Archive for May, 2015

A De Vine breakfast

Thursday, May 28th, 2015

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. 

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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.
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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.

May Breakfast

Friday, May 15th, 2015

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!

Four breakfasts and an apology

Friday, May 15th, 2015

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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