Minds out of the gutter please readers, this is a family blog today. Literally. When my parents were kicking round London we went up the Shard for brunch before work one morning. I have been meaning to go to the Shard for years but the combination of good weather and wearing appropriate clothing to get into a fancy bar had never come to pass. We all know the Shard hack right? Instead of paying the £25 to go to the viewing platform you just go to one of the bars for cocktails; it works out cheaper, the view is slightly lower, but there is gin…so all around the better option. However my parents took it one step further, they suggested brunch at Aqua Shard.
Not going to lie, it was painful to get up early enough to brunch before work. PAINFUL. But we made it out of my flat something close to on time, and it was sunny so the tube/power walk to the Shard was verging on bearable. Then we arrived at the tall pointy thing itself, went through security and into the leather room.
Minds. Gutter. People.
We had done two escape rooms during my parent’s trip and so as soon as we walked into the leather panelled elevator we all immediately decided to pretend it was an escape room and press all the panels looking for a key. Yes we were alone. Yes we probably would have done this even if there were other people there. The elevator is worth a mention actually, it is automatic so no tempting buttons to press and it is freshly shaved legs smooth – so you can’t even tell you are moving let along going up 31 floors in 15 seconds.
I was shocked how few people were in Aqua Shard for breakfast. I assumed that it would be a business persons haunt of choice, or at least full of people who were staying in the hotel but apparently not. It was so quiet in fact that every table there got a window seat, ours looked out over the Gherkin and down the river. Much more formal vibe than the only other comparison I have which is Duck and Waffle, but they didn’t seem to mind us running all over the place dorkishly exclaiming over the views.
Pretty good coffee and a ten out of ten French toast (although what the fuck is up with putting cereal on the top?) but let’s be honest here, the food could have been terrible and I would still recommend it- the views are the winner here.
If you want to be taken up the Shard, forget cocktails and forget the viewing platform; brunch is the way to go.
I went out for brunch the other day to the lovely Hally’s in Parsons Green. I sat there surrounded by couples, one of whom managed to have three arguments before they had even finished my coffees. Me? I sat there writing my blog, interacting on Twitter and just having an all and all chill time.
I had (much to my horror) never heard of Hally’s, which I’m pretty sure is down to the fact it is across the other side of London from me – us Londoners tend to stick local. Then CitizenMag came along and offered to shout me to brunch at one of their recommendations, and to put it bluntly Hally’s looked like a dreamboat.
And I guess that is one part of why I so often brunch alone, I fucking love cafes. I love finding new ones, I love trying new food and I love supporting the little guy. Which means that I am totally happy to travel for over an hour, to the other side of London, just to experience new brunching horizons. If I was going with friends I would most likely have just gone to an old fave mid-way between where we lived, or at least on a matching tube line. If it is only me that is inconvenienced however, 2.5hour round trip for a super strong flat white is totally reasonable and a damn good way to spend a Saturday.
Hally’s really reminds me of a cafe from home, relaxed but doing everything right. The coffee was an automatic double shot which I am always a well caffeinated fan of, and for once every coffee I ordered had beautiful latte art (normally there is one dud in the bunch) – my excuse for ordering three was ‘quality control’. That is the crux of it, I LIKE noticing the latte art and it is really something you can only pay attention to solo. People see to frown on you interrupting a normal conversation to tell them how pretty the coffee is…
I was thinking more about this as the arguing couple got into yet another low volume tiff (if his brother could come and stay next weekend, she didn’t like the brother drinking habits), some of the solo dining thing comes down to the old extrovert/introvert dilemma. I need to spend time by myself to recharge, I need to not worry about saying the right thing, responding in the right way, I need to spend time alone to get me back. I realise to the extroverts among you brunching alone amounts to torture, but that’s ok it takes all sorts and us introverts rely on you to apply for horribly embarrassing reality tv shows which keep us entertained.
The other notable at Hally’s aside from the coffee (and apart from the fluffy fluffy dog on the other side of the room that I sort of wanted to kidnap) was the food. I had never even heard of Avocado and Quinoa pancakes, let alone tried them so of course it is what I went for because I am drawn to the ‘new’ like a moth in a disco. They came with a tomato salsa, goats cheese curd and crispy bacon – more along the ‘corn fritter’ flavour lines then a traditional pancake and they were so tasty. My only wish is that they came with more of a sauce type thing because they were a little dry, but then I spilled my coffee over them and fulfilled my own wish.
Go and check out Hally’s if you are in that neck of the woods, it is a great addition to the London brunch crew and is Instagrammable as heck. I would happily track out there again to eat those pancakes, and once I’ve blogged about it I might even convince some friends to come with…
I am a brunch fiend. When you ask what plans I have for the weekend I will inevitably just give you names of cafes. I have so many to recommend that I was starting to stress myself out about all the posts I had to write, so instead I thought I would just do a roundup of some of my current favorites.
