2. Scrambled Eggs with Spiced Tomato Chutney on Brioche at 26 Grains
Tucked away in Neal’s Yard, a vibrant nook of Covent Garden, 26 Grains has been quietly satisfying those with a thing for porridge since 2015 – I know this because I am one of those people with one of those things. There is literally no time of the day or night that wouldn’t be made better with the addition of a bowl of porridge, be it sweetly, traditionally oaty and loaded with nut butters, stewed fruits and toasted nuts or delightfully, inventively savoury and dressed up with fresh herbs, spices & grains.
That said, in recent months Alex Hely-Hutchinson’s ode to oatmeal has also branched out into elegant small plates from dawn to dusk. Regularly changing to fall in line with the changing seasons and local ingredients, the breakfast offerings are especially lovely and if you see this legend of a sandwich on the menu, be the smartest person in the queue and order it without hesitation.
Eggs are scrambled into luscious, creamy dollops and laid between two halves of a sweetly toasted brioche bun, itself a thing of fluffy, milky wonder. A lightly spiced tomato chutney, crispy garlic chips & velvet skinned basil leaves complete an A* mix of textures and flavours. Eat at the bar – god I love to eat at a bar – and wash it down with an oat milk latte then step into the day with goodness in your belly and the biggest smile on your face.
3. House Beans on Toast with Eggs & Chorizo at Redemption Roasters
More and more now, businesses are being created with a desire to do more than just make money. They want to help give something back and they want to extend the hand of support & training, encouragement & collaboration to those who might otherwise find it unavailable; Redemption Roasters is one such business.
Originally approached by the Ministry of Justice to run the Aylesbury Prison roastery & training centre (the first in the UK behind bars), they now champion certain key principles within their ethos; to reduce re-offending through coffee, to teach roasting & barista skills to young offenders and to raise the bar in all they do that are related to both of those.
Redemption can be found in four coffee-shop locations – the cosy Kings Cross branch in the newly opened Coal Drops Yard is my favourite – and nine other prisons or training centres, making them a force to be reckoned with when it comes to setting people up to best aim for a life without re-offending.
Beans on toast is a standard in the life of any self-respecting UK dweller but while this version – as with all others – may tilt its hat respectfully to Heinz, it then very firmly muscles in to lay claim to the modern crown and deservedly so. Sweet & chunky tomatoes are given added chutzpah with the addition of meaty pieces of spicy chorizo, perfectly fried eggs and a classically simple salt & pepper seasoning on top of fresh sourdough.
Change the world? Maybe, maybe not.
Change a life? In more ways than one, it just might…
4. Avocado Toast with Halloumi, Egg & Courgette Ribbons at Lantana
Can you even call something a breakfast list if it doesn’t have at least one iteration of ye-olde-antipodean-menu-staple, avocado toast on it? Probably not. The difference with this one from small Aussie chain Lantana, is that both of those components come buried under an avalanche of extra ingredients designed to elevate this to something rather flipping special
Grilled halloumi that’s swapped squeaky for squidgy and given itself an all over fake bake worthy of a week in Marbs? Check.
Creamy labneh that’s thick enough to stand a defiantly courageous spoon in? Nailed it.
Poached eggs with ribbons of orange yolk spilling out upon obligatory egg-porn fork-poking? Naturally.
Sweetly soft courgette ribbons tumbled over the top in a glorious riot of emerald? Hell yes.
Nutty dukkah that adds spicy crunch to every mouthful? 100% yes.
In short, on a menu of Aussie-via-the-rest-of-the-world classics, this is an altogether ace way to steer yourself onto the slightly more virtuous breakfasting path without feeling like the loser of the table. Plus, while I can never advocate calorie-counting – it makes me a bit sad even writing it – we all know that less calories spent on food means more to play with should the words ‘bottomless brunch’ light a spark of desire in your heart…
5. Poached Apricots with Yoghurt & Granola at Jolene
Not long ago due to the sometimes necessary evils of company restructuring, I was made redundant, an experience I’m grateful to have survived and to have emerged from in a better place than I was before. Whilst I can’t honestly say that this was something I was keen to tick off on that giant list called ‘life’, it did offer one small silver lining…
…in the daytime…
…to go out to breakfast…
…in places that would normally be rammed at the weekends…
…I’m not gonna lie…
…that side of it, I enjoyed very much.
