Poco, Bristol: Restaurant Review

34 best brunches in London

There are so many contenders for the best brunch in the city! We've narrowed it down to 34 of our favourite morning feasts, including the best places for pancakes, avocado on toast, Bloody Marys and more. There's even a dedicated list of vegan brunches for Veganuary...

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.

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Best classic brunches in London

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 classic neighbourhood brunch – Milk Beach, Queen’s Park

Stray off the main high street of Queen’s Park down a pretty little mews to find this neighbourhood café and wine bar. Sunshine bounces off whitewashed brick walls and contemporary frames filled with dusty pink and turquoise artwork. There’s a communal wooden table to slouch round, with surrounding smaller marble-topped tables for smaller groups, and, on sunny days, white stable doors open out onto the cobbled pavement. Shelves are lined with pristine wine glasses and niche bottles of natural wines waiting to shine at Milk Beach’s Wednesday wine tasting nights.

The café’s co-owners have plenty of experience in the coffee industry – Elliot Milne previously worked with coffee collectives in Ethiopia, while Matthew Robley-Siemonsma is a two-time UK Roasting Champion – and between them they source specialty coffee from around the world to roast on-site each week. 

Decent brunch options do the coffee justice – bread and pastries come from Little Bread Pedlar in Bermondsey (save room for a flaky pain au chocolat), and a generous portion of well-seasoned avocado on toast punches well above its weight thanks to an additional dollop of whipped goat’s cheese, slow-roasted tomatoes and a sprinkling of fresh chillies. 

Antipodean-style brunch bowls are particularly hearty – get your greens with broccoli, kale, avo, quinoa and cashews covered in a miso verde dressing, or try the refreshing poke bowl of tuna, avo and brown rice topped with pineapple chilli salsa, wakame seaweed, crispy shallots and sesame seeds.  

Bullseye: Dunk sourdough soldiers, their crevices flooded with puddles of butter, into a jam jar of coddled eggs, cream, sweet potato purée and chives – peppery, autumnal and comforting.

milkbeach.com

Brunch plates at Milk Beach Queens Park

Best for natural light – Crispin, London E1

Best known for their speciality coffee shop on Aldwych, and artisan scotch egg business Scotchtails, Dominic Hamdy and Oliver Hiam’s new all-day and night café can be found on a quiet corner just off Spitalfields and Liverpool Street Station.

In a quirky, purpose-built zinc and glass pavilion, designed to look like an origami-folded bird, light pours into the back onto the cool polished concrete bars, and terrazzo-topped ash bar. There’s Assembly coffee from Brixton during the day, and at night Fernando Berry of Otros Vinos has helped curate a rotating wine list focussing on natural and low-intervention wines.

Breakfast starts at 7.30am and covers the classics, alongside trendy new contenders. There’s an organic bacon sandwich with house ketchup; bright-yolked, boiled Burford Brown eggs with Dusty Knuckle Bakery soldiers; and Secret Smokehouse (made in London Fields) on sourdough (check out our guide to sourdough here) with soft cheese, lemon and dill. There’s avo on toast, too, plus scrambled eggs with chives and parmesan, and overnight oats with kefir, toasted seeds and compote.

Hang around long enough, and food moves on to stuffed focaccia sarnies, soups and salads. And on the weekend, for brunch, you might spot the likes of waffles with poached apricots, thyme, candied pecans and ice cream.

Bullseye: Feeling delicate from the night before? There’s no judgement here. Just be sure to order the super-crunchy, smoked ham toastie – oozing with melted cheddar, topped with a crispy fried egg and showered in finely grated, nutty Berkswell cheese.

crispinlondon.com

Crispin, London E1

Best brunch for coffee geeks – Kiss The Hippo, Richmond

Kiss The Hippo, so named to mark the coffee shop’s environmental ethos (all cutlery, straws and cup lids are fully compostable), brings a bright and airy hangout to Richmond’s George Street.

Slick interiors contrast with the period building – both floors are kitted out with Scandi furnishings in muted greys and pale wood, and contemporary counter tables fit snuggly into sash windows. A glass partition gives a glimpse into the bustling activities of the roaster at the back of the room, dominated by a stately Californian Loring roasting machine, the first of its kind in the UK.

