November Breakfast

November 24th, 2014

Better later than never …

Breakfasting venue: The Folly Bar

Date of breakfasting: 8am, 26 Novembver 2014

Location: 41 Gracechurch Street, EC3V 0BT

I’m gonna make you a breakfast you can’t refuse …

November 11th, 2014

Having been tipped off to the recent re-opening of the unfortunately demised City institution, The Sign of the Don Bar, it was almost a duty to sample the wares.  Since our visit it seems to have been making a proper stab at getting folks through the door at breakfast time by hauling in professional opinionators to give a “City breakfast” talk – the latest being Anthony Hilton to discuss the merits or otherwise of “Brexit” from the European Union.

Certainly they need some sort of gimmick to get people in, because if our experience was anything to go by then quality of the actual breakfast provision is not going to do it.  Let me say first though, that in first impressions terms it does itself quite well – down a half-hidden side street, with a simple and stylish  neon sign to announce its presence, pleasant wood panel interior decor – it carries off its grandiose title pretty adequately.

Unfortunately that’s as far as the good impressions went.  After placing our drinks orders, a lengthy wait culminated in the arrival of a completely different set of coffees than those we had ordered.  Perhaps excusable in a busy moment, with orders flying left right and centre – but since we were the only  patrons in the establishment at that time the reasons for such an error are rather less clear. 

image

The breakfasts themselves arrived, and presentationally they certainly looked the business.  Unfortunately the eating experience did not match the viewing experience.  The sausages were bland and uninspired, and the toast was not really edible by anyone with jaws less formidable than a Great White.   Perhaps as an effort to counterbalance, the muffins of the eggs benedict appeared to have been unacquainted with any heating implement.

Returning to the full English, while tomatoes balanced on top of mushrooms might look good (and I have to say, I’m not even especially convinced of that), they are certainly not flavours that you want to combine.  The bacon was more charred than crisped.  The saving grace was that the eggs at least were as good as they looked. 

image

Unfortunately, as good as eggs are, they do not a full breakfast make.   This point was perhaps not lost on the staff, as when our bill did arrive it included an unexplained 25% discount, which may or may not have been a effort to apologise for the beverage balls-up.  Or (less likely) the general disappointment of the dishes.  It’s a pity because on the face of it, this place should have everything going for it – but if Don Corleone were to take his breakfast here, I suspect someone would be waking up the next day to a pig’s head on the pillow.  Let’s hope it gets up to scratch before it comes to that, because I can’t imagine the folks paying £35 a head to hear the venerable Mr Hilton recite from his Evening Standard columns over their morning sustenance would have much truck with this fare.

 

Breakfast rebooted

September 3rd, 2014

Easing back into the Breakfast routine after the arrival of the second Brekmeister Jr was never going to be easy – so the idea of making the first foray at a venue that’s practically by my desk seemed sound.  As such, I set the alarm early once again (with some reluctance, I confess), and made my way (with rather more enthusiasm) down to One Under Lime to sample the finest on offer to the denizens of London’s premier insurance market. 

It was a slightly peculiar experience from the outset.  The first portent was the fact that H. was early, and even arrived before me.  This should really have warned me that things were not as they ought to be.  We perused the menu, provided on an A3 brown paper sheet – in its favour it had a couple of Sudoku to keep you occupied if, for instance, you are waiting for your co-breakfaster to turn up.  Unfortunately it was a little lacking in other respects – such as any elaboration on the contents of the “Full English” and “Half English” options.  In the spirit of adventure, H. ordered the Full English without inquiry, and I opted for the One Under Lime special of ‘Keta Caviar, smoked salmon, poached eggs, toasted muffin and hollandaise sauce” at a rather reasonable £10.00. 

This is where it began to get particularly strange.  “Oh” said the waitress “I’m not sure we have any caviar, I’ll just check”.  Sure enough, no caviar.  Bit of a flaw for your signature dish. 

“We could give you something else instead” she volunteered “maybe some mushroom?”.  Well it’s not exactly what I would call suitable recompense for a lack of caviar, but it was better than nothing – and, of course, the Brekmeister can never refuse extra mushroom. 