The brunch train is always moving in London, this post was originally published on May 4th 2015 and has most recently been updated in April 2016.
Y’all know my usual policy on queuing up for food in London, so you know Sunday must be good since I waited for half an hour outside IN WINTER to taste the delectable brunch. Keep an eye out on their Instagram for their latest menu (it changes every weekend), but think brunch classics all with a mouth watering twist. Well worth the wait.
I Instagram stalked these guys for AGES. A neighborhood cafe that puts so much care into their dishes that it feels like you are at a Zone 1 restaurant. Think innovative flavours and ‘can’t help but photograph’ plating, like the eggs benedict with a espresso brown butter hollandaise.
Milk in Balham is one of the most Instagrammed brunch places in London. They have a pretty innovative menu, but it is the ‘pancake of the day’ specials that are the real star. When I went (photo above) it was lime, marshmallow and hobnob pancakes that caught my eye and then made me weep tears of food joy. Very popular, but if you are lucky you can snag a table outside in the sunshine.
I have dreams about Granger and Co. ricotta pancakes, DREAMS. They are topped with a ridiculously good honeycomb butter and might just change your life. Granger and Co is stupidly popular (word about the butter has got out) but if you turn up at 10am you should get a table straight away, half an hour later and you will be queuing in the rain.
Sitting at the top of that damn hill in Clapham, Story Coffee is that moment of calm in your day. I was at first a little alarmed at how healthy their pancakes sounded (quinoa pancakes with whipped ricotta, apple and toasted coconut) but blow me down they were good.
Another neighbourhood cafe that just kicks ass. The menu is classic brunch options with unique flavours thrown in to liven up your weekend (beautiful colours on the plate too). Well worth putting up with the high hipster content.
This is a grown up brunch spot, think hushed waiters and you can actually book. Lets be honest, it was the booking aspect that first grabbed me (I like knowing that I can actually get a seat) but it was the waffles that has kept me coming back every time. Oh those waffles, the waffles of kings – savory and sweet at the same time and made from dates, feta, sweetcorn and spring onion…excuse me while I drool.
A good traditional ‘Aussie’ style cafe (I don’t actually know if they are owned by Aussies or not, its just the vibe), consistently good coffee and poached eggs. Only downside is the lack of bacon on the menu.
I think I need some sort of affiliate scheme for Blixen because I recommend so many people to go there. Again its a cafe that you can book (thank the lord), and has very colonial decor. The staff are always lovely and are willing to cater to my consistent demand to swap out the spinach for avocado on the poached egg potato rosti – cheers team.
This is the resident restaurant of the Hoxton Hotel in Holborn. It might just be the day I visited but they were super chilled out and happy for me to sit and blog while drinking endless rounds of coffee. Nice addition is the light options (like the ricotta honey and mint toast above) alongside the traditional brunch so their is something for everyone. I like this place so much I am actually considering staying in the hotel for a night just so I can wake up to Hubbard and Bell.
This is the best boozy brunch place of them all. First its amazing that you can book (a rarity in London), second the location in London Bridge means that almost anyone can get there no matter what tubes are down for the weekend and lastly…Flat White Russians. Yes you heard me, flat white cocktails. Unlike most boozy brunch places that just go for unlimited (and mostly watered down) prosecco, Grind is all about those coffee cocktails. Brunch, drink and be merry.
BEST CORN FRITTERS IN LONDON. Very Australian cafe with consistently good food, I should know I’ve had their corn fritters once every couple of months for the last two years. Oh and they do proper fatty streaky bacon #swoon.
This is the center of all that is hipster in London, the Ace Hotel. But once you get through the Apple powered, beard drenched lobby and into the Mad Men style Hoi Polloi restaurant all is forgiven. When we sat down for a late Sunday brunch the cello quartet was playing a Madonna remix, the perfect ironic background to the cocktails and pancakes we scoffed feeling like the girls from Sex in the City.
This cafe is a sister to Attendant Coffee, the cafe in an old Victorian bathroom. Supersized and in the heart of Shortditch this cafe has space for brunchers and coffee drinkers alike. Their corn fritters were a bit anemic (more like pancakes with corn in, rather than a true fritter) but the flavours were Oh My God incredible, so I wouldn’t hesitate on a return visit.
Now this place is old school brasserie in London, the kind of joint you would take a mobsters parents when you were trying to impress. A bit fancier than your standard brunch (it is based in the Rosewood hotel after all) but the service is 5 star impeccable. What I was most shocked by is that we were there for two hours and they were totally chill and didn’t even try to push us out. I liked that they offered a half size eggs benedict option which meant I could indulge in the goats curd and pomegranate as well.
Workshop is some of the best coffee in London and their brunch is of a similar high standard. My only advice is to avoid the corn fritters, its like they deep fry them which gives a weird crunchy outer – probably fine as long as you are not a kiwi purist. Very cool branding (love the diamond), well designed cafe, high sharing tables and very buzzy.
