Monday, 29 August 2011

London's best breakfast? Join the club

The Breakfast Club, 31 Camden Passage, N1 8EA
The Breakfast Club, 2 - 4 Rufus Street, N1 6PE
Breakfast for two with cocktails: £30

Despite growing up in a country responsible for one of the world's best breakfasts, my younger self often longed for the sort of breakfast we ate on family holidays in South Africa. French toast with syrup was the firm favourite - an exotic concept for my fledgling palate, which seemed infinitely superior to our prosaic eggy bread. However, it wasn't so much the food that enticed me, more the possibility of going out to a stylish, non-greasy place for our first meal of the day. 

While we may lead the world at frying eggs and serving them on grubby plastic tables, most of us fine English folk can probably still remember a time when a nice breakfast or brunch was hard to come by, save in hotels. Until relatively recently, one would have been forced to conclude that whilst we still excel at the fry up, our breakfast culture lacks some the sunny finesse of the antipodeans, South Africans and Americans. However, two happy meals at the Breakfast Clubs in Islington and Hoxton reminded me that there are more and more of these fabulous breakfast places opening in the capital. Their varied menus and excellent coffee could even give our faithful old artery clogger a run for its money, unless it is made by the Regency, of course.

The queues at the Islington Breakfast Club had always put me off in the past, along with a (completely misguided) feeling that it would be another overrated, mediocre offering aimed at my London brethren with more money than sense. Persuaded to brave the wait by a friend, I liked it so much I dragged Mr F to the Hoxton branch the following Sunday. We'd been at a wedding the night before, so our heads were a little sore. We needed a good breakfast washed down with something serious to salvage our day. Whilst Mr F's breakfast mojito (a concoction of pink grapefruit, rum and lime) was perfect, my bloody mary had been overly fiddled-with. Perhaps I am a purist, but chunks of cucumber have no place in a bloody mary and horseradish must only be added by the gentlest of hands. This was not the case at the Breakfast Club.  

Almost overwhelmed by choice - the menu is vast - we tried the All American and the huevos rancheros. The former was a slightly odd combination of pancakes, sausage and bacon (so far, so normal) topped with syrup (still good), fried eggs (really?) and hash browns. Mr F wolfed it down and praised the quality of the sausage, the crispiness of the bacon and the fluffiness of the pancakes. He was less convinced that the mix of flavours was successful, it would seem eggs and hash browns have no place on a plate with syrup. The huevos rancheros were gigantic and fabulous. Two huge, spicy grilled chorizo-style sausages came with squishy beans, toasted tortilla and all the normal accoutrements (salsa, guacamole etc). Disappointingly, it had waited a little while to be brought out, so the eggs had hardened somewhat under the hot lamp above the counter. Still for £30 for two big breakfasts, coffee and cocktails, Breakfast Club got enough right to make it well worth a visit.

There are Breakfast Clubs springing up all over London, the most recent addition to the family even has a secret bar in its fridge. Hoxton seemed to have shorter queues and a spacious, airy atmosphere whereas the Islington branch is darker and cosier and could almost be a little oppressive for the severely hungover. However, the Hoxton branch is plagued by that peculiar East London curse: Shoreditch service. On our visit, there were plenty of (wonderfully hip) staff but none who seemed particularly inclined to do the serious work of carrying food. At one point, several tables worth of food languished on the service counter. Not a good look in a place with an open kitchen. Get that right and Hoxton would be the winner. Until that day (when the cool kids move to Clapton), it might be safer to dine with the Islington crowd; at least they won't tolerate bad service.

Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon

Breakfast Club on Urbanspoon


  1. Syrup and egg is brilliant.

    Love the blog cuz.

  2. Completlely agree on Shoreditch service. Hipsters seem too cool to actually carry plates or serve customers!