Thus it was that our dishes arrived to a look of moderate puzzlement from each.  “No beans!” grumbled H.  “An enlightened decision.”  I rejoined “But mushroom in the Eggs Benedict …?”

image

The thing is, I did envisage the mushroom coming as an accompaniment to the dish – not as a subsitute ingredient.  Well, never let it be said that I am not game for experimental culinary adventures – dear reader, I tried it.  However I can sadly confim that mushroom on smoked salmon does not please the tastebuds.   While we’re on that topic, another thing that does not please the tastebuds is very stale muffins.  Ideally they should be crunchy on the outside, and the fluffy centre damp with butter.

The Full English proved more palatable, if uninspiring – and I’m still curious how the “half English” would be assembled.  Presumably it doesn’t include half an egg.  But who knows!  All in all, this could readily be renamed “One Under Whelmed” in respect of the breakfast provision.  Have a drink instead.

image

How now, Brown sow?

April 7th, 2014

A shift from the norm this month as the Brekmeister was too busy with nappies, deliveries, and above all, the miracle of new life to arrange breakfast for us hungry Breakfast Wednesday folk.

So it was left to me (although I have no breakfast-related name to call myself) to take up the mantle and ensure that Breakfast Wednesdays were not left unloved and languishing in the doldrums for the next few months.

With that in mind, I failed at the first hurdle. I had breakfast on a Thursday. Though the Brekmeister is strangely resistant to retitling the blog to Breakfast Thursdays.

But…I did follow the Brekmeister’s example in one respect: I invited my old colleagues to join me. The location for this reunion was Browns on St Martin’s Lane.

The morning got off to a great start. I was exactly on time (a feat I have not managed for many of the breakfasts I’ve attended to contribute to this blog). But unfortunately, I was the only one. One breakfast attendee was 15 minutes late, and the other attendee completely forgot we were meant to be meeting. We had chosen browns for its breakfastly offer of two full Englishes for the price of one. In the end, I had the full English, and my companion had the Bubble & Squeak.

Let’s start with the full English – the apotheosis of all breakfasts. It was a decent effort, but never in danger of troubling the great breakfast providers of London. It included beans as standard, which was good. And mushrooms too, which wan’t.

image

First, the good. The black pudding was excellent, just the right consistency. The egg was nicely done, and the beans were a good complement, providing some moisture to what can be quite a dry breakfast. And the seeded bread and cooked tomato  gave a veneer of health to the plate
But the bad: the sausage was slightly overdone, and seemed to have air pockets at either end. Very strange. The bacon was slightly underdone, but that’s just my taste.

My companion was similarly underwhelmed with parts of his breakfast. Billed as bubble & squeak with bacon, poached egg & hollandaise, it seemed to resemble a sort of hollandaise soup.

While it wasn’t a complete fail on the breakfast front – I was quite satisfied, it’s not somewhere I would be rushing back to in a hurry, even though you can get two full Englishes for £9. Perhaps I’m spoiled for ordinary breakfasts, but it’s the right word to sum this breakfast up.

Hushing it up

February 27th, 2014

For someone who is not naturally a early-bird, but who gets up regularly at 5:45am purely for the love of breakfast, the instant appeal of a purveyor of morning-time sustenance that goes by the name of “Hush!” can no doubt be appreciated. You feel straightaway that they understand that precious commodity of modern life, tranquility. Of course, there is also the matter of their bold claim to lay on the “best breakfast in the City”. Can it be possible? Do they really know what they’re up against?

There being only one way to find out, we endeavoured to put them to the test. On arrival, the establishment itself seemed promising at least – although the seating possibly a little densely packed to live up to the promise of quiet introspection to the background of at most a low hum of other conversations around you. Counter-balancing that however, was the fact that at 8am we were almost the only people in there. So we sank into the blissfully comfortable seats in a tucked away booth and settled down to the task of choosing our fare. Hush certainly like to put a generous dollop of character into everything they do, and the menu is no exception, offering a “Cabbies breakfast” among the choices.

image

Quite tempting actually, and there’s a good smattering of unusual offerings too, such as the fantastic sounding “Pulled Pork, Caramelised Apple and Gruyere Baguette”. But the lure of the Full English proves ever irresistable to me – while my compatriot casts a guilty glance at her Fitbit wristband and opts healthily for the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. To my horror, as the plates arrive, I realise that I have omitted my usual instruction to replace the beans with something – anything – more edible. My heart, and my stomach, lurches uncomfortably but since they are there I must make the best of the situation and at least give them a fighting chance to prove their worth. Now I don’t want this getting around too much, as it rather undermines my fundamental position that beans are a vile and repulsive addition to the otherwise sacred combination of breakfast essentials … but astonishingly it turns out that the beans that Hush rustle up actually quite delectable. There. I said it. I hasten to qualify here, that these are certainly not the usual Heinz (or worse) muck that gets slopped lazily onto your breakfast plate in most establishments, but a mixture of various types of bean that appear to have been marinated in a perfectly seasoned, thick and textured tomato base. They are served up alongside the meal in their own little saucepan, one of these typical trendy restaurant conceits designed to impress the ‘hand-madeness’ of their food or something – but whatever the reason, on this occasion they actually merit the special treatment. Just don’t expect me to ever admit to enjoying beans again, OK?

