There are so many contenders for the best brunch in London (and the best breakfast in London)! We've narrowed it down to 25 of our favourite morning feasts in the city, including the best places for pancakes, eggs, avocado on toast, Bloody Marys and more...
Looking for the best brunch in London, or best breakfast in London? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve eaten morning feasts at restaurants and cafes all over London to find the best brunches and breakfasts in the capital. Read on for Bloody Marys, pancakes, eggs benedict, avocado on toast and coffee-fuelled fun.
We take ‘brunch’ to mean a really lazy breakfast-cum-lunch meal that you can spend hours enjoying. It’s something indulgent (think pancakes, waffles and eggs royale), usually enjoyed at the weekend (who doesn’t love a Sunday brunch?), and booze is very often present… your brunch should go on until after midday, after all! Head to one of our below recommended London brunch spots with family or friends, because you’re worth it.
Best corn bread – Red Rooster, Shoreditch
We loved the corn bread at Red Rooster so much that we asked for the recipe. Bake this comforting corn bread with whipped honey butter and sticky-sweet tomato jam at home, or head to Shoreditch to enjoy in the buzzy restaurant along with a Bloody Mary or two and hearty Southern American soul food. The lively restaurant also hosts plenty of live performances to keep you entertained while you’re tucking into your brunch.
Sunday brunch at CUT at 45 Park Lane is a lavish affair, as you would expect from this opulent restaurant, complete with marble floors and collectors artwork on the walls. A mirror wall at the back of the restaurant creates a dramatic corridor illusion, reflecting the sparkling chandelier, wood-paneled room dividers and floor-to-ceiling curtains. There’s a guitarist strumming away on Sundays to make brunch a more relaxed and leisurely occasion.
Starters include seven-grain granola with floral wild flower honey, yogurt and tart raspberries, and plenty of refreshing salads (Chinese chicken with pickled ginger, crispy wontons and earthy mushroom vinaigrette, or butter lettuce with avocado, Stilton and Champagne-herb vinaigrette).
Mains are hearty, and there are a lot to choose from. We loved the salt beef hash cakes, packed with soft salt beef and topped with perfectly poached eggs, crispy leeks and creamy béarnaise sauce. The club sandwich is filled with lobster, of course, on caramelised walnut bread with punchy herb aioli and Apple Wood smoky bacon. For something sweet, melt whipped maple butter into fluffy buttermilk pancakes, livened up with seasonal berries.
CUT at 45 Park Lane even has a dedicated Bloody Mary trolley, from which waiters create four variations on the classic recipe. Cross Eyed Mary is livened up with punchy jalapeño syrup, Bloody Troot has an added earthy beetroot hit along with unusual rye vodka Polugar, Bloody Carrot swaps tomato juice for carrot, and Gazpacho Mary combines tomato, carrot, celery and spices with a generous glug of vodka.
Best for a diner-style buzz – Electric Diner, Portobello Road
Electric Diner’s interiors are true to its name – ribbed red leather banquettes are set up, train carriage-style, down one side of the narrow room, condiments are waiting to be used on wooden tables, and the buzzy atmosphere bounces off low curved ceilings and exposed brick walls. Slide into a booth or sit on a green leather stool looking onto the open kitchen to make sure your eggs are being prepared just how you like them…
The egg-heavy brunch menu features omelettes laden with Gruyere cheese, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, and all of the classics – Benedict, Florentine and Royale.
We loved the vegetarian breakfast – a colourful palate of wilted spinach, Portobello mushrooms, a huge chargrilled tomato, beans, and eggs any way you like them. The hash browns were the highlight of the plate – super crunchy golden clusters in all shapes and sizes.
If you’re feeling healthy there’s a bowl of chopped strawberries and bananas topped with caramelised walnuts, coconut flakes and cocoa nibs. Next time we’ll order the heritage tomato salad that our neighbour was tucking into – a colourful mound of chunky yellow and red tomatoes with pieces of fresh watermelon topped with thick yogurt and crunchy nuts.
Pre-bottled “house press” juices make zingy pick-me-ups (the “citrus” bottle packed with orange, grapefruit, lemon, turmeric and cayenne pepper will blast away any sign of a cold) and freshly made smoothies make the most of super foods (try avocado with kiwi, spinach and mint).
Bullseye: For those with a sweet tooth, the caramelised-crusted French toast was the best type of squidgy with a tart raspberry compote to cut through the sweet base and cream.
The extensive menu includes indulgent egg dishes (such as baked eggs two ways with butternut squash, feta and crispy sage), housemade crumpets with hay-smoked goats curd, Wandsworth honey and wild rosemary, and sweet buckwheat pancakes with smoked apricot, elderflower syrup, burnt apricot marshmallow and macadamia nuts.
