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You will likely recognise Lotte Duncan from her numerous food TV appearances on both sides of the pond. She is, in real life, very much as she seems on TV: warm, funny and frilly and mostly wearing those pastel colours which have become her trademark. She is a talented cookbook writer, cooking demonstrator and baker of all things sparkly. I should mention her addiction to glitter.
Lotte is a “hands-on” kinda girl and it’s just as well. She is a celebrity (she hates that term) but she honestly does cook for the café, and you really can have one of her cakes at your wedding, and she has actually juggled paint brushes as well as whisks before the long-awaited opening of Lotte’s Kitchen.
It’s a stunner. Not large but well appointed with sofas, tables sporting flowery cloths, painted chairs (colours from her pastel palate) and a fireplace. OK, so the fire is also painted but it does have a ginger cat, the original for which is resident at Lotte’s cottage a few miles away. There are dressers laden with designer foods as well as gifts, all very much in that cosy country style, but with hints of sophistication.
Lotte has an able business partner in Sue, and Lotte remembers the learning curve in those early days. “On the eve of opening Sue went outside and looked through a little hole in the window whitening, saw the whole thing set up, and said, ‘Yeah, we’re ready!’ But we weren’t! The next morning we got here at 6:30, Sue learned how to work the till about 10 minutes before opening, we hadn’t numbered the tables, there was a queue out the door, and we had no system set up. We just didn’t stop all day! In the evening, when we all sat down with a glass of fizz, it suddenly occurred to me, ‘Wow, we’re going to have to do this every day!’ Now, it’s really weird to think that we wouldn’t be here. We have such a lovely customer base of locals.”
Lotte is a generous hostess and I was introduced to just about every item on the menu. Sandwiches: “We buy the ham in and cook it in cider and apple juice and roast it with all the spices, butter and sugar; we cook whole chickens in stock, take all the meat off the bone and that’s what we use to mix with mustard mayonnaise, lovely streaky crispy bacon and tomato; our beef we buy in, cover it in mustard, horseradish, oil and black pepper, roast it off and slice it by hand. Everything we do here is just a bit special – if you order a sandwich it’s not just a sandwich, you get it with a lovely garnish drizzled with a house dressing that uses vinegars from Yorkshire and a local rapeseed oil, mustard, mint and chives. It’s such a simple menu and it works.” Each sandwich is made to order and the tables of regulars attest to their delicious, over-stuffed freshness.
It’s a small village but the place buzzes with folks who have obviously been here before. They have their habitual order but will ask which cakes are available today. The coffee machine is in constant action and there is a good selection of tea. Lotte even offers an English tea. No, not English breakfast tea grown and blended in India but a real English tea which is grown here. A glass of wine, beer or cider can be yours in warm weather but the hot chocolate should be your beverage of choice if you visit on a cold winter’s day. It’s the richest and creamiest and comes with a real chocolate pop to melt into the chocolatey mug.
Lotte is a celebrated baker and her handiwork is available at Lotte’s Kitchen. “We have a massive selection of cakes every day. People buy slices to take away, and they buy whole cakes, too. We do big celebration cakes, they work really well. We bake to order, whatever the occasion – birthdays and anniversaries, and we do a lot of iced fancies for weddings.
I would have asked about those bespoke cakes but I had my mouth full. “That’s my ‘Olympic Gold’ chocolate fudge cake and that’s my Raspberry Vanilla one; that’s a Gooseberry and Orange cake; chocolate brownies; that’s the Passion Cake, our most popular, with carrot, walnut and banana.” Lotte gave a run-down on the heaving plates. All those cakes taste home-made and in a way they are – or they would be if Lotte lived over the shop. She could use the slogan “You can taste the difference” but I think it’s already been taken.
These days you can have breakfast at Lotte’s Kitchen. A civilized 9am can find you tucking into some local produce. “What we do for breakfast: bacon sandwiches, sausage sandwiches (the sausages are from Musks, in Newmarket, Suffolk), and the ‘Big Breakfast’ of bacon, sausage, egg and mushroom sandwich, with coffee or tea. The bacon’s streaky and really crispy with lots of flavour and we cook it on the flat griddle. Most weekends we do our burgers - 8 ounces of solid meat, on the flat-top which gives it a beautiful crust, with salad and home-made Thousand Island dressing, or blue cheese and bacon on it, and that’s just lovely. Also on a Saturday we do our famous cinnamon rolls, which people come in especially for – and when they’re gone, they’re gone!”
It’s not all about eating here. “We have demonstrations, monthly, which are very popular. We are going to do a wine evening too, with Marcia Waters, a Master of Wine, who has chosen the wines for us. We can now offer a glass of Prosecco and a piece of cake for an afternoon tea.”
I don’t think Lotte Duncan and Sue need to add any more incentives to encourage food lovers across their pink and glittery threshold. They already have a winning recipe.
2 Keen's Lane, Chinnor, Oxfordshire
Tuesday to Saturday 9am to 5pm
Sunday & Monday Closed
Visit Lotte's Kitchen here
The English breakfast is indeed a worthy and iconic repast but one can’t eat like that every day, unless one is a manual worker. It’s a treat and I personally reserve it for when somebody else is doing the washing up. Find a decent restaurant and relax with the papers to take advantage of those occasions. And Cinnamon Club is a great deal more than a ‘decent’ restaurant, but its prices for breakfast are a great deal less than one might expect.