Not just a fancy feast, you can actually get in and out for under £10 if you order correctly. Its a great place to go if you need to clear your head and get some perspective on London, and the amazing food helps as well. I’ve tried a few things off the brunch menu and by far the namesake Duck and Waffle is my favorite (the full Elvis was just a little too much for me).
A lovely neighborhood cafe (makes me wish I lived in the neighborhood!) that does all the brunch classics exactly how they should be. They also have a great selection of toasted sandwiches, you know a place was started by kiwis when you get a toasty! Spot on coffee and a place I will be heading to time and time again.
Raaa I love this place. Mostly because they will give me a bacon roll with a poached egg on top at any time of the day, but also because of the ever changing salads and sunny garden out the back. If you go you have to save room for their salted caramel brownie, so so good.
B&H inside is all white with tropical fabrics, and a bar that you can brunch at if you are on your own. I love that their big breakfast is mix and match (so you get the bits you like), the drop scones with different toppings, and of course a gin and earl grey breakfast cocktail.
If you want somewhere to spend five hours and graduate from flat whites to espresso martinis then Caravan is the place to be. Generally hopeless service (I think its just because there are SO many tables, they can’t be that attentive) but damn good food. And that it is close to Kings Cross which is convenient for everyone is a bonus.
Ask my friends about my diary management skills and they will laugh so hard that gin is inelegantly snorted. At work I am an Outlook invite ninja, living for those accepted meeting invites like I’m a junky waiting for my next hit. But at home? Lol. NOPE. I normally just get SO EXCITED at planning new things that I immediately say yes and then forget about it until about an hour before when a friend texts to remind me. So yes, I was the idiot that double booked myself for brunch last Saturday.
Now, when most people double book themselves they make it better by cancelling one. Me? Yeah I just went ahead and made it worse by adding in another brunch. Because I’m a sucker for punishment. And because I really like brunch.
So that was the plan, an operation of military precision. Three brunches in three hours, all at different cafes. I was fucked.
This dumb pilgrimage started at Shoreditch Grind, and for once in my life I was on time. Turns out that love, money or education can’t make me turn up when I am supposed to…but brunch? Two minutes early bitches.
Shoreditch Grind isn’t the first thought for most peoples brunch escapades, its little, busy and literally no-one knows where the food comes from because WHERE THE HELL IS THE KITCHEN. I decided to start by taking it easy and going for the classic smashed avocado and chili on toast, with a flat white on the side naturally. As the avo on toast got put down in front of me I was pumped, this brunch challenge was literally the best idea I have ever had.
Status update after first brunch
Mood: Excited like a brat on Christmas morning
Hunger level: Concerningly content
Thinking about: How big my hair will get in the rain by the end of the challenge
Because of my frankly stupendous planning the second brunch was a short walk round the corner to Ozone. Sensibly Ozone had cornered the loud kiwi group in the basement where we would be the least disruption to other diners. In about ten minutes we had talked our way from travel to the NHS, and by the time we got our coffees we were in some kind of giggling vortex.
I did have mild panic at Ozone, that all my plans would have been for naught, because we didn’t receive our food until 45 minutes after sitting down. While this was a welcome break that allowed me to digest my first brunch (and slam back some coffees) it also meant that the pancakes I ordered (buttermilk pancakes with tonka bean labneh, blueberries & almonds) had to be eaten in 15 minutes before running to the third venue.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Well, I ain’t got no wisdom so I attacked the pancakes like a feral cat on a can of tuna and ran away before anyone else had taken their first bite. In this brunch adventure I may lose friends but at least I will gain a lot of brunch.
Status update after second brunch
Hunger level: Fit to burst
Thinking about: Why the flying fuckles I got myself into this? This is not a hobby, this is a mental breakdown.
After escaping Ozone I was too full to run, so I pretended I was Miranda and galloped to Blixen about 15 minutes away. Charging through the door I expected to be greeted like Mo Farah at the end of a marathon… instead I was close to being sectioned when my friends found out this was my third brunch of the day. Sometimes people just don’t understand the dreamers.
I may have got a little over excited when a flat white arrived at the table moments after I sat down (think Leo finally winning an Oscar levels of excitement), but rather than Blixen recognising my brunching prowess it turns out someone else had ordered it and I had to wait for my flat white like a pleb.
Going for my usual poached eggs on potato rosti, it was a battle of wills; Rebecca vs brunch. I was post-Christmas lunch full at this point, but with the support of my friends I did it…I god damn did it.
Status update after third brunch
Mood: Crying like a small child
Hunger level: Won’t need to eat for the rest of the year
Thinking about: Getting a certificate of achievement made
My thoughts after this brunching insanity? Its good to have goals in life and to aim high when setting them. I mean, you could train for years for a shot at the Olympics, or you could try doing three brunches in three hours on a rainy Saturday in London. Your choice.
After all that there really was only one thing for me to do, find the closest wine bar to toast my achievement.