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…
Well now, who knew that all those hours playing Pokémon as a kid were going to be of more use as an adult than long division. Actually, 11 year old Rebecca could have told you that one. Since I am here as a resource to help you survive London, I simply had to write something to make playing Pokémon Go as enjoyable as possible. As you are wandering around London aimlessly looking at your phone here are my favourite cafes and their nearest Pokestops so you can refuel and get your strength back for your next Poke-battle. NB these cafes also work if you are playing Happen, Ingress or Grinder. London Grind – Try the little silver dragon on a plinth outside or across the road
White Mulberries – Big stone seat just outside and to the left and the Knight outside the Medieval Banquet
Grounded – the gate to the park across the street
Trade – the entrance to Petticoat Lane market down the road
Blixen – the Ten Bells pub on the corner if you turn right and also the Pear sculpture if you walk the other way
Ozone – The Angel pub on the corner of the road
Lantana Old Street – Susanna Wesley memorial in the church next door
Attendant Coffee Shoreditch – pretty much every piece of street art nearby
Shoreditch Grind – The Mirror Disks around the corner
Friends of Ours – Royal Oak Court gate
Modern Pantry Finsbury Square – The square itself is the Pokestop
The Wren – St Nicholas Cole Abbey and the police box at the end of Friday Street
Notes of Music and Coffee – this one is actually near a gym (National Gallery/Trafalgar Square)
Flat White Soho – Jessie Matthews OBE Plaque and also lots of street art nearby
Timberyard Soho – There is a little blue face in the wall near the cafe
Prufrock – The Clerkenwell House Globe just a few doors down
Fields – The Bandstand mosaic and also one on the lower corner of the pond
Fuckoffee Bermondsey – Both of the sculptures outside the White Cube Gallery
Watch Tower – St Mary Magdalen Church
Creme – The ‘Sky Blue Wall’ street art
Freestate Coffee – The gate to Sicilian Ave next door
Sunday – The Hemingford Arms pub
Flotsam and Jetsam – The Althorp Pub
Story – Very weirdly it’s the Peterkin Custard Ghost sign
Granger and Co – The German Gymnasium, the Birdcage sculpture and the waterfall fountain
Milk in Balham – There should be one just around the end of the market under the sign
Brickwood Clapham Common – The Alexandra and the Clapham Common Clock Tower
Hubbard and Bell – Cleopatra Mall Mosaic
Tonic – This is near a gym (Piccadilly Circus)
Duck and Waffle – The entire tower is the Pokestop
Embassy East – The Whitmore Estate
Bourne and Hollingsworth – The Spa Fields just outside the door
Caravan – The fountain just outside
Let me know your favourite cafe and I will try to let you know the Pokestop nearby!
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.
I am friends with people from outside New Zealand and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Normally these ‘non-kiwis’ add an interesting nuance to my life and occasionally give me weird flavours of M&M’s (Americans y’all). Whatever UKIP says, making friends with these foreigners has had a positive impact on my life, with little to no economic strife (except that time that I got drunk and paid for all the cocktails THAT’S WHAT I CALL ECONOMIC STRIFE). Recently however I encountered a problem; Kiwi cafe Ozone near Old Street celebrated its fourth birthday a couple of weeks ago with a Mean Feed, a proper kiwi mean feed. And I, always wanting to educate the heathens, decided to take an American with me. An American at a Mean Feed, what could go wrong?
First up was the translation issue. Turns out ‘mean’ is defined as something totally different in America, to our star spangled friends it apparently means ‘unkind’ or ‘spiteful’, whereas of course we all know that ‘mean’ to kiwis is a fucking awesome good time. So when I invited my M&M provider to a Mean Feed, she thought we were heading into a spiteful trough of food. Man this international relations schtick is hard. After I calmed her fears and said there was only a small chance of people being horrible to her (meaning mostly me if she tried to take food off my plate), off to the Ozone Mean Feed we happily went.
I morphed into ‘Super Kiwi’ the moment I walked through the door. With an accent so thick you could throw a sheep at it and a penchant for ghost chips, it’s actually quite amazing that my friend didn’t just run away then and there. Even more so when we sat down and the first thing on the menu was ‘mousetraps’. Believe it or not her disbelieving look didn’t get any better when I described what a mousetrap was – essentially a baked cheese and marmite on toast. Sorry international relations.
But like most Kiwi things, as soon as you put it in your mouth all is forgiven. The starters were seriously a taste from home, but of course Ozone had made fancy versions of everything (as is only fitting for its birthday meal). As I sipped my lamington cocktail, the cocktail that I would marry in a heartbeat, it was just amazing to hear a hubbub of kiwi accents around me. Here I was normal, here I could use the word ‘pants’ without being laughed at. Here was home.
Choosing between ‘Meat & 3 veg’ or ‘Fish and Chips’ for the main, I of course went for the Meat & 3 Veg options because I am worried I am becoming slightly lamb deficient now I have been outside the mothership for four years. The succulent lamb shoulder with pea puree was enough to make me sing the national anthem right there at the table. Of course for my American friend this was the only normal part of the entire night, Americans are all about that national pride.
Ozone’s fourth birthday was an amazing chance to indulge in my kiwi-ness. So much of what I miss about home is all wrapped up in food; tasting lamb, lamingtons and mousetraps filled up that kiwi sized hole in my heart. Till next time cuz.
Massive thank you to Ozone for having me along, and so sorry for all the singing.