Cinnamon Club is one of the finest Indian restaurants in London and housed in a former Victorian library. The crockery gives a literary nod to the provenance of the venue. If one looks closely one will note the pattern around the edge of one’s breakfast plate - spines of books; and there is more to appreciate in the dark wood, stained glass and parquet flooring. It’s a classy and stylish restaurant that speaks of quintessential English heritage, although the food for lunch and dinner is exotic and Subcontinental.
Breakfast here is a melange of typical English favourites, Anglo-Indian classics and Indian traditional, and all those dishes are served with what I consider the best toast in London. Thick slices of real bread, and those slices are presented whole rather than in iffy, skinny triangles. This is toast for those who appreciate the finer things in life like real butter and a nice pot of jam.
English – Eggs of your choice with Cumberland sausage or oak-smoked back bacon, grilled tomato, flat mushroom and toast
Omelette – three eggs with choice of filling: mushroom, cheese, ham, salmon or spiced
Scrambled eggs with Loch Fyne smoked salmon
Full English – eggs of your choice, sausage, smoked back bacon, white and black pudding, grilled tomato, flat mushroom and toast
Continental (that’s Europe not Asia) – fresh seasonal fruits, selection of cheeses, honey roast ham, choice of freshly squeezed juice, and selection of breakfast pastries
Anglo-Indian – Kedgeree with smoked haddock and poached egg.
Kedgeree is thought to have originated from a traditional Indian rice dish with lentils called Khichri. This can be traced back to the 14th century but the modern Kedgeree was brought to the United Kingdom by the returning British who introduced it to the UK as a breakfast.
Indian – Uttapam – South Indian rice pancake with toppings: onion, green chilli, tomato, peppers, served with coconut chutney and lentil broth.
Uttapam is a pancake of batter made from urad dal and rice. This is a thick fluffy pancake with toppings cooked into the batter. Uttapam is sometimes described as an Indian pizza although it’s much more delicate and light. This was my choice of breakfast and it’s a delightful start to the day. Not over-spicy although the broth offered a very agreeable aromatic heat. A proper cooked breakfast without the calories of a regular fry-up.
Cinnamon Club offers a gluten-free alternative to common breakfast fare – quinoa upma with curry leaf, served with coconut chutney. Upma is usually made with semolina (called Rava or Suji in India) but here it’s made with quinoa which is an ancient seed enjoying something of a cult following in the US and UK.
Bombay scrambled eggs on cumin ‘pao’. This was my guest’s choice and it was a satisfying and creamy mound of scrambled eggs spiced with Indian flavours. The ‘pao’ is a bun or square of split bread and this one had cumin seeds baked in for a distinctive taste. A comforting and hearty breakfast, and a change from your usual eggs.
Cinnamon Club never disappoints. This is an ideal spot for a quiet breakfast meeting, but it should be on the list of must-dos in London for any discerning tourists who find themselves in the neighbourhood of Parliament Square. It offers a truly unique culinary experience that acknowledges the old Empire in a most palatable fashion. The restaurant is beautiful and its location is hard to beat but it’s the food that will assure your return, and your breakfast won’t break the bank. Such value for money with this ambiance is hard to find.
Breakfast weekdays 7.30am - 9.30am
Lunch Mon - Sat 12 noon - 2.45pm
Dinner Mon - Sat 6.00pm - 10.45pm
Library Bar weekdays 11.00am - 11.45pm
Cinnamon Club Bar Mon - Sat 6.00pm -11.45pm
The Cinnamon Club
The Old Westminster Library,
30-32 Great Smith Street,
London SW1P 3BU
Phone: 020 7222 2555
Visit Cinnamon Club here
Even those who insist they have no interest in that first meal will be coaxed into at least semi-conciousness by the aroma of freshly brewed coffee or toasting toast, and not many can remain under the duvet when a bacon sandwich beckons from below.
I have a broad taste in breakfast foods. Idli hot from the steamer and a bowl of spicy sambar is one of my favourites. I have enjoyed American biscuits (like scones) and gravy (creamy sauce made with sausage), and Eggs Benedict is always high on my list. I have been known to eat last night’s takeaway, kippers and Mexican refried beans and chilli before dawn, but I have never gone out of my way for a cornflake.
500 Breakfasts and Brunches offers just what it says: 500 temptations from Europe and America. Each recipe has its associated picture and several versions. There are healthy crunchy bars and sustaining smoothies for all those who want a noble start to the day. Those bars could easily be packed for a breakfast on the run ...or jog.
Britain and the US have a love of cooked breakfast foods. Any trip to a real New York diner will have you scanning the morning menu and finding stacks of pancakes with bacon and maple syrup, eggs over-easy, and coffee that might not always be the best you would have tasted. This book gives recipes for some favourites from both sides of the Pond. The British fry-up is included and one of the variants has fried bread, but cooked in vegetable oil. This is a modern attempt at presenting a light option but if one wants the authentic fried bread then one needs lard. Make this meal an annual event but enjoy it when you have it.
Apple and Pecan French Toast is another calorific start to the day. Well, at least it contains some fruit so it’s not an entirely guilty pleasure. Classic Blueberry Pancakes also has its fruit, and the syrup is optional: one could serve thick Greek yoghurt instead with perhaps more fresh berries on the side.
Brunch offers a casual entertaining experience for friends and family, and the chance to present a variety of dishes that would be just too much trouble to prepare when there’s only a couple. Banana Cranberry Loaf is something you can bake the day before. Present slices hot from the toaster. An exotic alternative would be Tropical Pineapple and Coconut Loaf; that would be ideal served with a fresh fruit salad.
