
I can’t tell you that, but here at least is what you can expect if you do trot in to the new Threadneedle Street premises of this ever popular franchise. First of all, you can expect a vast, cavernous space. As with most of the places on Threadneedle Street this is housed in one of those old bank buildings that feel almost like a cathedral. As you might expect, the conceit is the same as with their lunch – there’s no grand menu, you get burger or you get lobster. And the price is straightforward enough too – it’s £15 . That said, it’s slightly unfortunate that our server seemed to think that this included a tea or a coffee. According to our bill, it doesn’t.
And if you don’t want your burger bloody, then you’d better be sure to tell them so when you order, because you won’t necessarily get asked. As it happens we are both quite content with a juicy medium-done piece of prime beefburger, but there are certainly those who might be unhappy to find their burger bun red from anything but ketchup …
So, onto the food. If you’re looking for a banquet, then you are in the wrong place – the provisions come in modest (some might even say dainty) proportion. Nevertheless, it done well and is surprisingly filling. While the burger looks inescapably lonesome with nothing but a couple of hash browns and a cup of beans to keep it company, it is delicious. And the cheese topped egg perched atop it is cooked to the perfect point of semi-solidity that allows you to consume the burger without egg-splosion difficulties, yet the yolk is still soft and melt-in-the-mouth. Inevitably, I did not sample the devil-spawn (beans) that come with this, but I am advised that they appear to be standard Heinz. This will probably please and displease you bean fans out there in roughly equal proportion. Certainly I feel that at the price level Burger Lobster pitches at, they could afford to jazz this up somehow. The hash browns are crispy outside, moist inside as they should be: good but nothing to write home about.
For the breakfast table, Lobster comes in the form of lobster scrambled eggs. This is muffin, scrambled egg, large flakes of lobster topped with cooked vine tomatoes and a sprinkling of chives. A sort of crustacean eggs benedict, in a way perhaps? In any case, the scrambled eggs are rich and creamy and complement the lobster well. The actual quantity of lobster is quite restrained, but sufficient to let you know you’ve got it.
So, to the point – how was it? The verdict is that it’s surprisingly good – and surprisingly filling, despite what you may think when it arrives in front of you. At nearly £20 apiece once the drinks and service are added though, it must be said that this is one more for the novelty than anything else … but then, it’s Burger Lobster so you already knew that before you came in. It’s worked well enough for the lunchtime crowd it seems, but will there be enough interest to sustain the novelty breakfast concept, that’s likely to be entirely reliant on local workers and, unlike lunches, will get little or no support from tourist footfall? I’m not convinced, so if you want to give it a try I’d do so now – but you never know. If anyone can pull it off, then probably Burger Lobster can.
Breakfasting venue: Burger Lobster
Date of breakfasting: 8am, Wednesday 17th June
Location: 52 Threadneedle Street
Nearest tube: Bank
After foiling the best efforts of the capital’s workmen to impede straightforward access to the premises from nearby Tower Hill tube station, De Vine is an unassuming caff tucked cosily beneath the railway bridge arches. A notice on the fridge advises of a sale on bottled beers – £1 each. Alongside it, a selection of impressive looking cakes are available for purchase. None of this £4 for a slice of something elaborate that’s sat out all day on a poncy stand nonsense. Nor some delicate x-sized cupcake hiding under a metre of garish icing. It’s a slab of cake. And you know you want it.
But enough of that – we are here for breakfast, and this is certainly taken seriously at De Vine. A healthy array of … well, perhaps ‘healthy’ isn’t quite the term, but a substantial array of full breakfast options adorn the board. I am informed by a regular that in addition to the extras on the menu, it’s open season on any of the sandwich filling options too if you want any of them added on the side. This is a new but welcome riff on the usual greasy spoon tune, and so we place our orders with added sides of fresh sliced avocado. The requests are accepted unblinkingly by the proprietor, who then whisks back promptly with several vats of coffee – another big tick there.