For something veggie, go for the ‘Sweet Maria’; sweetcorn fritters with grilled halloumi, fresh avocado and kasundi tomato sauce, lifted with lime and a generous garnish of fragrant coriander. Meat eaters can add bacon if they like.
Horchata is a great addition to the drinks menu. This is a popular teatime drink in Valencia and South America made with almond or rice milk. Don’t hang about ordering as once they’ve run out, that’s it – Milk uses rice and another batch takes 40 hours to make. The coffee is also excellent, made with beans from cool Berlin coffee roaster, The Barn.
Bullseye: Don’t miss the side order of hash browns, a pile of three fresh and crisp potato cakes showered with finely grated, slightly melting Lincolnshire poacher cheese.
Brunch available 8am – 5pm Saturdays, 9am – 5pm Sundays
Stop by Spitalfields on a Sunday morning hangover, and this BBQ joint will sort you out. The large room is dark and moody, perfect for when you’re feeling a bit delicate and want to hide from bright lights, but also ideal for a Sunday party to chatter around the long wooden tables with a big group of friends. Wooden boards and flowery patterned plates jazz things up a bit, along with a neon sign to remind you where you are.
The menu is meat-heavy, with a rotisserie smoker centre stage to slowly cook dry-rubbed succulent cuts of meat. Brunch burgers are piled high with smoked pork belly, a fried egg, gherkins and red sauce, and skillet smoked meat hash comes to the table sizzling in the pan and laden with onions, green sauce and red sauce. The fried chicken thigh on a Belgian waffle is crisp, carb-heavy heaven, sprinkled with truffle salt and drizzled with maple syrup. For veggies, roast corn and crushed avocado is very popular, and generous sides of creamy corn on the cob ‘elotes’ are smothered in cheese, coriander and chilli powder with lime wedges to squeeze over and lift.
Hotbox takes its brunch cocktails very seriously. So seriously that they have not one, not two, but five variations on the bloody mary, all with flavoured salts to garnish the rim. Green bloody mary combines vodka with chimichurri, jalapeno and cucumber with salt round the rim, while the red bloody mary opts for gin with passata, glazed cherry tomatoes and a dash of port.
Best for all-day brunch – Sager + Wilde Paradise Row, Bethnal Green
Whether you’re lounging round one of the picnic benches on the terrace outside or perching on a dark wooden chair in the converted railway arch, the vibe at Sager + Wilde Paradise Row is laid back and brunch-friendly. Dark wood paneling has soaked up the smoky scent of the evening’s meat-heavy menu to create an inviting dining room that’s made more homely with little figurines and candlesticks.
Crates brimming with fresh fruit and veg are delved into by the cool and efficient waiters to whizz up into Sager + Wilde juice (green apple, kiwi, kale and fennel) and brunch cocktails such as the Verdita Maria, a refreshing and punchy blend of tequila, pineapple, lime and jalapeno with plenty of coriander and spices for an extra kick.
The food menu is short but with plenty of options. Opt for lighter dishes such as granola, rhubarb and yogurt, or indulge in the all-day brunch friendly menu: fried hake in a glazed brioche bun, sausage baps and even carbonara. Though this doesn’t strike as your typical brunch dish, it’s pretty much an Italian fry up, what with the bacon and eggs. It’s indulgent and creamy without being too rich to start the day. Order a thin, buttery potato rosti on the side.
Bullyseye: We often say leave room for dessert, but this is VERY important, as Sager + Wilde’s French toast is one of the best we’ve come across. A chewy, squishy, caramelised disc of lightly cinnamon-spiced dough served with a dollop of ice cream to make it extra indulgent.
Best for a fun, funky atmosphere with friends – Pedler, Peckham
This is the place to come for a boozy brunch with your mates. Large coves decked out with tropical wallpaper along with marble-topped tables for two are crammed into this tiny buzzy spot where happy brunchers wiggle in their seats in time with the catchy disco soundtrack. The small space has plenty of fun quirks – lampshades shaped like vegetables, cushions embroidered with palms and parrots, and plenty of pineapple memorabilia. The large teal blue wooden bar dominates the space, behind which hang white glass cabinets filled with shiny bottles of alcohol to make Pedler’s signature cocktails.
Little Bird Gin distillery is Pedler’s sister company, so, as you can imagine, the cocktail menu is predominately gin-based; the bloody mary was topped with freshly grated horseradish to make it extra fiery. Drinks are served in mismatched containers, from sturdy Kilner jars to delicate antique crystal glasses, and brunch dishes are served on vintage crockery to make the small plates quite the spectacle on arrival. An apple strudel ‘dumpkin’ donut came on a tiny plate, whipped maple butter with apple compote is served in little glass dishes to accompany cherry sourdough, and a Yorkshire pudding sits atop a pretty gravy boat filled with deep and delicious gravy – dipping heaven. There are plenty of larger meals including chicken schnitzel with garlic and parsley butter, seafood kedgeree with curried rice and an epic-sounding French toast with streaky bacon, peanut butter, banana and honey.