Up front, a gigantic coffee station caters to the trendiest of coffee geeks, with niche brews including Ugandan Nitro Cold Brew coffee and Japanese-style iced filter coffee, dripped through a Kalita over ice cubes to bring out delicate elderflower and bergamot notes. Of course, Kiss The Hippo provides a classic espresso blend (70% Peruvian, 30% Colombian) with which calm baristas whip up silky flat whites and killer cortados (meaning “cut” in Spanish, a double espresso with equal parts milk) on the spacy Dutch coffee machine.

Pastries and brunch dishes are prepared by the chef consultant from London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Try tiny Sicilian apricot and mango tartlets with a delicate vanilla scent, or super light cinnamon rolls with cinnamon paste swirled through and white chocolate glaze slathered on top. A tightly spiraled spherical croissant sandwiches streaky bacon, a perfectly frilly fried egg, lettuce, tomato and sweet homemade onion jam.

If you want to take your coffee skills up a notch, there’s a shiny training area upstairs where Kiss The Hippo will host workshops. Meanwhile, here are some of the best barista courses in the UK to try.

50 George Street, Richmond kissthehippo.com

Interiors of Kiss the Hippo - a large pale wood counter with a coffee machine on top

Here are more of our favourite coffee shops in the UK…


Best classic brunch with a twist – Brother Marcus, Angel

Balham brunch institution Brother Marcus has opened its doors in north London with a relaxed all-day dining spot in Angel. Tucked down buzzing Camden Passage, grab a seat on the street for an al fresco breakfast, or, head inside and cosy up on tables for two under a lush living wall. Each of the classic brunch dishes has a twist, from Sugar Daddy, where cinnamon French toast comes in crumpet form, to Sister Special – bacon and poached eggs on toast served with a side of avocado and spinach drizzled with rocket oil.

For egg lovers, order the Brother Special where rich, softly scrambled eggs are served on North London Celtic Bakers sourdough toast, topped with silky slithers of in-house beetroot-cured salmon and stems of al dente grilled asparagus. If you’re feeling really peckish, choose between small side plates of halloumi with orange and pistachio as well as grilled aubergine with chilli.

Bullseye: The Step Sister is a must. Spicy sweet potato, courgette and feta fritters are served with avocado, spinach and kale with a subtly flavoured, creamy turmeric yogurt and a perfectly poached egg. Peruse the well-stocked cake counter before you leave as well, brimming with Portuguese custard tarts and slices of banana bread.

brothermarcus.co.uk

A blue plate topped with sweet potato and feta fritters, kale and a poached egg that the yolk is running out of

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.

Click here to read our full review of brunch at Friends of Ours


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.

electricdiner.com

Eggs with Hollandaise sauce on a plate next to a plate of half grapefruit and a bowl of strawberries and banana

Best for indulgence – Ben’s Canteen, Battersea

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.

No matter how full you are, the chocolate and peanut butter brownie cake is unmissable (so much so that we got the recipe here). Before baking, the chef spreads a thick layer of salty peanut butter over the chocolate brownie mix so that it sinks right through to make a heavenly moist pudding.

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.

benscanteen.com


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.

finks.co.uk


Best worldwide brunches in London

Best for Indian brunch – Dishoom, across London

With five sites across the capital, Dishoom brings the flavour and flair of traditional Irani cafés to London. There’s an elegant yet relaxed vibe, with unique touches in each restaurant (think rusty weighing scales and ornate tiled flooring).

Reinterpreted Bombay dishes are the focus, from fluffy coconut appam pancakes topped with a dollop of shrikhand (a sweet Indian dish made of strained yogurt, sugar and cardamom) to comforting chilli cheese toast. Flaky naans (baked in a tandoor oven) filled with cream cheese, chilli tomato jam and crispy smoked bacon are a must, but, if you’re feeling peckish, order the ramped-up version with a frilly fried egg and peppery pork sausage.

