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.

Think you know porridge? Take another – delicious – look at 26 Grains…

I really love porridge.

I know.

There are times when it’s hard to believe just how cool I can be but there you have it. I have a huge soft spot for the humble oat in all its glory and thankfully, so does Alex Hely-Hutchinson, the brains behind Neal’s Yard newcomer, 26 Grains. If you’re unfamiliar with this darling dinky pit stop in one of London’s most deliciously colourful spaces, and if the notion of porridge conjures up bowls of greying wallpaper paste from your childhood, it’s time to open your mind and reconsider your stance on this champion of dining. I’m not even gonna call it a staple of the breakfast table alone because the truth is, done right, it’s the perfect meal any hour of the day.

Started as a pop up in Old St tube a couple of years ago, this place is named after the number of grains cooked with by Hely-Hutchinson in both her restaurant and her book. This concept is not just a Scandinavian inspired homage to the oat but a way of introducing people to several other grains that can be used as the base for both sweet & savoury dishes.

Freekeh, buckwheat, quinoa & split peas all feature on a menu that heavily blends the flavours you know with the ingredients you might not. Dollops of Nutella, sprinklings of brown sugar and lashings of honey might give you a hit of sweetness at home – here it’s piles of crunchy, dark cacao nibs, dustings of cinnamon coconut sugar and pools of date syrup that will add flavour and texture. Almost too pretty to eat, heaping portions are served in swoon-worthy earthenware bowls that’ll make you curse the fact you weren’t born with effortless Danish cool.

Unless you were.

In which, I’m like 60% happy for you, 40% jealous.

Ok, maybe more like 90/10.

A Banana Cacao bowl was made with almond milk oats and topped with coconut yogurt, cacao nibs, sliced banana and date syrup. Like a glowing hearth on a winters’ day, it warmed me perfectly from the inside out and made me forget Storm Doris as she attempted to batter the capital into submission outside. Deeply delicious with wholesome, nutty flavours from the nibs, this was as far removed from your standard bowl of over-processed, fakely saccharine porridge as it’s possible to get and I loved it, crushing particularly hard on the coconut yoghurt which added a lovely cool creaminess as it melted into submission atop the oats.

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Muesli, granola and a seasonal smoothie bowl complete the cold offering while savoury palates can choose from the sriracha drizzled egg & kale oats or the hygge bowl, complete with chicory, artichoke and beetroot and if avocado toast is as far along the food trends tightrope as your breakfasting companions will comfortably tiptoe towards, they won’t go hungry here either with rolling hills of creamy green avo spread over rye bread. My need for a return visit just to try the black tahini yoghurt is like my occasional need to listen to Michael Bolton whilst cleaning the kitchen. It’s inexplicable to some but oh-so understandable to others.

Never one to shy away from trying the latest superfood ingredient I flagged down and jumped on board the turmeric band wagon with a spiced hot chocolate that was dark and savoury, gentle on the taste-buds and lingering in the nose. I love a twist on an old favourite as much as the next food obsessive – and you feel free to call me a philistine here – but there’s a place for superfoods and a place for marshmallows, squirty cream & a flake and I know which belongs on my cocoa.

At less than £10 for substantial portions of food & drink, 26 Grains is great value for money. I realise this is the point where some of you holler ‘Woman! They better be 24 carat gold plated oats for that price!’ and yeah, I get it. This is a breakfast that’s absolutely gonna cost you more than the sachet of Readybrek sitting squashed & forlorn in the bottom of your larder but the quality of ingredients used here are beautiful, the presentation is chocolate-box pretty, the vibe is relaxed and the staff are lovely…can you say the same of your breakfast al desko?

Re-inventing the (pea)nut butter of your sticky fingered childhood with a sumptuous almond adaptation…

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I love to cook. When I’m tense or fretful, time spent in my tiny, cobalt-tiled kitchen soothes me and when I see something that instantly makes me want to run out & get the necessary ingredients, it excites me. Be it lazy weekend cookbook browsing or throwing together something in a post-work pan on a Monday evening, well, exhausted I may be when I begin but after 10 minutes of slicing or sauteing or swirling, I can feel my shoulders relax and the cares of the day slip away into the realm of un-importance.

One of the things I get the most pleasure from is finding a recipe that instantly piques my interest so to do just that and then to combine it with writing? Well, that’s altogether splendid.

Food 52 is a website and online community that I would move into tomorrow if I could. Yup. I’d pack my little virtual suitcase with aprons and wooden spoons, my pasta maker, my champagne saucers and an avocado or two because, well just because.

Their belief that ‘how you eat is how you live’ translates into everything they publish, illustrate and talk about and I absolutely adore it. They make food and the exploration of it seem accessible and relate-able, lovely to look at and luscious to taste, so when they were recently on the lookout for testers for new recipes with coconut, I absolutely leapt at the chance and, not having attempted it before, the opportunity to try making my own nut butter – almond with toasted coconut to be specific – was an absolute winner.

A warning about the outcome of this recipe from Emily of www.nourishing-matters.com – it’s a seriously grown up take on the peanut butter you think you know. Velvety, decadent & luxurious, it tastes like it should be the result of hours spent toiling in the kitchen a la Betty Draper but in reality, you’ll need nothing more than the ability to hit ‘go’ on your food processor, leaving plenty of time to daydream about an elegant plate of creamy, nourishing, butter slathered toast or a bowlful of hot milky porridge, the butter spooned on top. Read More