Bullseye: Springy wild mushrooms sit on a doorstop wedge of squidgy fresh sourdough that soaks up the earthy juices and the yolk of the runny egg.
Best for a relaxed Mediterranean brunch – Ember Yard, Soho
Ben Tish’s Spanish/Italian Soho restaurant has jumped on the weekend brunch bandwagon with its Mediterranean all-day breakfast. The vibe is relaxed and cosy, ideal for brunch: terracotta coloured leather banquettes hug brushed concrete walls adorned with autumnal oil paintings, warm copper lights hang low from the ceiling, and olive green leather stools sit alongside the bar and open kitchen.
The ‘bakery, fruit and yogurt’ section really shines with a plate of sunset-hued blood orange sprinkled with vibrant green toasted pistachios coated in honey, poached pears with hazelnut crumble and organic yoghurt, and a wooden plate showcasing fluffy chargrilled flatbread smothered in honey, thyme and smoked butter. Fresh homemade pastries rotate, but expect the likes of apple and walnut filled empanadas sprinkled with icing sugar and mini fig pastry rolls.
The cooked items are also good – sobrasada is smothered onto sourdough with caramelised Mahon cheese melted over the top, and trendy avocado on toast is given a Mediterranean twist with more fluffy flatbread, charcoal-grilled spring onions, chilli, garlic and a poached egg. Our neighbours tuck into a Spanish take on the full English, cooked over charcoal on the Basque-style grill – grilled pancetta, fennel sausage, morcilla sandwich, eggs and chorizo ketchup.
Bullseye:: Grab the corner window seat on the ground floor, collapse into the squishy leather banquette and watch the eclectic Soho bunch go by from the huge glass window while you enjoy the comfort and warmth inside.
Best for a friendly vibe – Friends of Ours, Pitfield Street
In the middle of Old Street and Hoxton stations in trendy east London, Friends of Ours is far more than a playground for bearded hipsters. Instead, it draws those seeking bright brunches and speciality coffee from across the capital.
Park yourself outside on the long wooden tables if the weather is nice or relax inside on teal blue chairs that contrast dark wood tables and floors. A large counter gives the epic coffee machine pride of place, along with a display of cakes from Knead in nearby Broadway Market and pastries from Celtic Bakers.
Corn fritters are a popular addition to brunch menus across London, but Friends of Ours has managed to give its fritters an original and distinctly antipodean twist with beetroot. A bed of roasted golden beetroot and fiery tomato kasundi added a punch, while feta and coriander sprinkled over the top gave an extra hit of flavour. There’s the added dilemma, too, of whether to add a side of salmon, cured for 24 hours in lime juice and smoked with green tea. (Clue, always add the salmon.)
olive favourite Good and Proper Tea Co takes care of breakfast brews with the likes of Assam, Darjeeling 2nd flush, Sencha and mint tea. Coffee is excellent. Sourced from local Hackney roaster, Dark Arts, the blends and beans rotate weekly. We enjoyed the syrupy single-origin Tanzanian coffee of the day. There’s no coffee snobbery here, though – coffee is served as you like it, not as the barista dictates.
Bullseye: Kedgeree was given a sophisticated twist courtesy of hake (from local fishmongers Sutton & Sons) that had been smoked in-house with black tea, subtly spiced black rice and an egg yolk cured in soy sauce. Studded with pickled and roasted cauliflower, for a great contrast in texture, and topped with aromatic coriander, this was a really special way to start the day.
Brunch available 9am – 5pm Saturdays, 10am – 5pm Sundays
Best for pancakes – Where The Pancakes Are, London Bridge
This is a pancake house with serious style. Following various residencies in London, Dutch Patricia Trijbits is happy to finally welcome diners to her first permanent space in Flat Iron Square, a collection of newly converted railway arches near London Bridge. A custom-built oak bar and kitchen area along with wooden tables and seats based on retro Dutch school chairs give the space a calming Scandi feel. The railway arch is warmed up with a whole wall of white felt cut outs and ceiling planters that brim with greenery to intermingle with modern light installations.
As it says on the tin, this clean and bright spot specialises in stacks of buttermilk pancakes. Where The Pancakes Are takes pride in itssourcing of ingredients, with high welfare eggs from Kent, organic flour and 100% pure maple syrup, hand-tapped in Quebec, Canada (plus, it’s packed with minerals and antioxidants). A 1,000 Baby Greens might sound overly healthy for a pancake joint, but in reality it’s a wonderfully fresh, flavoursome dish that incorporates green chilli, spring onions and cumin into a buttermilk pancake batter. There’s a pleasant underlying heat that woke us up just as much as a morning coffee would, and a knob of melting coriander lime butter on top of our stack added zing.