Free-flowing house chai will warm you up (and give you a sweet caffeine kick), while dinky silver pots come filled with Darjeeling and Assam tea leaves.

dishoom.com

A naan bread is filled with a fried egg, streaky bacon and sausage on a blue and white floral patterned plate

Best for Swedish brunch – Söderberg, Soho

Relax in the cool, calm interiors (think blonde wood, retro sofas and muted tones) of this Scandi café and enjoy a Swedish-style breakfast or brunch.

Squidgy buns are laced with cardamom and cinnamon, while hefty open sandwiches pile fresh ingredients on top of sourdough (made using a 20-year-old starter) peppered with seeds. Toppings include generous slices of Belhaven smoked salmon with rocket, swirls of cucumber and a dollop of crème fraîche, and brie de meaux with red onion marmalade and fresh figs.

Breakfast trays make ideal grazing material, with a little bit of everything for £9 – a dinky glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, a jar of crunchy granola with thick yogurt, Lescure butter for spreading over Swedish crisp bread and seeded sourdough, slices of serrano ham and a fruit salad of fresh figs, blackberries and sweet, tangy kumquats. There’s a vegan option that swaps yogurt for coconut yogurt and butter for olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Popular Swedish coffee roaster Johan & Nyström provides blends for espresso-based coffees, while cocktails come with Scandi twists – bloody marys are laced with cardamom, espresso martinis are shaken up with homemade Johan & Nyström coffee liqueur, and cosmopolitans swap vodka for aquavit and lingonberry juice.

soderberg.uk

Soderberg Soho Cinnamon Buns

Best for Antipodean dishes – Ozone, Shoreditch

Exposed brick walls, florescent strip lights and weathered floorboards give a minimalist vibe to this Shoreditch coffee roastery and eatery just off Old Street’s Silicon roundabout.

Upstairs, staff in dark-denim aprons prepare fruity single-origin espressos at the brew bar, while an open kitchen has chefs whipping up Antipodean dishes such as wagyu mince on focaccia; and smoked carrot, chard and house ricotta-stuffed omelettes. A spongy kaffir lime pancake comes with Crouch End honey, rhubarb, dark chocolate shavings and a dollop of labneh, while crispy bubble and squeak cakes make a hearty change from muffins for the eggs hollandaise. Sides are not to be missed, from funky field mushrooms with fermented chilli to halloumi handmade in north London’s Kupros Dairy.

Head downstairs to enjoy heady aromas from the on-site roastery. Coffees include a daily-changing batch filter, chocolaty Brazil BAMO aeropress or flat whites with warming notes of cinnamon.

ozonecoffee.co.uk


Best for NYC-style brunch – Spuntino, Soho

Soho-based Spuntino (founded by the same duo behind Polpo and Polpetto) is now serving bottomless brunch 10am-2pm, Saturday and Sunday. Having become renowned for its New York diner-style indulgent lunch and dinner plates including lobster mac and cheese, pulled pork sliders and PBJ sandwiches, you can now start the day in a similarly decadent fashion.

Take a seat at the counter and get things started with a bloody mary, mimosa or prosecco (£18 will cover two hours of bottomless drinking, per person). This is a restaurant that describes itself as a “scruffy small plates joint” so expect laidback service amongst the crumbling exposed brick walls and industrial-chic lighting.

Go sweet and try bourbon and vanilla French toast, or a trendy Dutch baby with fruit jam and ice cream. Or, look to the savoury. Aubergine and tomato ragu is soft, rich and comforting, as it’s scooped onto charred chewy slabs of sourdough with crumbles of salty feta. Classically American steak and eggs delivers, too – runny yolks come begging to be punctuated and mopped up with ruddily blushing slices of fiercely seared and confidently seasoned beef.

