In a week that brought both the beginning of Lent and the resignation of the Pope, Paternoster Square seemed a most appropriate place to be holding our February breakfast, the only remaining question being whether the quality of the provision would carry any glimpse of the divine. Setting all equine thoughts from the preceding month’s major food retailing debacle aside, we settled down to what promised from the menu to be a very filling start to the day.
It is best noted from the first that none of those present dared tackle the centrepiece, essentially a full English around an Aberdeen angus rib-eye steak. Nevertheless, should you wish for a breakfast that is “full” in every sense of the word, then here you may find it. We were welcomed at the door and seated immediately in the virtually empty restaurant, bags and coats briskly stashed in the cloakroom by the very efficient staff. Drinks orders were taken promptly and delivered in little more than a blink. This may not seem like a vital issue to home in on, however I take speedy delivery of the morning caffeine fix as a very serious part of any decent breakfast. Non-caffeinated beverages were also in supply with the fresh peppermint tea looking the business.
Satisfyingly, toast arrived shortly after to keep appetites at bay. Paternoster clearly take their religious imperatives seriously – and any prayerful petition for daily bread will more than answered here by the inclusion of as much toast as you can eat with the full breakfast option. The toast is plain and simple white, but done to perfection with a satisfying crunch, plentiful butter, with some rather delicious marmalade and “foraged fruit” jam ready at the table adorn the slice should you so wish.
Thus supplied, we used the intervening moments until the arrival of the breakfast itself to discuss the merits of the newly published “Breakfast Bible” courtesy of the indubitable Malcolm Eggs of London Review of Breakfasts. I hasten to add that we are not being paid to say this, however you may take my word that this is the best tome addressing every venerable aspect of the finest meal of the day since Jan Read’s “The Great British Breakfast” in 1981.
By the time the breakfasts arrived therefore, we had perused enough descriptions of sizzling bacon, juicy sausage, broiled partridge (and other even more esoteric fare) to be more than ready to proceed from the theoretical to the practical. The first item of note on the full breakfast is the hash brown, which is in fact more of a kind of fritter affair – very finely grated potato formed into a slim patty and fried just to the point of external crispiness but maintaining a satisfying substance to the internal texture. Top marks for this. I’d happily have ploughed through two or three of them given a chance.
As can be seen, the egg is beautifully done and shines like the light of spring at the edge of the plate, balancing off the solid tones of the meatier elements of the plate. The sausage and bacon are both cooked to exactly the right degree, and if Rhug estate pork is all like this then I can certainly see why you wouldn’t bother to buy it from anywhere else. I hesitate to mention my quibble with the black pudding, as tastes in this area are highly personal and vary widely – but this one was definitely a little too dry, and a little too grainy for my preference. I will always favour the puds with a slightly higher blood to oat ratio – however I will readily accept that it was good, and suffered from no flaw either in preparation or presentation.
No points may be deducted for lack of condiment, the vital presence of brown sauce and ketchup is not something that an establishment of this pedigree can overlook and they did not (and I have certainly been to comparable venues that have let themselves down in this respect). Those who chose not to attempt the “hearty” English breakfast option reported that the scrambled egg on toast was commendable.
The best surprise came last however, when the bill arrived and was much less than expected. Even after adding on a couple of items that they missed, it still felt like a steal even with a tip on top of service (which was, in fairness, superb). This is helped somewhat by the fact that unlike many similar outlets, all tea and coffee (as many as you like) is included in the full breakfast price. Nevertheless, we sauntered out into the fresh February air with full stomachs and that slightly guilty satisfaction that only comes from feeling one has just bagged a slightly too-good-to-be-true bargain. I feel the chances of being led into temptation by the Paternoster breakfast in the future are high.