Bullseye: Yorkshire pudding for breakfast may sound a little odd, but Where The Pancakes Are makes a mean Dutch Baby. These super light soufflé-like pancakes are baked in a cast iron dish with extra eggs to make them rise. Choose between a sweet filling of Bramley and Cox apples with tart fresh berries, cinnamon and almond flakes; or the cheesy savoury option that combines soft baked goats cheese, Parmesan and cheddar with rosemary and thyme to lift. Indulgent, but oh so moreish, and great to tear and share.
Snaps and Rye, Golborne Road
Husband-and-wife team Kell and Jacqueline Skött run this effortlessly cool Danish restaurant (the only one of its kind in London, apparently) on Golborne Road, with Tania Steytler as head chef – she may be from Cornwall, but she’s considered an honorary Dane round these parts.
Inside, simple and stylish Scandinavian-style furnishings are complimented by bright red bar stools, contemporary artwork and cosy throws over the back of chairs. Industrial shelves groan with Scandi produce and ceramics, including little tubs of Lakrids – our favourite ever liquorice balls (try their new salted caramel version).
Start with a selection of Smørrebrød from the counter. They’re perfect little squares of homemade rye bread, topped neatly with combinations including egg, tomato and cress; smashed avocado and red onion; and home-cured salmon with paper-thin radish slices. Each one is a miniature work of art, so perfectly proportioned, and the bread itself is sweet, wholesome and nutty.
The Bloody Viking was a punchy, powerful pick-me-up, made unique by the addition of dill aquavit (a Scandinavian spirit). We loved the clean aftertaste – a great morning palette cleanser, if you can handle the alcohol. If not, go for a hot chocolate with a frothy foam top, laced with liquorice powder. It added a savoury element to Snaps + Rye’s signature drink, and was heavenly alongside a couple of Lakrids balls.
Don’t miss the Danish take on rarebit. The rye base is drowned in a molten mixture of mustard, eggs, cream, a mature Danish cheese called ‘scorched gmale ole’, and malt beer. If that wasn’t enough, you also get an extra topping of your choice – we went for smoked streaky bacon (so juicy), liquorice syrup and sharp pickled mushrooms. The liquorice is there to accentuate flavours, rather like salt or lemon would – a clever trick, and one that we plan to use in our own cooking.
Bullseye: This must be one of the best kedgerees in London. It’s a family recipe that, though heavy on the cream, is surprisingly light and fluffy – it’s almost soupy, like a risotto, because they use short grain rice instead of basmati. Generous chunks of smoked haddock, sugary cured salmon, tomatoes, wilted spinach and yolky soft boiled egg are all stirred through the cumin salt–spiked rice, making it a hearty brunch that kept us going until dinner time.
The wonderfully named Bad Egg’s £30 weekend brunch menu offers a spiced-up menu of diner classics and breakfast cocktails – definitely for adults only. Kick off with a Bloody Mary spiced with gochujang – and if anything can wake up jaded tastebuds it’s this Korean red pepper paste. Forget gentler breakfast staples like smoked salmon bagels or eggs benedict – Bad Egg packs a full-on flavour punch. Sticky Korean fried rib tips are hot with ginger and more gochujang; tacos are filled with scrambled eggs, chipotle, salsa and guacamole, and beans on toast is ramped up with pulled pork and kimchi.
You’re encouraged to choose three plates each, share with your friends, and to order as many Bloody Marys, mimosas or prosecco as you like within your two–hour sitting. Perch on on bar stools in the window or relax into comfy diner-style red booths. Music is loud and customers and staff alike show off tats with pride. Leave granny and kids at home – this is two hours you’ll want to yourself.
Bullseye: Fries with ndjua fondue – made with raclette and red leicester it has a deliciously gooey texture reminiscent of cinema-style chip and dips but a hundred times better. Chilaquiles are hard to go past, too: fried corn tacos with salsa, goats’s curd, chilies and a fried egg. Finish with deepfried chicken with caramelised banana – served with maple syrup on buttered brioche it act as a pudding of sorts.
Brunch available 10am – 5pm Saturdays, 12pm – 5pm Sundays
Neatly lodged in the ex-Lock 7 Cycle workshop on Broadway market’s bridge over the Regent’s Canal, Poco benefits from wide pavements and comfortable outside tables denied to Broadway Market proper establishments, as well as a snug interior space set off by high ceilings and huge windows. It’s the kind of venue you wander past and then wander in to, enticed in by food you can see on the tables.
If you’re a late riser then the brunch menu here has a good run every day from 8 am – 3pm weekdays and 10am – 4.30pm at the weekends. Eating organic Haresfield farm eggs in the afternoon (or fruit, yoghurt and sprouted buckwheat if that’s your poison) is a perfectly acceptable pastime in Hackney.