Bullseye: There’s a few lighter options – avocado and poached egg on rye, or fruit salad with maple syrup and dukkha – but it’s the truffled egg toast that should be your priority order. It comes egg-in-the-hole style, topped with a golden, bubbling, cheesy sauce (think croque madame but even posher) and with a moreish earthy hit of truffle.

spuntino.co.uk

A selection of brunch dishes at Spuntino, Soho including eggs and steak, fruit salad and poached eggs on toast

Best for fusion brunch – The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell

Clerkenwell institution, The Modern Pantry, is the place to visit for a fusion breakfast. Grey wooden panelling, white washed tables and chairs and sleek low-hanging copper lights bring a slick yet welcoming vibe to this North London townhouse. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto the pavement terrace where city workers sip on midweek matcha lattes and friends indulge in long weekend brunches. Perch on the end of the communal table for a peak into the open kitchen where grilled cornbread, scrambled eggs and fruit compotes fly off the pass.

Chef and owner Anna Hansen brings a fusion twist to all the dishes, so expect macadamia dukkah on your poached eggs and garam masala peaches with your Bircher muesli. If you’re looking for something lighter, go for the roast plum with cocoa, pecan and sour cherry granola served with coconut yogurt (fruit changes with the seasons, so expect everything from passion fruit to peach).

Visit on a weekend when the menu extends to fluffy ricotta and blueberry pancakes with berry and liquorice compote as well as coconut and cassava waffles drizzled with maple syrup.

Don’t leave without heading to the pantry shop next door to stock up jars of clementine and black cardamom marmalade and packets of granola.

Bullseye: For a real indulgence, order the oozing, creamy omelette packed with tiny sugar-coated prawns and topped with punchy chilli sambal and sweet coriander leaves.

themodernpantry.co.uk

Read our review of The Modern Pantry afternoon tea here…

A white plate topped with two fluffy ricotta pancakes and drizzled with berry and liquorice compote and The Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell

Best Japanese brunch – Koya, Soho and City

Stop by either of Koya’s Soho or City sites for an alternative savoury brunch. Choose a window table simply laid with chopsticks and napkins, or take a seat on one of the high bar stools to watch chefs at work. The menu, split into udon noodle and rice dishes (with the option for small side plates) combines Japanese dishes and twists on English classics. Keep it simple with Kizami – a bowl of noodles topped with fried tofu and spring onions – or mix things up with a feast of kippers, poached egg, butter rice and miso soup.

For something meaty order the English breakfast where slippery udon noodles are served with crispy bacon, shitake mushrooms and a fried egg, of which the yolk slowly infuses the salty broth it’s served in. If you do fancy a sweet treat, order one of the moreish, chewy black sesame cookies that sit in jars on the long counter.

Cups of homemade hot ginger (made with equal parts honey, ginger and a dash of potato starch) are strong and warming, or order a teapot of the subtle, slightly sweet Fuji Sencha green tea for a refreshing start to the day.

Bullseye: Be sure to order the Japanese breakfast for a wholesome yet hearty breakfast. Nutty brown rice and wholesome miso broth come with pieces of grilled, salty sesame-crusted mackerel and chunks of sweet, earthy pickled beetroot.

koya.co.uk

A bowl of udon noddles with bacon, fried egg and mushrooms at Koya, London

Best for Antipodean indulgence – Milk, Balham

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.

Click here to read our full review of brunch at Milk


Best for Danish brunch – 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.

Read our review of dinner at Snaps + Rye here


Best vegetarian and vegan brunches in London

Wild Food Café, Islington

Sat on Islington’s bustling Upper Street, the second Wild Food Café (the first of which is tucked away in vibrant Neal’s Yard) offers an entirely vegan and gluten-free menu. The pristine space is warmed with splashes of colour – sea-blue wooden panels, velvet cushions and dinky succulents. Split into brunch, all-day dining, pizzas and desserts, the plant-based menu makes fruit, vegetables and grains the focus, with moist banana bread, butternut squash pizza bases and shiitake mushroom burgers all on offer.

Bowls of granola are spot-on, with dollops of light coconut yogurt, mango and apple topped with clusters of sunflower seeds, pecans, almonds, cocoa nibs and quinoa puffs. The Berry Sparkle is a refreshing concoction of blackberry, thai basil leaves, apple, lime and a kick of kombucha with a gentle sweetness, while the Sour Power juice is as punchy as it sounds – a mixture of orange, rosehip, hibiscus and lime. Hunker down with a creamy white hot chocolate (that’s a paste made of cacoa butter, wild orange essential oil and hemp seeds) or warm up with the spices of chai.

