Hungry in London: 10 of the best breakfasts…

Let’s face it, if our parents and every responsible adult since the dawn of time are to be believed, then breakfast = the most important meal of the day.

As a responsible person yourself now – I know, I know but what happened at university, stays at university – what you also understand to be true beyond any doubt is this: it’s the best meal of the day.

Think about it – you can eat pretty much anything you want, it’s perfectly acceptable to boozify your order and, done right, it can set you up for an absolutely cracking day of running around and getting stuff done like the queen you are or laying on the sofa and bingeing ‘Killing Eve’ until you’re in a highly suspicious but nonchalantly lazy food coma like the queen you are.

With that in mind, here are ten spots in the capital worth making a beeline for at the start of the day. Seasonality is big on London menus right now so not every dish listed below may be carried 24/7, 365 but whether it’s on piled onto bread or layered into a bowl, know that every place mentioned is still 100% worth checking out for the tastiest way to start as you mean to go on.

1.Bacon, Egg, Chilli & Cheese on Focaccia at The Dusty Knuckle

Squirrelled away on a Dalston back street with a heritage that began in a Hackney shipping container, this bakery has drawn people regularly to East London on serious bread pilgrimages for five years now.

Set up by three friends looking to create outstanding food whilst helping young people create creatively sustainable lives & careers for themselves, you’re never going to have anything less than one of the best meals of your week there but weekend brunching is a particularly smart option for those with a big appetite.

Fried egg, crispy bacon and a whole muddle of chilli, cheese, spring onions & fresh herbs are piled between slabs of dimpled, golden, pillowy focaccia; messy, crunchy, chewy and delicious, this is the kind of sandwich that demands you lay it down for just a moment to, briefly but reverentially, pay homage to the bakers inside who’ve been there since 4am so that you could rock up to soothe that Friday night head at one of the sunny picnic tables out back come Saturday morning.

Epic my friends, truly epic.

Plant-based and pretty special; the small plates of Slaw…

Eat the rainbow. Words we’ve tried so hard and so virtuously and so strenuously to live by in recent years that sometimes, the joy seems to have seeped out of mealtimes because let’s be clear, there is no place in this world for undressed leaves. Frankly we have enough to deal with right now without naked cabbage rearing its unadorned head.

Now it’s more like eat the frickin’ kaleidoscope and what an unbridled, uncomplicated, unabashed joy that is to do when places like Slaw make it so easy. Plant-based bowls, flushed with colour and alive with texture, are characteristic of the small, stylish restaurant that opened earlier this year, mere feet from similarly vegan sibling Wild Food Café.

Starting life as a series of supper clubs and opening on Islington’s Upper Street in February, Slaw’s ambition is to make plant-based food both realistic and accessible through the clever handling of fresh, simple ingredients and it’s fantastic to see it sailing past its original predicted residency of five months.

Understated in design, bold in delivery, warm in service, Slaw possesses a quietly assured menu that subtly transforms itself with the changing of the seasons outside; strapping spears of tender early summer asparagus gave way only recently to defiantly blousy legs of broccoli nestled with peas, quinoa and pickled radish.

Small plates are designed to be shared so after starting with pillowy slabs of salt speckled, golden crusted, house made focaccia that’s exactly what we did, picking all the dishes on offer and hesitating only at the mushrooms. Sorry guys but unless they’re squishy, rolled in coconut and found in the local multi-screen pick’n’mix, I can’t get on board with the fungi.

Carrots arrive roasted, pickled and laying across dollops of carrot hummus like the tastiest pile of edible pick-up sticks imaginable. Showcasing the restaurants root-to-stem ethos means the pesto dashed across the top is made from feathery carrot tops and a tangy crumb made from hazelnuts and rye delivers a crunch that lingers nicely making this a must-order.

Beetroot dahl is thick, silky and as pink as Barbie’s dream sports car with a sweet, earthy bite to the lentils that stops it from descending into mush. Topped with a glossy puddle of cucumber raita, this is the dish that chewy, puffy flatbreads were made for scooping up…

…as is the star of the evening – dukkah sprinkled, roasted cherry tomatoes and aubergine with nutty black rice lazily paddling around in a pool of spiced plum tomato sauce. Dreamily creamy with layers of deep, sweet, almost smoky flavour, this is a new take on summers’ bounty of tomatoes that will have you scraping the dish for every last smudge of vivid terracotta.

Florets of cauliflower are tinted golden yellow, fragrant with spices, softly spiked with flaked almonds and draped with a bright, grassy coriander dressing that stops this from being just another Middle Eastern ode to the humble cauli.

The loveliest thing about Slaw is that whilst some of their dishes are aspirational and unlikely to be replicated in your own kitchen, others, like the cauliflower, are easy to imagine throwing together with confidence for a mid-week supper and that’s brilliant because that’s what the best places should do. Deliver food that tastes great and gives you a break from your own dining table but also encourage you to think about how you can take inspiration from their menu for another night.

The current vegan landscape of London is vast and at times it’s unforgiving to those dipping a toe into the waters of plant-based cooking but the honest and passionate exploration of vegetables apparent at Slaw is something to be sought out and celebrated.

All hail the Hippo…

Kiss the Hippo. What a name. I mean, who doesn’t already love it, this whimsical sounding place across the river?

Opened last year in the lush, royal leafiness of Richmond by entrepreneur Can Eren and a team looking to create the ultimate coffee experience, the imminent opening of a second branch in Fitzrovia meant I had to seriously bump this coffee shop up my ever-swelling list of places to eat in the capital – I have a slightly weird-but-charming/totally understandable-and-charming thing about visiting the original site once a place gets successful enough to expand. Thing is, I’m a North London gal which means that Richmond often seems like the sort of destination I’ll need maps, a packed lunch and at least a day to get to.

Reality check? It’s 3 lines on the tube…excellent. I survived the trip there without eating…remarkable. And it only took an hour…ace.

Flooded with sunlight on the sort of day when London actually remembered that it was supposed to be summer, there’s a open, light, airy feel to the place which heralds all sorts of blonde wood & concrete floor goals. It’s a little how I imagine sitting in the creamiest, fluffiest whipped cream cloud must be and how could that be anything other than glorious?

The in-house Loring S-15 roaster – one of the most environmentally friendly on the market thanks to precision heating and impressively low fuel consumption – sits at the back behind glass fronted door while, mere steps from the entrance, glass fronted cabinets display picture-perfect croissants, cookies the size of my head – again, glorious – and cinnamon buns, icing imperfectly swirled with a home baked touch that I loved.

Iced lattes are creamy with deep, fruitily spiced flavour and served by staff clearly skilled at their craft; current & former UK Barista Championship winners work here, their unwavering love for the bean shining out of each brew.

The Hippo Bun sees a croissant roll precariously sandwiching caramelised onion jam, slices of beef tomato and slabs of bacon together with a perfect, jelly-sweet yolked fried egg; take a moment, I beg of you, to ogle the tree trunk layers of lamination…I did.

Becoming a local here is unlikely; becoming one at the new Fitzrovia branch is much more probable given the geographical maths. That said, there are always friends in this green & leafy borough who deserve to be visited.

Often.

For breakfast and coffee.

Always coffee.