My pick of the book is Crabmeat Strata – another brunch special but a savoury one. It has a light and fluffy texture rather like a cross between a bread-and-butter pudding and a souffle; but it’s that seafood that elevates this dish to posh brunch fare. It’s true that it’s not cheap but it’s the one to choose for a celebration weekend. Smoked salmon could be used instead and that would be quite economic, as one could use salmon scraps rather than the more costly slices.
500 Breakfasts and Brunches is another in that celebrated series from Apple Press. These books are good value for money and practical – lots of information in a compact format, and these books will spend more time in the kitchen than on your bookshelves. Well worth setting the alarm a little early.
Cookbook review: 500 Breakfasts and Brunches
Author: Carol Beckerman
Published by: Apple Press
Yes, perhaps I should mention my latest discovery. I am always on the lookout for places to eat. Not just for lunches and dinners but for snacks and afternoon tea and for delicious food before or during a meeting. I have found an ideal spot. It’s near Leicester Square Underground Station. It’s open at 8am. It’s stylish and comfortable and a great place to have a leisurely breakfast. It’s Dishoom.
Dishoom is the name of the establishment, but what is a dishoom? It’s the old Bollywood sound effect produced when the hero lands a blow, or when a bullet whistles through the air. The exterior of the eponymous café suggests that type of smart restaurant that one would not expect to be open much before noon. But when you realise the inside is a café your expectations shift. Think of it as a take on a Bombay café and it’s not only expectations but horizons that broaden.
Those of us who have spent only a little time in India will have no bench-mark for Dishoom. It's said to evoke memories of the Bombay cafés of old, originally opened by Persians. They were a meeting place and a refuge, and they were at their peak in the 1960s, but now fewer than thirty cafés remain. If you’re more acquainted with French bistros then you might draw comparisons. Pictures on the walls don’t show the Eiffel Tower but rather beautiful women in saris. No signed photo of Gerard Depardieu but lots of handsome Indian men from a bygone era. Dishoom oozes class, but casual class.
One of my fondest childhood memories is of breakfast. My dad would be home from night-shift and smoke would rise up the staircase to let me know that all was well. Next the sound of knife on blackened bread. I was in my first year of school cookery lessons before I realised that making toast was not a two-part exercise: “First incinerate your bread and then remove carbon with a sharp implement.” Who knew?
Breakfast is still my favourite meal of the day but I have so often been disappointed when a sweet muffin and a mug of dubious latte have had to suffice; and those consumed in an uninviting branch of the likes of Costabucks. You know the sort: lots of cakes, 32 alternatives for coffee-drinkers and nothing for those of us who want a “good” cup of tea. Dishoom came to my rescue.
Dishoom is indeed Indian. There is no mistaking the ethnic origin of the dishes listed on the menu, but it’s ‘evolved Indian’, which offers a hint of Bombay’s famous street grills and food stalls. Its bill of fare is appealing to both Asians and Europeans as the makeup of its clientele will attest. Breakfast here gives a nod to both continents in a very palatable fashion. In fact they presented me with the best bacon sandwich I have ever had!
We settled in a comfy booth at 9.30am. Some other tables were occupied by groups who were evidently office workers. Seems like breakfast meetings are in vogue. The financial crisis has heralded a new age of expense-account cut-backs. Breakfast is an ideal way to meet, discuss and eat without, well, eating into the day, so to speak.
We ordered some chai, Indian tea – it’s particularly good here, made with ginger and pepper and spices (although the single-estate coffee at Dishoom is rumoured to be exceptional). Everything looked tempting. Breakfast Lassi is a yoghurt drink with banana, mango and oats. Ideal for those days when you want to feel noble. It’s delicious and quite substantial so my guest and I shared that. Granola with cinnamon, fresh fruit and yoghurt with Madagascan vanilla sounded appealing. It’s the vanilla that was striking. The yoghurt was so flecked with those distinctive black specks that it could perhaps be likened to a negative of the star-strewn heavens above the Arabian Sea.
There was also porridge with dates and bananas, hot Toast, Cinnamon Rolls, Fresh Mango & Vanilla Yoghurt for those who want a more traditional start to the day, but Fruit Roomali also beckoned. Roomali roti is sometimes referred to as handkerchief bread. It’s light and makes a perfect wrap, and at Dishoom it accompanied seasonal fruit, mascarpone and honey. Healthy but hearty.
Bombay Omelette is good here and Sub-continental friends tell me it’s a common home-cooked breakfast item. It’s a spiced omelette with grilled vine tomatoes, served rolled and on toast, and if you are looking for an even more substantial plateful then there is the Full Bombay - Bombay omelette, Cumberland sausage, bacon, grilled vine tomatoes, mushrooms and toast served with house chai.
The Sausage Naan Roll and the Bacon Naan Roll were intriguing. The smell of bacon always starts the day well, so the sausage naan will have to wait for another visit. I have mentioned that this was the best bacon sandwich I have ever had, and it’s the truth. Like all good dishes it relies on the quality of the ingredients as much as the preparation. The bacon at Dishoom was just how I like it. Smoked and full of flavour. The regular sliced loaf has been replaced by split naan. Just enough bread to keep one’s fingers clean and not enough to detract from the filling. This is a winner and a must-try.
Dishoom has a delightfully vintage ambiance. It deserves to be buzzing at breakfast. It already has a loyal lunch and evening following and it’s only been open a short while. It must surely just be a matter of publicity, so GO TO DISHOOM FOR BREAKFAST. I’ll be returning to try a cinnamon roll; there will be chai on the side and another bacon butty ...or shall I try the sausage?