Jolene is one of North London’s most enchanting eateries. Pretty and natural, blending earthy tones with modern fixtures and punctuated with some of the loveliest staff this side of the river, a solo dining experience here is one of London living’s distinct pleasures.
If baked goods be the stuff that your dreams are made of, prepare for them all to come true – the rhubarb & custard pastries and the chocolate-stout cookies are both supremely delicious – but it was one of those simpler dishes that you might make at home but that will always taste better when someone else is making it for you that I plumped for.
Perfectly poached apricots looking for all the world like the very dictionary definition of summer fruit bounty, were bobbing along contentedly in a pool of naturally tart yoghurt that sharply punctuated each spoonful of sweet, nutty, home-made granola. Duh-reamy.
Insider tip: if the house peach, apple & basil juice is on the menu, order a glass then sit back, sip and enjoy the pure class that is Jolene.
6. Mango Porridge with Burnt Pineapple, Beetroot Pearls, Lime Creme Fraiche, Dehydrated Kiwi & a Macadamia Crumb at Friends of Ours
In case you’d forgotten in the last ten minutes, me and porridge kind of have a thang. What makes this porridge so splendid though – apart from the list of ingredients which is both dazzling & provocative – is that it’s perfect for all the plant-based lovers out there.
Aussie based recipes and incredibly pretty presentation make this cute neighbourhood cafe in Hoxton worthy of diverting to one morning. Dishes that tick the vegan, vegetarian and pescaterian boxes as well as providing for the meat eaters in the crown mean it’s somewhere that can easily cater to everyone in your group…easier said than done sometimes even in a city like London.
FYI: chai lattes are particularly guzzlesome though it’s the mango & chilli laced Rum Tiki I’ve earmarked for the next visit given that it can be tricky to justify hard spirits at a pre-9am work breakfast meeting, ya feel me?!
Back to that porridge though and the dreamy palette of toppings that arrive painted on top in a scandalous riot of colour and texture. Juicy and tropical with mango & pineapple, sweet and earthy with tiny beetroot pearl explosions & bright and zingy with lime & kiwi, not forgetting a seriously tasty and buttery nutty crumb at the end.
Not only is is seriously impressive to have pulled together a combination of ingredients which, in less confident hands, could be quite honestly an alarming hot mess but it’s really just a delight to eat. Vivid, interesting and full of flavour, this is vegan breakfasting that a carnivore can get on board with.
7. Matcha Overnight Oats at Matcha & Beyond
Whilst we all know by now that the humble porridge oat has never let me down, it’s chilled, blended, 24-hour form leaves me, well, cold. Overnight oats play a dangerous game IMHO, resulting in levels of mush that veer wildly from barely acceptable to downright grim. That’s right kids, I calls it like I sees it.
For some, adding showy, pungent matcha powder to the mix is just asking for trouble but at Matcha & Beyond, one of the capital’s only specific matcha-focused cafes, they’ve totally nailed it.
Made with matcha sourced directly from Japan & creamy fresh almond milk, it’s served with a choice of toppings that include Greek yoghurt, matcha granola, antioxidant mix, sweet berries, bee pollen & maple syrup, all of which I opted for because, well, it’s me and I loved the combination of textures all of which helped to off-set any potential pulpiness from the oats.
Taking inspiration from both the US and Japan, Matcha & Beyond was opened with a vision of delicately flavoured, pastel hued food & drink that could offer an alternative to the often sugar-laden lattes and baked goods of other coffee-shops. Everything is made fresh on site using London based suppliers and serving Square Mile coffee, itself a nice playmate to the jewel toned powdered tea leaves.
If matcha ain’t your thang, then this place is hardly likely to change that but if you’ve a curiosity for this tea superhero, then the wide range of products and helpful, friendly staff make it the right place for your matcha education to begin.
8. Blueberry Cheesecake Danish at Jolt
I fell in love with Jolt from the moment I stepped inside during the soft launch opening week. Yep, that’s a fact and I’m not even going to try and deny it.
I mean is it welcoming I hear you ask? Yup, it’s full of staff who love coffee and serve you with a smile that rings of sincerity instead of pay-check chasing. Maybe I’m being fooled but as someone who’s spent many years on the front line, the difference is pretty obvious to me.