The brunch menu is egg heavy, papas a lo pobre, Portuguese punched potatoes come with a fried egg and optional chorizo, field mushrooms with labneh and zata’ar with poached egg, the smoked trout with poached egg and there are 2 kinds of scramble, Moroccan with merguez and Moorish with chorizo.
Bullseye: You must leave room for the churros, crisp, cinnamon strewn and with thick chocolate for dunking, these are so moreish you will eat the entire plate no matter how full you are.
Brunch available 10am – 3pm, Saturdays and Sundays
Walk ten minutes up St John’s Hill from Clapham Junction station in South London and you’ll be rewarded with Aussie-style brunch at Ben’s light and bright corner neighbourhood hangout.
Choosing from the extensive brunch menu is no easy thing. Go for classic smashed avo or the meaty “eggs pig out” that sees muffins piled high with pulled pork, poached eggs and hollandaise. Sweetcorn and courgette fritters are popular here for a reason – deep-fried-veggie clusters with squeaky halloumi, caramelised balsamic-roasted tomato chutney and a perfectly poached egg with a deep yellow runny centre, with a portion of Devonshire chorizo on the side. Sweet dishes also standout, too. Pancakes stacked with slices of banana, maple syrup, yogurt and a pot of silky salted caramel sauce is a must-try, especially thinks to a rasher of dry-cured bacon on the side to dial up the salty sweet factor.
The bloody mary is cranked up with over 20 herbs and spices and will fix any hangover (you can opt between mild, medium and bloody scary). Those with a sweet tooth should indulge in the Australian iced coffee laced with Kraken rum, topped with a dollop of rich chocolate ice cream, American-float-style, and sprinkled with Milo, a malty chocolate powder (an authentically Oz touch). Coffee from reliable roaster, Allpress, is served with a squeezy bottle of sugar syrup that filters through the coffee rather than clumping at the bottom, highlighting the fact that the team at Ben’s Canteen have thought of every little detail to enhance your brunch experience.
Bullseye: The epic fried chicken benedict is an indulgent pile of crisp buttermilk fried chicken topped with paprika-spiked hollandaise with yet more of those perfectly poached eggs.
Brunch served 9am – 4pm Friday to Sunday
Best for leisurely Italian – Bernardi’s, Marylebone
This chic, sophisticated Italian restaurant is ideal for a leisurely brunch with a Mediterranean twist. Clean and bright Bernardi’s has a hip hotel bar vibe – groups settle into soft leather booths or leather-cushioned chairs around marble tables while the open kitchen hums in the background. The stylish furnishings and brass light installments designed by the restaurant’s owner, Gabriel Bernardi, make this a trendy place to be seen; nevertheless, staff are discreet and maintain a friendly, un-hassled atmosphere.
An Italian take on the English fry-up is a meticulously prepared plate of silky wild mushrooms with crisp pancetta and well-seasoned fried eggs, topped with crunchy focaccia croutons. For a healthy kick, try the paca verde ‘green peace’ juice made from freshly pressed fennel, cucumber, parsley stalks, mint, apple and lemon, or go all-Italian with Arabica-Robusto blend of Musetti coffee.
Bullseye: The pizzettes. A refreshing choice is the confit leeks and melting Taleggio topping, garnished with plenty of celery leaves and stalks to cut through the pizza dough. Pair it with a punchy Virgin Mary.
Brunch available 9.30am – 4pm, Saturdays and Sundays
Could brunch be as good? We visited early one morning (no need to rush – the menu is available until 4pm, Friday to Sunday) and first impressions suggested that it would be just as innovative. Coconut porridge, for example, is far more than oats: activated almonds, apples, coconut chips and dates spiced with cinnamon, lúcuma (a Peruvian fruit), nutmeg and vanilla are the base; while cacao nibs, organic blueberries and hulled hemp seeds form the topping.
Our smiley, enthusiastic waitress suggested a ‘luscious lúcuma’ smoothie to start – intensely nutty, smooth and creamy – and a glass of NAMA’s take on horchata, a Valencian drink made from tiger nuts and coconut sugar. The latter was explosive, so sweet and warmly spiced; to us at least, it tasted like the liquid version of churros.
Brunch available 10am – 4pm, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays
Best for cool kids – Fink’s Salt & Sweet, Finsbury Park
Fink’s Salt & Sweet is where the cool kids of Finsbury Park hang out at the weekend – girls in cardigans take their knitting, groups of young folk sip on Caravan Roastery coffee, and you can even take your pooch along to sit under the table while you enjoy brunch. Artistic owner Jess has scowered the internet and antique markets across the country to boast an impressive collection of cutlery that suits the matte, stone grey crockery. Stripped-back interiors are the norm in hip parts of London but light spills in through the floor-to-ceiling windows of this desirable corner spot on to wooden floors, off-white tile and dark grey chipboard walls, and galvanized zinc counter and tables.