Monday – Friday 8am – 11pm
Saturday: 10am – 11pm
Sunday: 10am – 10pm
12 Upper St. Martin’s Lane, London, WC2H 9FB
Phone: 020 7420 9320
Visit Dishoom here
During the Second World War, the strength of the Dorchester’s concrete construction gave the hotel the reputation of being one the safest buildings in town. Winston Churchill stayed in the hotel, and General Dwight D. Eisenhower took a suite on the first floor, now the Eisenhower Suite.
The hotel closed for a couple of years in the 1980s. Some areas were showing their age and it needed an injection of technology and amenity. The Dorchester has, however, maintained some public areas that offer that opulence of another age, sporting characteristics that we all crave but which are so often lost with unsympathetic refits.
Its location has, no doubt, helped with its prestigious reputation. It’s found on Park Lane in Mayfair, overlooking Hyde Park. Not a bad address, but every hotelier knows that guests will not return if the interior doesn’t match the location, and if service and customer care fall short. There is plenty of competition out there but The Dorchester has maintained its creditable position.
The imposing facade is softened by thoughtful planting, presenting the guest with a veritable cascade of flower and foliage, but the real Dorchester treasures are found the other side of the revolving doors with polished brass trim. It’s the striking Promenade which, for me at least, is the epitome of timeless charm.
The Promenade is a comfy space, a vision of old gold and architectural features that transport one back to a genteel era when potted palms were the norm and one had plenty of staff to polish the silver, and the butler wore a morning suit.
OK, so not many of us have maids and footmen but we can borrow a little of the Dorchester’s luxury every time we visit. It’s a big and sumptuous hotel but it’s not intimidating. Every guest is made to feel at home – like they belong and most importantly, like they are special.
It was an early morning treat for us – breakfast at a cosy side table in the Promenade. Crisp linen, gleaming cutlery as one would expect, and a stand that would soon be garnished with a plate of croissants, pains au chocolat, Danish pastries and muffins. All of these are made at the Dorchester so you’ll know they are fresh. Small dainties with amber shine. Almost too good to eat... almost.
The Dorchester Bacon Buttie was reassuring and intriguing. It would seem an oxymoron: one of the smartest hotels in London offering butties. Well, yes indeed and it was, just as one would hope, a memorable creation with sweet cured bacon, belly pork and a fried egg served on focaccia. In truth this was such a tower of food that the top segment of bread was presented leaning on the side of the sandwich. This wasn’t a light breakfast option but it was somewhat more interesting than the traditional British breakfast which, although a favourite, can be had almost everywhere.
The belly pork was a delicious departure from a regular breakfast sandwich. It was sweet, flavourful and with the correct and comforting ratio of meat to creamy fat. That fat is key to the success of the dish. The condiments were, however, traditional: tomato ketchup and brown sauce. Diners will have a strongly-held preference for one or the other and that’s as it should be, but anyway I think there is a law against smearing both; if there isn’t there should be.
The Dorchester does have a breakfast menu of healthy Bircher muesli, cereals or fruit salad for those who treat their bodies like temples – although I did notice a miniature jar of very adult chocolate spread to help down the healthy five-seeded wholemeal bread. Wholemeal toast and carrot and courgette muffins might well be my choice on a future visit.
Tea is an essential part of any English breakfast and we enjoyed a pot or two of the speciality teas from Harney and Sons, including The Dorchester Blend, a light and refreshing brew that was a delicate foil for the richness of both bacon and pork, and the sticky moreishness of those little pastries.
The Dorchester will not disappoint. It’s been the regular home-from-home for many a celebrity and fatigued businessman, and increasingly for those of us who just periodically like to indulge in the finer things in life. It’s not the cheapest of hotels but it remains the spot that offers predictable quality and a particular ambiance that is hard to replicate – the place for an accessible and memorable treat at any time of the day.
Park Lane, London W1K 1QA
Phone: 020 7629 8888
Reservations: 020 7317 6500
Fax: 020 7629 8080
Visit the Dorchester here
Terminal 5A, to give its correct title, is the biggest single-span building in Britain. Your response to most statistics might be, “Well, whoda thought?” but a visit to T5 will have you exclaiming “This must be the biggest single span building in Britain” with no prompting. It is a stunning vision of glass and beams and has an open and light aspect. It cost £4.2bn and covers 265ha, equivalent to 50 football pitches. 27 million passengers are expected to pass through Terminal 5 this year, and this passenger was paying particular attention to the air-side food.
61,000 sqft is dedicated to catering in Terminal 5, everything from The 5 Tuns Pub and Kitchen to M&S, providing the gamut of casual dining, but what was needed for my own early morning start? Breakfast when travelling is often comprised of a strange melange of local dishes appropriate for a different time-zone and of dubious taste and questionable texture, but Wagamama at T5 presents a menu that seems to have something for everyone, or at least as much as one could reasonably expect.
Wagamama is a noodle restaurant with several branches in central and greater London, and others opening elsewhere. It’s a noodle bar with all the attractive Zen practicality that a Japanese eatery would imply. Plenty of benches and chopsticks but also some rather delicious food. Its pan-Asian-inspired dishes have a cult following. Wagamama ‘chilli men’ is a noodle dish of stir-fried chicken or prawns with vegetables, and is a popular recipe search on the internet (Mostly Asian Food, www.mostlyasianfood.com), but the unique breakfast dishes were the draw this morning. Heathrow is the only Wagamama serving breakfast, both traditional and Asian.