As brunch turns to lunch, order the puffy wood-fired, gluten-free pizzas, which impress with their crispy crusts and light doughs (made of free-from flour, sprouted chickpeas and amaranth). Topping combos include juicy mushroom slithers with pine nuts, truffle oil and dollops of whipped macadamia ricotta; or tomato sauce with wild-leaf pesto and artichokes.

Bullseye: Slices of date-and-walnut-packed banana bread toast come warm and squidgy. Slather over the super-smooth, homemade hazelnut butter and lip-puckering wild berry jam, or keep it plain with just a drizzle of melted dark chocolate.

wildfoodcafe.com

Bowl of granola, coconut yogurt and fruit at Wild Food Cafe, Islington

by CHLOE., Tower Bridge and Covent Garden

Vegan institution by CHLOE. offers a 100% plant-based menu, from healthy smoothies and hearty brunches to vegan junk food and sweet treats. Choose between the two locations in London (one in Covent Garden, the other a stone’s throw from Tower Bridge) and perch on one of the swinging window seats while neon lights glow in the background.

A Veganuary special (in collaboration with Zanna Van Dijk, and 50p of every sale  donated to the Veganuary charity) running until 31 January offers a full English complete with a nutty jackfruit sausage, tender shiitake mushrooms and a hefty rosti with crisp golden crust. The side of smoky cowboy beans swimming in a sweet, gently spiced tomato sauce is a highlight.

If you want to make fruit the focus, order the vibrant smoothie bowl (made with whatever the daily smoothie is, be it avocado, blueberry or banana) topped with granola, coconut shards and a dollop of sweet almond butter.

Bullseye: If you’ve a sweet tooth, go for the stack of fluffy American-style pancakes which come drizzled with coconut cream, maple syrup and nuggets of crunchy maple granola.

eatbychloe.com

by CHLOE. vegan full English breakfast

The Spread Eagle, Homerton

Sitting on the corner of Homerton High Street, The Spread Eagle is London’s first 100% vegan pub serving Mexican inspired street-food, cooked by residents/vegan street-food specialists Club Mexicana. Sit around an rustic wooden table sipping on punchy Bloody Mary’s made with horseradish-infused vodka, tea mojitos brewed with earl grey syrup or funky, gently-spiced ginger kombuchas produced locally in Hackney Wick.

The brunch menu takes Mexican and American classics like burritos and huevos rancheros and gives them a vegan twist. If you’re after something really indulgent, go for the fluffy waffles drizzled with spicy chilli-infused maple syrup, smoky tempeh bacon and fried ‘chicken’ (which lacks the satisfying crunch and tenderness of the real deal).

The Mexican fry up is a hearty dish, packed with rich, smoky beans, spiced scrambled tofu and a meaty ‘chorizo’ sausage. Sautéed lemon kale lightens the dish, while crunchy fried potatoes are so moreish you’ll be digging around the bowl for more.

Bullseye: The chilaquiles are the real star of the show – corn tortilla chips topped with saucy black beans, creamy vegan cheese, slices of avocado and crunchy slithers of sweet pink onion.

A selection of Mexican inspired vegan street-food brunch dishes at Club Mexicana, The Spread Eagle
Credit: Jade Nina Sarkhel

Best vegetarian brunch – Rovi, Fitzrovia

Ottolenghi’s sleek, stylish restaurant in Fitzrovia focuses on Middle Eastern flavours. Sit next to the open kitchen to watch head chef Neil Campbell cooking vegetables over open flames, or peruse the shelves lined with jars of colourful pickles and bottles of olive oil.

The menu is entirely vegetarian, with punchy flavours running throughout. Go sweet with bircher muesli served with black fig and walnuts, or a chunk of toasted banana bread slathered with butter. Eggs are also a focus, from the hearty green shakshuka served with oozing duck eggs and strips of toasted focaccia, to herby Iranian fritters with a crispy fried egg.

When it comes to drinks, the ‘all is wells’ (a nod to the street name) is a refreshing way to start, made with apple, ginger, cucumber and spirulina powder (a green algae packed with vitamins).