The counter and shelves heave with local produce – Balthazar bread, Dodd’s gin and jars of English Preserves that you can yourself spread onto sourdough toast for brunch. Go one step further with sobrasada (spreadable paprika sausage) brought over direst from Mallorca by a lady who lives down the road, drizzled with sweet honey. We’re going back in the summer for a locally cured House of Sverre salmon board with goat curd, seaweed and crackers, and a quince and aniseed spritz on the pavement outside.
Bullseye: The indulgent beef pretzel French dip – a squishy sub roll with crisp pretzel coating filled with fall-apart 12-hour braised balsamic beef with a punch of horseradish and sweetened with caramelised onion. Dipped into a little glass of caramelised onion and beef stock, this is the ultimate hangover cure.
Brunch available 9am – 5pm Saturdays, 10am – 5pm Sundays
Best for twists on classics – Merchants Tavern, Shoreditch
Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick’s new brunch menu at Merchants Tavern promises much. There’s mention of fried chicken, ‘dirty’ bacon sandwiches and fried oysters, freshly squeezed juices and cocktails. The setting is also inviting – high ceilings, a huge skylight that floods the space with light and retro mid-century stylings that include dark-green leather booths and parquet flooring.
Angela and head chef Neil’s take on brunch is concise and balanced between classics and more quirky creations. Those after the former can choose from the likes of porridge with prunes, pecan nuts and honey, ricotta pancakes with berry compote and the obligatory avo-toast concoction (here served with egg). The latter options include mushrooms with spinach and Jerusalem artichoke, venison ragu with parmesan, and fried oysters.
We try out the ‘dirty’ bacon sandwich, which, we’re happy to discover, also comes with fried egg and sausage. If by ‘dirty’ Merchants Tavern means no pretensions, just the kind of gloriously meaty, greasy stack one would inhale after a night of alcoholic indulgence then this sandwich certainly lived up to its description – in a good way. Fried chicken with waffles was delightfully kitsch and expertly done: the chicken skin crispy and the meat juicily tender, while the pillow-soft waffles came drizzled with syrup.
Drinks-wise there’s freshly squeezed juices, specialist teas and coffee from Ozone, and cocktails (it is brunch, after all) include the likes of bloody marys, mimosas et al.
A hogget broth with spelt was deeply savoury and restorative, packed with tender chunks of meat, herbs and veg. It came with slices of excellent Welsh rarebit, the pungent cheese beautifully oozy.
In the heart of Soho, ideal for pre-shopping fuel, this cosy Italian restaurant, one of seven in the capital with more opening across the UK, has a New York loft style feel with exposed brick and wooden tables, with pretty curtains and cloth lampshades.
Famous for its Venetian small plates, the acclaimed Russell Norman restaurant chain is now offering weekend brunch. Just as is encouraged at dinner, order a few plates to share from the brown paper menus. Poached eggs in scafata, a clear Italian broth with fresh greens comes with artichoke, broad beans, popping peas, rocket and parsley. Crisp breakfast pizetta topped with bacon, spiced Italian salsiccia, heady wild mushrooms and fennel seeds with a poached egg cooked into the middle that runs out when you cut into it. You can mix and match from the lunch menu, too, to make the most of Polpo’s legendary meatballs – pick from classic beef and pork, spicy pork and fennel, or lamb and pistachio.
The cocktail menu is worth perusing to add an edge to your brunch. Bloody Marys made from Polish vodka are packed with a peppery punch, and rhubarb syrup bellinis add an elegant sweetness to your brunch.
Bullseye: Save room for delicate ricotta donuts with cinnamon sugar – perfect to share between two and just enough to squeeze in for a sweet finish to your brunch.
Brunch available 10am – 12.30pm, Saturdays and Sundays
Breakfast is usually a speedier affair than brunch, and perhaps more midweek. The below breakfast spots, which we’ve all checked out personally, are great for business meetings, catching up with friends or a solo pick-me-up on the way to work. But of course, you can labour over your breakfast as long as you want to!
Best for choice – Granger & Co, King’s Cross
Breakfast is big at Granger & Co, and the King’s Cross branch is handy for pre-train meetings and catch-ups. Perch on a leather and brass fixed stool at the huge bar, or lounge on an olive leather sofa for breakfast with Australian-style seamless service.
You can go healthy with various juices and grains (try the buckwheat bowl, poached egg, kefir goat’s milk, rose harissa, avocado and alfalfa sprouts), or less so, with Bill’s spiced Bloody Mary made with clamato, wasabi, lime and coriander. There’s also a bakery section to the menu with everything from toasted coconut bread and toasted brioche topped with labneh, raspberry and vanilla jam and pistachios, to chilli fried egg and brioche roll with spiced mango chutney and rocket.