Okonomiyaki – a Japanese-style pancake omelette made with peppers, cabbage and mushrooms, garnished with katsuobushi (a preparation of dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna) and aonori (edible green seaweed) – is a substantial egg dish, and flavourful. The tuna shavings give a slightly salty counterpoint to the vegetables.
Coconut Porridge is a bowl of oats mixed with regular milk and coconut milk, served with an apple and chilli jam. It is perhaps, for the less-adventurous guests, one of the more easily accepted of the pan-Asian breakfast items. We have all had steaming bowls of porridge to send us off to school on cold winter days. Well, this has the same comforting texture but a richness from the coconut milk and a kick from the condiment. A good slow-energy-release dish for the gruelling day ahead!
Caviar House & Prunier offer the traveller an oasis of calm luxury. It’s honestly not an everyday pit-stop, but far more accessible financially than one would assume, and proved to be just the place to while away some post-breakfast and pre-flight hours. Caviar House & Prunier is said to be a producer of the world's finest caviar and Balik smoked salmon. It has a reputation for presenting the highest quality, and there are experts on hand to make your first caviar encounter an occasion to remember.
Malossol is the most authentic Russian-style caviar and my favourite. Those little blue tins are here in abundance, along with some not-so-little tins. Malossol is a caviar with a particular Beluga flavour and is much sought-after in America and Japan. Granted, it’s not cheap but it would make any celebration memorable. If caviar is a bit too rich then try the excellent smoked salmon with a glass of champagne. Linger and savour. It’s all about pampering.
Obviously Heathrow isn’t just a dining experience. Retail therapy can calm the nerves and send one from these shores with a feeling of duty-free well-being. Tiffany & Co.’s signature jewellery pieces are displayed in their store. This is the only place outside their New York 5th Avenue branch where passengers are able to see these. Harrods Department Store is here, along with French luxury maison Cartier. There is a raft of other ‘labels’ as well. It’s a consumer paradise for the well-heeled, but for us humble folks there are the high street brands, too.
If those high-flyers are peckish then they would want a celebrated chef to be providing the posh nosh. Plane Food is a Gordon Ramsay restaurant at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, where Stuart Gillies is the appointed Chef Patron. He has worked with Angela Hartnett at The Connaught, before moving on to London's Le Caprice. He has also graced the kitchens of Daniel Boulud restaurant in New York City. Stuart ran the Boxwood Café at The Berkeley before becoming manager of Plane Food.
I am not a fan of Gordon Ramsay but I seem to be one of the few. That is to say, I don’t like his TV shows or his language, but his food is some of the best around. I have eaten in his Heathrow restaurant and have no complaints. Excellent. And the restaurant offers a picnic service which is novel and convenient.
One can order Plane Beautiful picnics from 7:00am to 9:00pm. They are priced at £14.95 for 3 courses. All meals can be taken onboard your flight, or simply enjoyed in one of the many seating areas in the terminal. My orange thermal bag contained Caesar salad with pancetta and soft-boiled egg, Cumbrian honey-roast ham and Parma ham, and a chocolate brownie which I must confess was the best I have ever eaten. The ham platter was fresh and substantial and my only criticism would be that there was no bread, the addition of which would have made this a complete meal. A simple bottle of water would have been worthwhile.
Heathrow Terminal 5 will start your trip in fine fashion or will offer a stylish homecoming. We all used to swell with pride as we watched Concorde soar. This building and its high-end amenities are fast becoming the equivalent in air travel facilities. OK, you wouldn’t want to spend your vacation within its confines, but it’s striking, contemporary and as good as it gets.
Britain was for many years dismissed as a culinary wasteland. A French friend even had the temerity to suggest that the reason we in the UK adopt the foods of other nations so readily is that we have no culinary heritage of our own. I begged to differ in strident fashion and the Gallic guy gets out of plaster on Bastille day. It’s more that we have rather overlooked our fine dishes and have always been overshadowed by our cousins across the Channel, who have had the knack of self-promotion. We should follow their example.
It’s breakfast that seems to catch the imagination of visitors to these shores. They suppose that we Brits eat a fried breakfast every day. Many of us wish we could, but the constraints of time, finances and waistline prevent a big fry-up from being anything other than a too-infrequent treat.
Roast in Borough Market offers very decent breakfasts. Yes, you will assume, dear reader, that the sausages will be superb and that the bacon will be memorable. Right on both counts. Roast has a great reputation for all things meaty. An evening meal here should not be passed up. But Roast has vegetables as well.
The Full Monty, Traditional English, and Big Fry-up are all the same thing. Substantial, delicious, moreish, tempting and meat-laden breakfasts. We wax lyrical about them because they are, from time to time, just what we crave. But how’s about vegetarians? Menus will offer vegetarian specials and non-meat options but they are often boring and almost always too worthy – fiddle-head fern cutlet and yak’s milk smoothie.
I am not a vegetarian, as I am by nature greedy. I love food in all its myriad guises so if for whatever reason I felt unable to eat meat, I would want to have the option of still enjoying the best food. So what about breakfast? Roast has a menu that embraces vegetarians, holds them close, says “There, there, you’re safe now” and presents them with a grown-up brekkie sans meat.
Try the Veggie Borough which includes a Veggie Borough banger, grilled tomatoes, field mushrooms, tattie scone, wholemeal toast and your choice of eggs. Now, that’s what I call a real breakfast that just happens not to include meat. Those veggie bangers are substantial sausages made of vegetables and grains. The texture is hearty and firm, and they’re full of herby flavour.
