If I could only have one meal a day for the rest of my life I would choose brunch. It’s all the best elements of sweet and savoury rolled into one. It usually takes place over several hours so you can do several servings and make sure to get everything in. If it’s a buffet (which is my favourite kind, though usually reserved for special occasions, like birthdays and Easter), you can have pancakes, waffles, poached eggs (ala whatever takes your fancy – Florentine, Benedict, Royal), an omelette, crab cakes, salad, shrimp cocktail, fruit salad, a good haunch of beef or sliver of roast pork (if that’s your style), and obviously desert is a requirement. And, it’s at just the time of day when you most need a break, or is just late enough for a well-deserved lie-in. I mean, really, what could be better? Thankfully, I don’t have to choose just one meal for the rest of my life, as I would be pretty sad to give up sushi – though surely that could count as part of the savoury aspect of brunch. Ha! A loophole!
As part of my ongoing exploration of the London food scene I have been seeking out and trying all of the top locations for weekend brunch. And, of course, seeing as I’m on a student budget, cost has also been a factor. It’s a real chore, I assure you. But one I’m more than happy to take on. 😉
Here is my (by no means exhaustive) list of well-executed, fairly reasonable, and what I think are delicious London brunch spots.
In no particular order…
They have locations in Soho, Belsize Park, and Hampstead Heath. I have only been to their small café in Hampstead and was blown away not just by their perfectly poached eggs with smoked salmon, but by their service. Avoiding wheat can be a nightmare at times, especially in seeking out brunch, because most tend to be served in bakery-type locations, or have very bread-focused menus. At Ginger and White, however, the waitress cheerfully pointed out what I could and couldn’t eat from the counter display and chef, who was on hand in the ‘kitchen’ (which is really just a small area next to the till with a stove and counter, but he does wonders in such a tiny space!), overheard my dietary restrictions and offered to make me Eggs Royale on a bed of salad instead of rye sourdough toast. I readily accepted, as this is by far my favourite brunch treat, and am happy to report that the eggs poured out a gorgeous deep yellow yoke when I broke into them an approximate 15 minutes later. It was delicious and the hollandaise was light! Yes, light! None of that heavy-can’t-eat-the-rest-of-the-day-for-so-much-butter stuff. MC, who was with me (and took the wonderful photos!), got hers with the sourdough and raved about hers as well. We each also got cappuccinos (mine soya, hers regular), which were wonderful – good quality coffee with just the right amount of foam. I took my mom back there recently for a quick coffee stop. She’s picky about her coffee (she roasts her own beans) and would vouch for the quality of theirs! Another great thing about Ginger and White is that they serve brunch all day, every day. Heaven on earth? I think so.
I went to their Clerkenwell location with a group of friends for brunch in early March. First off, their coffee. I usually drink mine in some form that involves steamed milk – a cappuccino, latte, macchiato, you name it. Here, however, I drank their Irupana black. They serve it with nothing (not even asking if you want milk or sugar) and it needed nothing. I believe this is a result of using an aeropress, which produces a remarkable smooth and purified coffee. I must admit to being absolutely blown away by it. And while I’m prone to enthusiasm, it takes a lot to truly shock me, which they did. The food was delicious as well. It was very well executed, though some dishes lacked proper spicing, but what made it memorable was the creative combination of ingredients. I had the grilled asparagus, smoked salmon, poached egg, and truffled mascarpone on corn bread. Separately the ingredients did not really work, but together they played off each other’s strength beautifully, with the corn bread pulling it all together and the mascarpone adding that something special. Other members of our party got the French toast, rare breed hamburger, and corn fritters. All were very happy with the meal. They don’t take reservations and, as they only serve brunch on weekends, they are always quite busy, so you’ll have to wait, but our wait time was only about 20 minutes and was definitely worth it. They also made an effort to get everyone waiting inside from the cold, which was very welcome.
NB: their Marylebone location is a coffee bar only
Back in November I attended Daylesford’s supper club with C and was underwhelmed. But when B’s dad was in town and we wanted a good brunch nearby to our flat, I suggested we try it again. I’m glad we did, because the food, while simple, was delicious, and the bright and relaxed atmosphere makes you feel at home, rather than in a restaurant. If they have the pear, celery, & ginger juice (it’s not on the menu) get it! They open at 8am and it’s best to go early, because by 10-10:30a, people start to queue up for tables. Despite this, the staff don’t rush you out of your seat, which while nice for us diners, I imagine is a bit annoying for those waiting. B & I went back to the Orange Sq location with my mom and she was equally pleased with the meal. We attempted lunch at the Notting Hill location, but were put off by the low ceilings and the benches at the communal tables, which made seating awkward.
My favourite museum in London is the Victoria & Albert Museum, and as wandering around it is one of my favourite ways to pass a rainy day or weekend morning, naturally it’s important to have a good go-to for brunch in the area. Sometimes I’m feeling more in the mood for a cupcake, in which case I make a pit stop at Hummingbird Bakery. But when I don’t feel like dosing up on sugar and prefer a healthier, more balanced option (as healthy as hollandaise sauce can be), Muriel’s is the answer. It’s another one where, because they don’t take reservations, the later it gets, the longer the queue is, so just be an early bird! I’ve never had to wait more than 15-20 minutes anyway. Plus, the benefit of a no-reservations policy is that they can tempt in you passersby who thought you weren’t hungry with their gorgeously delectable window displays of food. They rival Ottolenghi in that respect. On my most recent visit I had their jasmine infused fruit compote with flaked almonds over Greek yoghurt and my friend GG had their version of a bacon sandwich, which she said was delicious. My yoghurt was superb – though I may be biased, since it was the first time I’d had it since giving it up for lent… regardless I could have done without the apricots in the compote, but everything else was perfect. I have also had their eggs Royale, which was very well executed (and with free range eggs!), though with the hollandaise a bit on the heavier side.