Bullseye: The classics are where it’s at – fluffy ricotta hotcakes, banana and honeycomb butter and sweetcorn fritters with toasted tomato, spinach and bacon.
Headed up by coffee expert Marco Arrigo and famed cocktail maestro Tony Conigliaro, this idealised Italian coffee bar as one might have been in the 1950s serves expert quality coffee on Old Compton Street. Quickly down the 10g espresso al bar glass, or enjoy the triple-espresso al tavola at leisure.
The bianco is, in Marco’s words, ‘an Italian answer to the flat white, basically an exaggerated macchiato.’ And then there is the café latte; the steamed milk and espresso are served separately for the customer to combine themselves, which has led to an unofficial latte art competition developing among the bar’s regulars. Enjoy the top-quality coffee with a mini panini or a zingy grapefruit half with Campari salt.
Bullseye: Bar Termini serves an incredible chocolato bicherin, the classic Turinese chocolate and coffee hybrid made with the Arrigo touch. Espresso is made into almost an oil, which when mixed with the thick chocolate remains separate in the mouth in both texture and flavour.
London is full of trendy third-wave coffee shops and cute vintage teahouses, but Good and Proper Tea stands out with its smart, no-fuss tea shop with a focus on excellent quality loose leaf tea.
Explore the extensive range of teas laid out in glass jars on the counter – you can have a proper sniff before deciding what to go for. The tea experts guide you according to your preferences, but we suggest Rwanda Op black tea with caramel notes; sweet and toasty Honey Orchid oolong tea; or fragrant hibiscus.
Pair with squidgy and comforting crumpets, oozing with butter and Nutella. If you want something more substantial, ramp up your crumpets with the savoury toppings on offer – avocado and cream cheese or ham with melted cheddar and Worcestershire sauce.
Take your tea and crumpets away, or slide onto a wooden bench in the calm seating area at the back of the shop. The space is very zen – cream painted brick walls, neutral tones and the odd cactus make this an ideal working environment for those who work remotely.
Before you leave, check out the funky range of tea utensils on shelves by the door – mustard yellow teapots, intricate filters and geeky tea contraptions for tea connoisseurs.
Best for something different – Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, Canary Wharf
Sushi for breakfast? Not quite. ‘Sticks ‘n’ Sunrise’ includes a line up of Skandi and Japanese influenced breakfast dishes that add a dash of colour to the cool, industrial interiors. Order a selection from the lighter bites: Nordic rye breads, Japanese savoury dishes, cakes, granola and pastries, or choose one of the breakfast trays for a bit more substance. The wake-me-up cocktails include green and yellow tomato Bloody Mary with Camm & Sons, and rhubarb and sake fizz.
Bullseye: The rye breads. Thick-cut smoked salmon from North-West Scotland and smooth cream cheese is garnished with delicate trout roe and herbs. Or perfectly-sliced avocado sits on top of light goat’s curd with a scattering of pine nuts, cress and tsume soy. Both sit on the most delicious crisp-but-light toasted rye bread, baked with miso, seaweed and coal. We also loved the Tebirkes: a poppy seed Danish with a bright green matcha paste inside – a fun and interesting twist on a Pain Au Chocolat.
Best for a healthy start – Shoreditch Grind, Old Street
Old Street’s Shoreditch Grind is an easily accessible breakfast spot for morning commuters, perched as it is on the edge of one of London’s busiest roundabouts. The recently introduced breakfast menu makes this spot ideal for casual business meetings at large wooden tables, or a people-watching session while sat on one of the wooden bar stools.
A generous portion of smashed avocado on toast is spiced up with chilli and your choice of extra topping (smoked salmon, prosciutto, poached egg and feta can rack up quite the mound). The crispy quinoa eggs dish is a substantial and healthy start to the day with plenty of crunch and perfectly poached eggs. For a refreshing palate-cleanser before you head off to work, try iced fruit salad with zingy lime granita and crunchy hazelnuts (though we would have liked the addition of more seasonal fruits as well as the berries). We’ll definitely be back to try the banana bread with crème fraiche and honeycomb.
On the drinks side, try a freshly pressed colour-coded juice – ‘green’ gets you going with avocado, spinach and pear; and ginger adds a fiery note to the orange and carrot ‘amber’ juice. Shoreditch Grind is still all about the coffee, and cortados and flat whites made with The Grind’s own blend were brought straight to the table – no waiting around on the side.
Bullseye: Iced berries fruit salad with zingy lime granita and crunchy hazelnuts
Best for a treat – The Black Penny, Covent Garden
A Covent Garden coffee shop with a short but thoughtful menu that focuses on British seasonal ingredients. House baked beans are slow-cooked and served with goats’ cheese and a poached egg on fresh sourdough, and Ozdemir pasha fried eggs with grilled halloumi, butterbean hummus and a sweet-sour hint of sumac with homemade grilled Turkish bread are a real treat.
