Signature dish: Bread baked in-house that you can toast at your table
Coffee: Roasted in-house
Tea: Regular builders’ and the usuals
For the morning after: Full English or their wellloved pancakes, plus a Bloody Mary
Opening hours: Tuesday 8am–5pm; Wednesday–Friday 9am–5pm; Saturday 9am– 5.30pm; Sunday 10am–5pm
Address: Shop 88, Brixton Village Market, Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PS
Telephone: 07717 642812
Nearest station: Brixton
In a corner shop of busy brixton market, take time out to toast freshly baked bread at the tabletop toaster to your perfect shade of golden brown. Then smother it in butter, jams and spreads. It gets busy quickly so get there early and be prepared for people in the queue to eye up your food as you eat it. But you won’t be put off because it’s too delicious and you can feel smug about the fact you got up earlier than them.
Choose from eggs benedict, eggs and smoked salmon, a full English (or a half English, if you’re not feeling so hungry) or potato rostis with various toppings, among other brunchy staples, and a feisty coffee to get you going. There’s even a loyalty card for regular brunchers. The menu changes often, and the freshly baked cakes and buns inside alone are worth waiting for.
Seating is outside, under the shelter of the market, so take a cardie if you’re going any time that’s not summer; it’s the perfect spot to watch the market bustle to life.
Duck & Waffle
Signature dish: Duck & Waffle
For the morning after: Marmite Black Velvet: Marmite and Guinness reduction with Champagne
Opening hours: Weekend brunch: 9am–4pm
Address: Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, EC2N 4AY
Telephone: 020 3640 7310
Nearest station: Liverpool Street
There’s something giddy exciting about being high up in the sky, purveying a city far below. Maybe it draws on a kind of megalomania deep within us all, a kind of emperor complex – a king surveying his kingdom (or queen over her queendom). And to eat while balanced on top of the world, well, can it get any more thrilling?
Even if you’re only here for an hour for brunch, there’s something quite magical about being 40 floors up above London – the highest restaurant in the UK, FYI.
The menu swings a bit wildly from Asian to American to British, via Italy and France, but it’s all very delicious. And there are a few items that marry unexpected flavours: oxcheek doughnuts, and foie gras crème brûlée being two notable examples. But when you’re sitting in the clouds, anything goes.
The duck egg en cocotte with roasted red peppers is rich and special enough to keep up with the view; and, of course, their signature duck (leg and egg) perched on a waffle is suitably impressive. There is a good range of sweet plates too – a peanut crunch dark chocolate sundae is quite enough sugar for the best of us.
With amazing views and open 24 hours a day (although brunch is only served at certain hours), you’ll be back soon just to keep an eye on your empire.
The Towpath Café
Signature dish: Cheese toastie
Coffee: Piansa, imported direct
Tea: The usual crowd
For the morning after: All-day gin!
Opening hours: Tuesday–Friday, 8am–dusk; Saturday and Sunday, 9am–dusk (March to November)
Address: Regent’s Canal towpath (between Whitmore Bridge and Kingsland Road Bridge), N1 5SB
Telephone: 020 7254 7606
Nearest station: Haggerston
Sitting right on the waterside of Regent’s Canal in Hackney, sun shining, blue sky, sipping some really great coffee and munching on a warm, cheese toastie (with quince paste), sometimes London feels like the best place in the world.
You can’t not be in a good mood at The Towpath Café – everyone seems to know each other and, being a little out of the way, most people are locals. Lovers, families, writers, joggers, people just out for a walk along the banks of the canal – everyone is welcome.
It’s a bit of a squeeze and you’ll be lucky to get a seat at one of the tables, and it is a bit weather-dependent (it’s not quite so pleasant when it’s raining) but if you do manage to find a corner inside, you could happily stay for brunch into lunch into dinner.
The brunch menu isn’t huge, but there’s something to tick every box: eggs on toast, porridge or granola, cakes at the counter, and plenty of coffee. Just watch out for the bells from oncoming cyclists.
Jackson & Rye
Opening hours: Weekend brunch menu 8am–4.30pm
Address: 217–221 Chiswick High Road, W4 2DW
Telephone: 020 8747 1156
Nearest station: Chiswick Park or Turnham Green
Signature dish: Ribs or pancakes
Coffee: Changing daily specials
For the morning after: Rye Mary or a Green Juice or a Leaded Shake
Unlike the ‘Rye’ In restaurant Snaps + Rye, this Rye isn’t referring to excellent bread, but rather excellent whisky!
Possibly a bit early for hard liquor but at Jackson & Rye, as at all the Le Caprice endeavours (the Ivy, Ivy Market Grill), anything goes. The menu is long and will satisfy all and every brunch craving you could possibly imagine, from the expected bacon pancakes or avocado with eggs, to the less expected toasted marshmallows or a chargrilled whole lobster with fries.
It feels a bit like you’re an eccentric film star staying in an old hotel in New York or Paris and that you should order whatever you fancy right at that moment, just because you can. Even if it’s an Oreo and rye milkshake at 8am. It’s good ol’ American food, served in generous portions, but with sophisticated old-world style.
With beautiful wooden flooring throughout and a drinks cabinet you’ll wish you owned, this is definitely a place to while away some time away from reality.
Also in Soho and Richmond.
Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings
Signature dish: Crispy potato hash with slow braised beef
Coffee: Nude Espresso
Tea: Mighty Leaf Tea
For the morning after: Bottomless Bellinis and Bloody Marys
Opening hours: Weekend brunch: 10am–4pm
Address: 42 Northampton Road, EC1R 0HU
Telephone: 020 3174 1156
Nearest station: Farringdon, Angel or King’s Cross
This is where brunch takes it up a notch or two. A cosy café and sleek bar area opens out onto a lavish greenhousecum- conservatory where trailing ferns and mini palm trees provide a rather other worldly atmosphere. Wrought iron garden furniture and big comfy basket chairs mix together giving the overall impression that you’ve just come down to breakfast in your very rich best friend’s country manor. But remember you are still in Clerkenwell, and everyone is very cool and very hip.
Enjoy a perfect cocktail while you peruse the menu, which is mainly a grown-up selection of very English dishes with a touch of adventure: curried cauliflower with a hen’s egg, and huevos beneditos – a chorizo, avocado and béarnaise sauce mash-up.
The house Breakfast is two eggs cooked to your liking, which you can then mix-and-match with your favourite items from a long list of classics – although it’s pretty tricky not to just go for one of everything.
Having said that, the crispy potato hash with braised beef is hard to beat. They also do hot drop scones and crumpets. Stay all day enjoying the bottomless Bloody Marys.
Extracts from London’s Best Brunches by Laura Herring, published by Smith Street Books, RRP $29.99