Is it stylish, I hear you wonder? Only if brushed rose gold, matte black and gleaming terrazzo turns you on. Which it should. It does me. Too much information? Sorry…but not really.
Is the coffee good, I hear you muse? That it is dear reader, that it is. Using beans roasted by East London’s Nude coffee, it’s punchy but smooth and in one of their signature rose, pistachio or Spanish lattes, it’s freaking delicious. They also have a brew bar and a rotation of guest single origins.
But what about the breakfast, I hear you demand? Is there anything good to eat? Of course there is.
If savoury is your thing, there’s a range of nicely bronzed brioche buns filled generously with everything from halloumi to smoked salmon but every now and then – aka all the freakin’ time – I can be a sucker for the prettiest pastry on display. Please meet our new friend, cheesecake danish, truly the love child of all that is light & flaky, deep & creamy, plump & fruity.
Chances of leaving on a sugar high after one of these washed down with a condensed milk latte? Probable to likely to unquestionable.
Worth going all in for on this occasion? As above folks, as above.
9. Kimcheese Croissant at Caravan Fitzrovia
Kimchi. Cheese. Pastry. The Holy Grail of all that I need in my life.
Ok, a little over dramatic for some of you I realise but honestly, if you can’t be allowed to make loud & passionate declarations of love about such things as bread, cheese and fermented vegetables, what point is there in living?
Calling something ‘highly dependable’ doesn’t make it sound like the most glowing of compliments but stick with me when I say that’s a description that I’d use without question for Caravan, the small New Zealand influenced group of London restaurants that dot the city. I’ve dined there at every conceivable time of day and never been let down by their small plates, their happy faces, their wicked cocktails or their funky vibe.
Celebrating their first birthday this month is my favourite branch on Great Portland Street, bestowed with this title due to its gorgeous take-away space just inside the main doors. Plenty of naturally lit counter top seating, the smiliest staff imaginable and oh yeah, a stellar bakery area where the lineup is worth taking the time to swoon over and get a ‘gram in.
Frequent collaborations with some of country’s top food superstars including GBBO’s Edd Kimber and author of ‘Saffron in the Souks’, John Gregory Smith mean there’s always something new worth checking out but for me, the ever faithful kimcheese croissant is the reason my wallet gets lighter and my tummy gets happier on a regular basis.
Getting the balance of sweet & savoury right in a pastry is always a challenge but the team here have absolutely smashed it. Deep caramel coloured swirls of flaky pastry are brittle on the edge but buttery soft in the centre with generous but well-balanced pieces of kimchi layered throughout. The combination of spicy Korean heat with rich traditional baking techniques is spot on and in a landscape of rotating newness, long may this bad boy live to fight another day.
10. Cardamom Buns at Soderberg
If there’s one thing the Scandinavians are know for, it’s their buns.
Pastry that is.
And their blondes.
Humans that is.
And their clean living, aspirational levels of hygge and general air of being the happiest people in the world. Literally.
Man…those are some benchmarks to try and live up to.
A Swedish cafe company with a bakery and 7 branches in Edinburgh, Soderberg opened its first London location in the heart of Soho earlier this year and let’s all take a moment to stop and say thank-you for that.
Guys – thanks. Big time. For the authentically delicious Swedish dishes, for the delightful Scandi-inspired service, for the gorgeous Scandi-influenced decor and for your buns.
Your cardamom buns.
Your sweetly spiced, stickily layered, elegantly knotted, deliciously fragrant cardamom buns. In a city that already boasts several other ways to get a fix of twisty sweet pastries – oh hey Fabrique! oh hi Scandinavian Bakery! – it’s hard to stand out but you do and I love you for it.
Oh – and your hot chocolate. I kinda love you for that too. Y’know, the liquid gold you make that I wanna wear a nosebag of round my neck so I can just keep drinking till I fall down in a happy, sugary, cocoa laden stupor?
Thanks for that too.
Signing off with one last note and a cheeky #11 which is the featured title image – Violet Bakery’s beautiful house-made granola with yoghurt and seasonal fruit.
Violet’s is one of my favourite London bakeries and deserves a massive shout out not only for this bowl of loveliness but also their banana bread which is hands down, the best in the capital. I’m not joking guys, I wouldn’t do that to you. Treat yourself, visit today, eat well, be happy.