If your mind is set on somewhat lighter fare then you could do worse than a 3-egg omelette. These are fluffy and flecked with the fresh green of chives. Neal’s Yard Cheddar cheese, field mushrooms and herbs, or Smoked trout are your veggie options. A side order of bubble ‘n’ squeak might be tempting but remember it’s fried in beef dripping. For my overseas readers I should explain that this confection is a traditional Monday dish made from left-over potatoes and greens from the Sunday lunch. Patties of these crushed vegetables are seasoned and then fried till slightly browned. Delightfully comforting and rustic.
There are plenty of lighter items for vegetarians to graze upon. Toasted cottage loaf with a selection of English preserves, fresh fruit salad, muesli with Earl Grey prunes and yoghurt for the more health-conscious. Also Scott’s porridge oats with a jug of cream for the colder mornings. Two boiled eggs with Marmite soldiers for those with a taste for the finer things in life. Gypsy toast with stewed cranberries, bananas, pistachios and soured cream. Kippers with lemon and butter. Smoked trout with scrambled eggs.
The Full Borough is the meal of choice for the carnivore of the species. High-quality ingredients to remind us of why the most celebrated of British meals is still so popular. Ramsay smoked streaky bacon, Cumberland sausages, fried bread, Ramsay of Carluke black pudding, grilled tomatoes, field mushrooms, bubble ‘n’ squeak and your choice of egg, poached, fried or scrambled.
Roast has an appealing early-morning ambiance. Its prices are reasonable for such an establishment. The ingredients are well-chosen and the finest of their type, from the jams and preserves to the sausages and bacon. Breakfast isn’t a meal to be rushed. This is a departure from your usual routine. Order some Roast special-blend English breakfast tea instead of your mug of instant coffee. Indulge in a generous cooked breakfast prepared by chefs who are more awake than you are. Relax and read the morning papers rather than scraping the toast over the kitchen sink. In other words, enjoy!
Monday - Friday 7.00am - 11:00am
Saturday 8.00am - 11:30am
Roast, The Floral Hall, Stoney Street, London SE1 1TL.
Reservations and Enquiries: 0845 034 7300
Fax: 0845 034 7301
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Yorkshire is celebrated for its well-laid tables at every meal, old-fashioned baked, fried, poached and grilled goods made with the best of ingredients and served in memorable quantities. Rosemary is an author made to write about this comforting subject. One can almost hear her rich warm laugh as she talks about the recipes. She encourages the reader to cook and enjoy these treats, often if they are the healthy platters and just a little less frequently if they are those packed with calories. After all it’s not what you eat that’s the problem it’s the exercise that you don’t take that causes difficulties.
The chapters start with The Full English. Yes we all know what constitutes the classic version and it is in my opinion the king of the cooked brekkie; but there are alternatives that are worthy of the accolade ‘Full’. How’s about Homemade Baked Beans with Crispy Bacon and Sautéed Potatoes? The beans can be frozen so it’s a convenient make-ahead breakfast for those weekends when you have a houseful of hungry guests. Leave out the bacon and you have a substantial vegetarian breakfast.
If you want to feel noble then Fresh Figs with Serrano Ham might well fit the bill, with a taste of the southern climes. It’s an almost instant start to your day but a great summer breakfast both for you and your guests, who are bound to be impressed with this classy plateful. Wait till you can get those luscious dark figs for best effect.
Rosemary has a chapter entitled Indulgence and I confess I turned to this one first. These are cracking recipes for rib-sticking fare that’s a bit out of the ordinary. Perhaps I should say that they are dishes that one might ordinarily enjoy later in the day but which are wonderful for breakfast particularly if you can persuade someone else to cook them for you.
Hands up who would not love Individual Yorkshire Puddings with Golden Syrup at 8am on a Sunday. Just as I thought – no hands showing. A good Yorkshire pud is light and airy and a delicious vehicle for a drizzle of Golden Syrup. It has to be Golden Syrup and it should be the one in the green and gold tin, you know the one. Yes, calories aplenty but you have got the whole day for hiking, or at least walking around the shopping mall.
One might not think of Fish and Chips and Mushy Peas as regular breakfast fare. I would have agreed with you till I had exactly that for breakfast in a hotel in Australia in the 1970’s. It works. We often have fish on breakfast menus and there are lots of potato dishes that are common morning offerings. Put those elements together and one has fish and chips.
I usually pick a favourite recipe from the cookbooks I review but I can honestly say that I would cook, eat and enjoy all of these breakfast recipes. The majority of the dishes do double or even treble duty as they work well not only for late-night fuelling but also for lunches. A brilliant book full of early-morning inspiration.
Cookbook review: Rosemary Shrager’s Yorkshire Breakfasts
Author: Rosemary Shrager
Publisher: Great Northern
St Pancras has it all. Original brickwork and sweeping iron beams framing huge windows. A bustling terminus welcoming travellers from both home and away, and bidding bon voyage to those off to the Continent or elsewhere in Britain. It has marvellous facilities for the comfort of those souls.
Early Friday morning found us rubbing shoulders with the thronging masses of commuters and holiday-makers. Slightly limp shirts, briefcases, panama hats and posh frocks adorned the bodies waiting for trains, for friends, for family and for food. No need to go hungry here, and the choice of eating establishments is extensive.
One finds the usual selection of Costabucks and Sarnie Salons on the ground floor. All reasonable quality food I am sure, and just what you want when looking for portable snacks and drinks. But take the escalator to the first floor and discover somewhere that could well become your regular pit-stop. It certainly has become mine.