Lighter Bircher muesli and compotes – including zingy grilled pineapple, chilli and lime – sit alongside a range of cakes and pastries. Coffee is taken seriously, too, with several different blends from South London roasters, Alchemy. Expect to find cortardos, syphon and buttered espresso alongside your usual flat white, as well as matcha lattes and a selection of teas, each served with a timer to make sure it’s brewed just right.
Bullseye: Duck for breakfast? Yes, please! Particularly if it’s in the form of crispy confit of corn-fed duck and sweet potato hash with fragrant coriander.
What could be better than a pub that serves breakfast? Spacious, relaxed and flatteringly lit, The Alice House just outside Queen’s Park tube is the kind of place where you could sit for hours – breakfast merges into lunch, and lunch merges into an afternoon of (responsible) drinking with friends.
The breakfast menu, served until midday, is pretty unique: oat porridge with local rhubarb and hazelnuts; Speldhurst sausage in a fried onion bap; and Cullen skink omelette with horseradish cream are among the most exciting options. There’s also a great range of fresh fruit juices, including the rejuvenating green apple, celery, cucumber and lime.
We tried buckwheat pancakes with Dorset blueberries, whipped crème fraiche and East London Honey (can you tell they’re keen on locality here?) – a pretty plate, but slightly marred by the fact that our pancakes were on the heavy side. The topping was great though, and we swirled spoons of it through homemade jam for our toast.
The potato cake lacked crisp edges and the black pudding could have been smoother, but sausages here are meaty and plump, and eggs are cooked well. The breakfast menu had only been going for a week at the time of writing, and we’re pretty confident that the blips we experienced will be ironed out soon.
Bullseye: anything with a Speldhurst sausage in it, and all four of their fresh fruit juices.
Best hidden gem – Cambridge Street Cafe, Pimlico
Tucked away in the back of Pimlico, away from the bedlam of rush hour at Victoria, Cambridge Street Café (set in the boutiquey Artist Residence hotel) is the perfect setting in which to enjoy a leisurely start to the day.The room itself is bright and airy with exposed wood in muted, distressed greys, cloth-covered banquette seating and quirky art on the walls. The kitchen is open, and there are comfy stools for you to pull up and see, as it says in neon above, ‘where the magic happens’. There’s further seating through the back, so both spaces are kept cosy.
The breakfast menu here is quite extensive; there’s a whole page dedicated to drinks, which includes your usual coffees and teas as well as more interesting juices (such as beetroot, apple and celery) and smoothies (spinach, lime, cucumber, kiwi, avocado).
Food is divided into cooked, grains and pastries, and sides. All the classics are here (eggs Benedict/royal/Florentine and full English) and if you’re not indulging, yogurt with quinoa, peach goji berries and mint is a generous portion bursting with fresh flavours.
Bullseye:avocado, poached egg and rocket on rye – a safe choice done very well, with a kick of chilli and zing of lemon – and fluffy banana pancakes served with crisp smoked bacon and maple syrup, which had an almost cake-like texture without being too heavy for that time of the morning.
The ground floor of the latest arm of the Ottolenghi empire is an impressive start to any day. The decor’s clean and contemporary but luxe – a classy mix of black and gold.
The menu, too, is hard not to be in awe of. There are the breakfast staples you’d expect, such as scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on sourdough and croissants, but also more unusual starts to the day such as black rice with coconut milk, banana and mango; beef brisket hash with gremolata and a fried egg; and French toast with a star anise sugar, berry compote and orange yogurt. There are freshly pressed juices, too, which you can load with greens or keep fruity like I did.
Bullesye: The shakshuka – imagine the most flavourful tomatoes and peppers you’ve ever tasted, baked with eggs with the most golden, rich yolks and then a topping of awesome smoked labneh. That is what breakfast dreams are made of.
Best for eggs – Egg Break, Notting Hill
If you’re into eggs, this cute Notting Hill café is the breakfast spot for you. Split into basics (eggs on toast, egg benedict), buns, plates, salads and sides, most dishes at this daytime café come with an egg of some sort, be it poached, fried or – surely the most fashionable egg of the moment – 63 degrees: cooked slowly in a waterbath at, you guessed it, 63 degrees.
There are cocktails, wines and excellent coffee, too. Cream tongue-and-groove walls, scuffed tile flooring, filament light bulbs and chipped painted metal chairs give Egg Break a homely, lived-in feel. Cocktails come in tumblers, there’s ketchup and brown sauce on the table and plenty of newspapers knocking around. The ground floor is light, airy and dominated by a wooden coffee and cocktail bar, and the basement has more space and bigger tables for groups.
Bulls eye: The buns. Oh my goodness, the buns. Seeded or brioche, they’re terrific value at between £5 and £7. Fillings range from pork belly, fried egg and sriracha to fried chicken, green tomato, red onion and mayo.