image

So, what about the important bits? Well it has to be said that Hush don’t disappoint, the quality of the other essentials is tip-top, with two practically perfect eggs perching at the centre of a sumptious selection of sausage, bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes. No skimping either – two sauasages, two tomatoes, two mushrooms. OK, so two rashers of bacon isn’t exactly over generous, but when it’s this good it’s not stingy either especially when everything nothing else has been skimped upon. Butter comes fashionably presented in a twist of paper, which I have never quite understood the point of – is there really any reason not to put it in a butter dish? Really? But it’s only really an aesthetic issue, as the butter itself is creamy heavenliness with a good salty tang.

So basically, there’s a lot going for Hush, if you can put up with some low level pretentiousness. Is it the best breakfast in the City? Well that’s a hard fought title, and I’m afraid it’s not quite all that. But it is really very good, and a very palatable price, both of which are more than you can say for many an establishment in the vicinity.

Oh, and did I mention the slippers?

image

I’m afraid we neglected to put in our request, but the waitress assured me that they will actually produce a pair on demand for anyone who wants to really get into the spirit of early morning quietitude. Now that really is something you won’t find anywhere else.

February Breakfast

January 28th, 2014

So apparently there’s a new chain in town, busy touting the “best breakfast in London” on placards outside their outlets. Obviously, this sort of claim can’t simply be allowed to go unassessed by the gallant breakfast Wednesday brigade. So let’s see you there next week to test whether their self-confidence is justified …

Breakfasting venue: Hush

Date of breakfasting: 8am, 19 February 2014

Location: 1 Ludgate Hill, EC4M 7AA

A breakfast fit for Andrew

January 28th, 2014

With the advent of the long commute into work, time to search out good quality greasy spoon venues suitable for the Breakfast Wednesday itinerary has been sadly lacking.  However, a determined resolution to put this right for the first breakfast of the New Year culminated in a visit to the inventively titled “Andrew’s Restaurant” on Gray’s Inn Road – and what a good idea that turned out to be. 

The unassuming exterior, with displaying its name rather unprominently in cursive script spoke of breakfasts of yore, before the advent of ginger pigs and other such swank.  And of an establishment where actually knowing the name of the place is less important than simply being able to see, through the vast and unobstructed glass frontage, the formidable formica table capacity and the vast array of set breakfasts on offer.  In fact, such is the extent of the possibilities open to the customer simply by uttering the words “Set” in combination with any digit you can choose, that it took five minutes just to mentally weigh up the options and their respective merits.   Fortunately, they were more than happy to take drink order while I stood gaping at the board, and a mug of steaming hot milky instant coffee was swiftly procured.

Settling for “Set 6″  (without beans, naturally) I sat to await the goods, noting with satisfaction the respectable throng of yellow vests inhabiting other corners of the caff.  Almost universally a good sign – and this proved to be no exception.

image

Breakfast was delivered swiftly and in whole plate-encompassing style.  Additional points are awarded for excellent presentation, with the alternating hash brown and black pudding cornerpiece deserving a special mention.  A generous serving of deliciously cooked mushrooms sets a standard that all greasy spoon breakfasts should aspire to.  Meanwhile, the two eggs atop my fried bread sliced were both perfectly cooked and looked a beauteaous sight, staring up and demanding to be demolished. 