Bullseye: For a hearty brunch that’ll keep you full all day, go for the butternut hummus with za’atar flatbread and poached eggs. The sweet, chunky hummus topped with tomato, chilli and a drizzle of cooling yogurt is ready to be mopped up with crisp, smoky flatbread.

ottolenghi.co.uk/rovi

Click here to read our full review of Rovi

Back of the restaurant and the grill
Back of the restaurant and the grill

Best sweet brunches in London

Best for French toast – Esters, Stoke Newington

For the best brunch in Stokey, head to this neighbourhood café just off Church Street. White walls, grey slate, angular tables and pops of orange give this small space a sleek HAY-inspired scandi vibe, while families spend the morning sipping on flat whites and friends get a post-run refuel.

Queues for the weekend breakfast start early, so arrive at 9am if you want bag the best table in the window. Browse the cake counter, all of which are made in-house, and be sure to order at least two of the addictively chewy, salty white chocolate miso cookies.

There’s a real focus on sourcing of produce with loaves of bread from Bermondsey-based Little Bread Pedlar, coffee from Staffordshire’s Has Bean, and chocolate from Suffolk’s Pump Street Bakery.

Don’t expect to find avocado on toast here, rather crispy pork belly with punchy wakame salsa verde, wafter-thin slithers of fennel, fried egg, sweet tomatoes (grown just down the road at Stoke Newington’s Growing Communities vegetable patch) and chunks of bread to mop up the rich aïoli. For those with a sweet tooth, order the French toast, where toppings change based on the seasons. We loved the floral grilled peaches, intense raspberry purée, whey caramel and lightly whipped ricotta cream that came with ours.

If you’ve room left, pick up a cheddar and jalapeño scone for the journey home.

estersn16.com

Brunch of pork belly at Esters, Stoke Newington

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.

wherethepancakesare.com

Where The Pancakes Are brunch

Best babka – The Good Egg, Soho and Stoke Newington

Take a seat on one of the dark-teal wooden chairs and watch chefs at work behind the metal counter. Walls are covered in jars of pickles and bottles of wine and blackboards list names of the meat, fish and veg producers that feature on the menu.

The menu offers a selection of sweet and savoury choices. Choose between a kanafeh croissant filled with pistachio and rose, cardamom buns and rugelach (a light, flaky pastry) for a sweet baked treat. The rich, buttery brioche-like babka is a must, with a thick chocolate spread running through the layers of dough and a crisp crust. If you’re there in December, grab a slice of the Christmas babka, flavoured with marzipan, currants and spiced butter and get a piece to take home, too.

If you fancy something savoury and want a small taste of everything, try out the Jerusalem breakfast plates, small dishes that range from spicy merguez hogget sausage with preserved-lemon yogurt and sweet marinated aubergine with tahini and smoked paprika to crispy fried eggs with chilli and vinegary beets and dill.

For a more traditional breakfast, order granola with seasonal fruit and house labneh, bagels and banana cake. Make sure to get a smooth flat white made with beans from South London roaster Volcano Coffee Works to wake yourself up.

Click here to read our full review of The Good Egg

Christmas babka at The Good Egg

Best alternative brunches in London

Best for a meaty brunch – Hotbox, Spitalfields

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.

hotboxlondon.co.uk


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.

pedlerpeckhamrye.com

Pedler Peckham brunch menu

Best for grown ups – Bad Egg

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.

Click here to read our full review of brunch at Bad Egg


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.

Bullseye: 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.

merchantstavern.co.uk

A white plate with fried chicken and waffles
Fried chicken and waffles at Merchants Tavern

Best weekday breakfasts in London

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.

To read our full review of Granger & Co click here


Best for shakshuka – Nopi, Soho

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.

ottolenghi.co.uk


Best for tea and crumpets – Good and Proper Tea, Leather Lane

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.

goodandpropertea.com


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.

grind.co.uk


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.

To read our full review of The Black Penny click here


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.

To read our full review of Cambridge Street Cafe click here


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.

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For opening times and to read our full review of Egg Break click here