The breakfasts are dished out without undue delay, and they certainly do the job. It’s unusual these days to find a place that does two black puds by default, but here it is. The sausage, bacon and egg are without fault and it must be said that perfectly fresh avocado makes a remarkably good Full English accompaniment. While it does tread on dangerous ground by introducing ‘greenery’ to the scene, it neatly fulfils the ethos of the Full English by being packed with calories and fat. It’s a clear winner.
Our hearty (in all senses of the word) feast comes to around six quid apiece, and that speaks for itself. A “De Vine” breakfast is all that the name would suggest and with all of its unique features, you won’t find a place like it so go search it out – it’s worth the trek.
Breakfasting venue: De Vine
Date of breakfasting: 8am, 20 May 2015
Location: 19 Vine Street, London, EC3N 2PX
Nearest tube: Tower Hill
See you there!
After a series of unfortunate events put paid to March breakfast (yes, here’s the apology – sorry for calling it off at the last minute folks!), April and early May proved fertile ground for breakfasting around the globe. So here’s four breakfasts to feast your eyes on as recompense.
First up was Hispania, which although on familiar turf in central London offered an alternative take on the breakfast staples. Yes, you’ve guessed, it’s Spanish cuisine here – and the obligatory churros and chocolate are on the menu, but I didn’t bite on this occasion. Instead I settled for the ‘cooked breakfast’ option, of fried eggs on toast with chistorra (mild chorizo).
First observation, this place does not seem to anticipate much custom at its opening hour of 8am – I was sat at table in the empty restaurant for 5-10 minutes before anyone noticed I was there. Waiting and front of house staff appeared momentarily a various points, and vanished again. It gave good opportunity to appreciate the fine decor, but overall the impression was of being sat in the first class waiting room of a long abandoned Victorian train station. A few signs of life upstairs might tempt in slightly more of the morning trade, because at the moment I’m not sure anyone is really going to believe it’s open.
Which is a pity, as the breakfast was definitely good, if not wildly adventurous. I’d go as far as to say that I don’t think it really exceeds the fare at Camino. That’s not exactly a criticism given how good the Camino breakfast was, but the ambience and the ambition of Hispania are clearly aiming for a slightly more exclusive feel – and the breakfast options need a little more inspiration to achieve that.
The end of April was dominated by work travel, which gave the opportunity to sample a wide cultural range of breakfasting options. First up, Bahamian breakfast at the Old Colonial Hotel in Nassau. An authentic Bahamas breakfast is apparently boiled fish with “johnnycake”, a dense roll of slightly sweet bread – a bit like brioche. The fish is boiled with onions and potatoes and is served up in a bowl with the water/stock. It was pleasant, but certainly hasn’t dislodged my preference for the full English … and oh boy, it was a real plateful! More fish than I would eat for a fish dinner was a bit much at 8am in the morning, and I’m afraid to say I couldn’t finish the dish (or at least, it would have been unwise to attempt to just before a meeting).
This authentic Caribbean experience was followed up with a somewhat less regionally authentic sampling of the bagel with salmon and cream cheese option – given the volume of Americans populating the hotel, it seemed a reasonable bet that staple US breakfast options might be done reasonably well here. This bet was on the money, with a fabulous mound of salmon delivered up with mouth-wateringly juicy strawberries, tangy capers and some fresh lemon and orange to boot. As bagel breakfasts go, this was definitely living the dream.
Sacriligious though it may be, I’m afraid I was not sold on the traditional Bahamian breakfast – nor on the potato, peppers and onion hash that seemed to be a local staple on the hotel buffets either. Back in London however, I had the opportunity to return to familiar territory in the form of the Workers Cafe in Islington. Although its been many years since we were there, it’s still a tremendous experience. When it says “all day breakfast” it really does mean that. I walked in at 8pm and they happily dished me up a delicious ‘Mediterranean breakfast’ with Halloumi, mushrooms, hash browns, two lusciously fried eggs and some sumptuous spicy sausage, along with a freshly squeezed orange juice and a vast mug of builder’s tea. A truly heroic establishment, that should stand forever as a testament to the best tenets of breakfasting.