St Pancras Grand is just the style of restaurant that one would seek out when in Paris, but here it is and it’s ours. At first glance one might expect a breakfast here to be something just for the occasional treat. Well, think again. A tasty savoury and unlimited tea will cost less than £7; the ambiance is free of charge. Compare that to a single cup of coffee and a muffin elsewhere and you’ll agree it’s an attractive alternative. Visually and financially.
The Grand English breakfast is just that. It’s the full works and bound to be a favourite with those waiting to board the Eurostar to France. This restaurant will get you in the mood. You have a view of your iron horse while you savour your eggs and bacon and all those other items which make the fry-up truly Grand.
Many of those Eurostar travellers are celebrating. Breakfast at St Pancras Grand offers the most stylish start to the trip. Smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, toast, tea and coffee are joined by a chilled and sparkling glass of Pommery Brut Royal NV. You can order a glass of fizz with any breakfast dish, even boiled eggs and soldiers.
Eggs Benedict is often my breakfast of choice ...when someone else is cooking. It’s a comforting yet classy dish and done very well here. Buttery Hollandaise sauce coating eggs poached to yolk-flowing perfection, several slices of ham, and toasted English muffin made a rich and sustaining start to the day.
My guest has a blokey appetite for substantial breakfast nosh, and the sausage sandwich took his fancy. Simple fare relies on quality ingredients for its success and these Cumberland sausages were pronounced flavourful and meaty. The bread was a soft roll which made for easy eating and both brown and tomato sauces were served on the side. Only a Philistine would attempt to devour a sausage sandwich without such condiments.
If you are en route to La Belle France then you might want to consider a Continental breakfast. There are all the components on the menu to provide a light repast. Fruit juice, a Danish pastry and some coffee could fit the bill. The pastries are warm and buttery and melt-in-the-mouth. A bowl (it's a large bowl) of Greek yoghurt with a jug of honey is probably healthier. Homemade granola with berries also comes highly recommended, although porridge might be in favour during the colder months.
St Pancras Grand is affordable luxury. It’s surprisingly good value for money for such a stylish and comfortable restaurant. Come in time to allow for a long leisurely breakfast. Bring the morning paper and sit back and enjoy. It’s tranquil, unhurried, and pampering at a decent price. Visit when you are travelling from St Pancras or Kings Cross, which is just across the road.
7am - 11pm daily,
9am - 11pm Sunday
Restaurant review: St Pancras Grand Restaurant,
St Pancras International Station
Upper Concourse, Euston Road
London NW1 2QP
Phone: 020 7870 9900
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The restaurant interior is designed by Lesley Purcell and it’s a vision in almost 1940s style, oak floors and red columns decorated with glowing glass rods. Gold leather-buttoned banquettes and dark maroon patent crocodile-upholstered chairs seat the dining area guests, while plush crimson fabrics await those prefering to linger by the bar. No. 20 has 60 covers but the design assures privacy. The restaurant presents just a hint of the theme of the hotel in general: Glamour. This hotel just cries out to have guests from the A-list and ‘names’ looking for a central retreat.
We were there for breakfast and settled ourselves comfortably behind a large linen-laden table. It’s the best and most important meal of the day and it was comforting to find sensible breakfast foods. Heinz Baked Beans are not often seen on smart menus but here they were and I was pleased to see that. At least this restaurant takes note of what people really eat in the mornings. Bagel with Lox and Cream Cheese always makes a great breakfast and I am sure guests from New York will appreciate their inclusion.
A stack of Buttermilk Pancakes, Bacon and Maple Syrup was my guest’s choice. The combination of sweet and salty - fluffy pancakes and crispy bacon - contrasting tastes and textures, is always satisfying, and at its best when made by someone other than oneself at such an early hour.
I ordered the Continental Breakfast. This was not the typical French breakfast which most often consists of a croissant or, always to my horror, French bread and butter dunked into hot milky coffee. A big café crème is a welcome start to the day, but sans globules of grease from the aforementioned buttered French stick.
Thankfully the continental morning repast at No.20 nods to those European countries to the north and east of La Belle France, where a more substantial spread is the norm. I started with granola, said to be toasted at those very No.20 coordinates, and it was a substantial helping. Next was a plate of three cheeses and cured meats. When I say ‘plate’ I mean a dinner plate! Fresh fruit was also part of my selection and it was delivered on a twin of the previous platter. Apple, berries, oranges made a colourful tapestry and added a noble and healthy air to the meal. This uncharacterisic consideration for fitness did not last long, as croissants also had my name on them.
No.20 is an attractive restaurant with a menu which offers something for everyone. Plenty for those who treat their bodies as temples, lots for those with moderate appetites, and the rest of us can graze on tempting traditional fry-ups and sweet treats. The prices are reasonable for such a location and Sanctum offers a memorable experience, with the possibility of your morning toast being delivered by a waitress who might shortly be serving a rock star. It’s that kind of place. I’ll be back for dinner.
No. 20 restaurant opening hours:
Monday to Saturday 6.30am - 11.00am
Sunday 7.00am - 11.00am
Sanctum Soho Hotel, 20 Warwick Street, Soho, London W1B 5NF
Tel: +44 (0)207 292 6102
Fax: +44 (0)207 434 3074
Simpson's-in-the-Strand is one of London's most iconic venues. There are two main restaurants, The West Room and the ground floor Divan Restaurant, and it’s to the latter that we headed. It is a striking vision of oak panels, high ceilings, marquetry, and the celebrated high-backed booths along one side, known as divans, from which the restaurant takes its name. These were the chairs of choice for chess players and there are still mementoes throughout Simpsons to remind the visitor of that unique association.