While I would not rank the bacon as the best I have had, it certainly passed muster – and the sausage was pleasingly hearty; no pretensions but just a good, well cooked, perfectly proportioned for egg stabbing.  Was there anything to criticse at all?  Well, presentation aside, the black puds were perhaps a touch dry, but by no means crisped and were tasty enough, so this is perhaps plucking at straws.  And for six quid, there’s certainly nothing one could level any serious complaint at in the whole experience.

image

Did I mention also, that the whole delicious shabang cost the princely sum of £6.20?  Of course, out in the sticks where I live one can toddle round the corner to places where a full English (admittedly a fairly sparse one, but with all the essentials nonetheless) can be had for merely £1.99 … but in London I rather doubt you’ll do much better than Andrew’s for value for money – and even if you find a cheaper option, I would be surprised if it offered comparable quantity and quality for the pound in your pocket.   In short then – Andrew’s excels!  If you haven’t been here, you owe yourself (if not your arteries) a visit.

January Breakfast

January 21st, 2014

Breakfasting venue: Andrew’s Restaurant

Date of breakfasting: 8am, 22 January 2014

Location: 160 Gray’s Inn Road

Nearest Tube is: Chancery Lane

What does the fox eat?

January 6th, 2014

December breakfast is always a tough call.  Along with Christmas, the last Breakfast Wednesday of the year feels like it can never quite live up to the expectations that are held for it – it must be a glorious success and have some sort of celebratory feel to it.  Yet revisiting a ‘tried and tested’ venue also seems like cheating.   This year’s selection was no different, and after lengthy debate over which establishments offered the best chance of an early morning festive tipple along with the the standard fare, the Fox and Anchor was selected.

Seems hard to believe that Breakfast Wednesdays has been going this long without yet visiting this formidable force on the Breakfasting scene.  The Fox and Anchor is tucked away on a side street running off from Smithfield Market, a mere stone’s throw from the location of previous Breakfasts, yet we’ve never noticed it.  Perhaps because it is a pub, and it has to be said that the general performance of pubs in BW’s experience has been poor (with the notable exception of Simpson’s Tavern, of course).  Nevertheless, the offer of a “City Boy” breakfast including a pint of stout along with the Full English with liver, kidneys and black pudding suggested true dedication to the best principles of pre-work consumption and demanded at least fair consideration.

The first hurdle was actually getting through to secure a table, and after the phone rang out again on the third attempt to get through, I opted for the “turn up and see” approach. For practically every place we’ve been to, this would be unproblematic as they are usually at best half full at 8am. Not the Fox and Anchor, which was crammed from corner to corner with merrily feasting suited types.

However, I must offer full points to them on this front – other than a slightly furrowed brow when we said we had no booking, no fuss was made at all as we were guided to a cosy little table for four in an out of sight alcove. Not even when the fifth and sixth breakfasters turned up. I am, sadly, unable to report on the merits of the “City Boy” breakfast as, in the event, none of our party turned out to be up to the challenge. However the noises emanating from the adjacent table, which had been supplied with several “City Boys” suggests that it met with satisfaction.

Those of our own breakfasters who contented themselves with a modest full English were not disappointed either. Where many inferior competitors have gone the way of the single sausage, it is heartening to know that the real deal is still on offer. In addition to the double helping of processed pork, the standard serving also includes two eggs and a healthy(?) portion of bacon. In short, this breakfast does not go short on anything.

image

The only real stumbling block was the tomatoes, and it is almost a shame to mention it given the quality of pretty much every other aspect of our experience – but on the other hand, when so much of it is done so well anything that doesn’t quite come up to scratch sticks out like a sore thumb. So here it is – breakfast tomatoes should never ever be served cold. It’s contrary to all logic and to the laws of the Medes and Persians (or I’m sure it would have been, had they had any rules about breakfast). I don’t care what fine herbs are daintily sprinkled across them, or how beautifully they’ve been cut, a hot breakfast should be hot. And breakfast tomatoes should ideally be served up with a sprinkling of salt, gleaming skin, and dark brown grill lines like plough furrows across them, HOT from the grill or skillet. I’ll even accept tinned tomotoes that have been heated up in a microwave at a pinch. But a cold tomato plonked on the side of the plate is anathema – we’re not here for a salad. We’re here for a breakfast.

With that rant aside, breakfast at the Fox and Anchor was without any further blemish (well, any blemish other that was the responsibility of the venue … we cannot, of course, blame the veritable establishment for the menu choices of some of our less enlightened co-breakfasters. Porridge, honestly!!)

image

Anyway, I would happily be back here for a hearty start to the day – and the lure of the “City Boy” still remains …

December Breakfast

December 17th, 2013

Breakfasting venue: The Fox and Anchor

Date of breakfasting: 8am, 18 December 2013

Location: 115 Charterhouse Street EC1M 6AA

Nearest Tube is: Barbican