I couldn’t have written this review a few years ago. It was only in 1984 that Simpson's dropped its rule forbidding women from using the panelled street-level dining-room. Before that date, ladies were asked to use the dining room on the floor above. It still has a comfortably masculine ambiance. The dark upholstery on the original divans, the pillars and mouldings create a scene where dark-suited gents puffing cigars would not be out of place.
In 1994 Simpson's broke with tradition and started serving breakfasts for the first time. A light menu was available, but the popular items are traditional English breakfasts. There is The Great British Breakfast as well as the Ten Deadly Sins, which consists of the above copious plateful along with four additions including fried bread, and I am convinced this should be eaten with every British fry-up. Good to find it on the Simpson’s bill of fare.
Simpson’s is famed for its traditional egg-and-bacon-based breakfast but there are other dishes here that are just as traditional. Smoked haddock kedgeree was a regular under the lid of the Victorian sideboard’s chafing dishes. It seems to have fallen from grace with restaurants and, indeed, at home. The Simpson’s version is the best I have had for many a long reviewing year. It takes a degree of skill and foreplanning to present the early-morning guest with such a well-textured example of this fish dish. The grains were tender rather than being puddingy, as is sadly often the case. It had the appropriate flavour of aromatic Madras curry powder which also supplied the golden colour from its turmeric. It’s an unctuous and creamy concoction and just as every kedgeree lover would hope.
My companion was tempted by an eclectic dish of a stack of Scottish pancakes with fried bananas, maple syrup and mascarpone. The pancakes were fluffy and the fruit rich, soft and decadently sweet from the amber syrup. A dish that gave a delicious nod to an era when the pink on the map was predominant, and the sun never set on the Empire.
A reviewer cannot live by omega-3-rich breakfast goods alone, so I also ordered some pastries to help down the cups of breakfast tea. These dainties are made to nibble while perusing the morning newspapers (supplied). This isn’t a venue for just stoking up with calories. Yes, there is plenty here to delight those who crave yoghurt and cereals but I would suggest you bring a hearty appetite and indulge. No need to bolt your breakfast; sit back and absorb all that this unique restaurant has to offer. Simpson’s is, sadly, one of the last of a dying breed. I for one hope that we have the opportunity to return to enjoy real luxury that is maintained only by a periodic dust, long into the future. It shouldn’t have a major refurbishment or refit. It shouldn’t be tinkered with. It’s a gem with its own very timeless character and it’s that as much as the food on offer that will assure its continued success.
Grand Divan Restaurant opening times:
Breakfast: Mon to Fri: 7.15am - 10.30am
Lunch: Monday to Saturday: 12.15pm - 2.45pm
Sun: 12.15pm all day
Dinner: Monday to Saturday: 5.45pm - 10.45pm
100 Strand, London WC2R 0EW
Phone: 020 7836 9112
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So the truth is out. I only make a cooked breakfast at weekends or when we have friends staying over. A traditional English fried breakfast is popular for very good reasons: it’s hearty, comforting and delicious. It has endured as a favourite with both tourists, who are mostly under the misapprehension that we eat this every morning, and us locals who wish that we could.
But there are other cooked breakfasts that are just as delicious and make a flavoursome change. Spice Market offers a striking menu for lunch and dinner, and its breakfast bill of fare is just as imaginative and eclectic. Most of the morning guests are from the adjoining W Hotel and they come from every corner of the globe and enjoy the wide range of items on offer ...after the novelty of the great British fry-up has worn off.
Eggs of your Choice, Potato Rosti, Egg White Omelette with Herbs, Eggs Benedict, Scottish Smoked Salmon, Toasted Brioche, French Toast with Sautéed Apples, Pinhead Porridge with Raisins and Brown Sugar are some of the cooked dishes, but there is also a buffet that caters to those who can only manage a sweet pastry. Northern Europeans can graze on cheese, cold meats, smoked fish, and fruit.
All very nice and I would have been delighted to indulge along with our Continental cousins, but there were other breakfast treats that are unique to Spice Market. Cornish Crab and Egg Scramble, Smoked Paprika and Puffed Rice sounded intriguing and savoury. I couldn’t quite imagine what this was going to be. Perhaps some rubbery concoction served over a bowl of that famous cereal that snaps, crackles and pops? Surely that could not be right.
The reality was a delicate scramble laced with white crab meat. There was a hint of chilli that gave a suspicion of heat and the puffed rice was in the guise of a wafer. Lime added a spike of citrus vibrancy. A well-rounded dish that would be enticing for those looking for a brekkie with an Asian slant. It was a substantial portion, but a rugby player could always add a side of hot buttered toast.
Coconut Pancakes, Maple-Lavender Syrup and Pomelo is a lighter but equally exotic option. The small pancakes were as fluffy as one would hope and the pomelo was refreshing and summery and a foil for the rich sweetness of the maple syrup. This is an indispensible part of any American pancake breakfast but it’s important to choose a dark syrup that offers real taste rather than just sweetness. The Spice Market breakfast balances all elements. Nothing more needed than a cup of tea, although a “cuppa Joe” would be the beverage of choice for those visitors from across the Pond.
7:00 am – 11:00 am Monday-Friday
8:00 am – 11:30 am Saturday-Sunday
Lunch - Dinner:
12:00 noon – 11:00 pm Sunday-Wednesday
12:00 noon – 11:30 pm Thursday-Saturday
12:00 noon – 12:00 midnight Monday-Sunday
Spice Market London
10 Wardour St, London W1D 6QF
Phone: +44 207 758 1088
Fax: +44 207 758 1080
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