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Food & Drink
On this page:
Balans Soho Society Kensington High Street for Brunch
Balans Soho Society Old Compton Street for Sunday Brunch
Blue Elephant – Imperial Wharf, London
Cookbook Cafe – Sunday Brunch
Counter Vauxhall Arches – Brunch
Dirty Bones Kensington for Brunch
Indigo Restaurant Sunday Brunch at One Aldwych
Kurobuta Marble Arch – Sunday Brunch
La Porte des Indes for Sunday Jazz Brunch
Mestizo Sunday Brunch with UNESCO support
One Canada Square for Saturday Brunch
OXBO for Saturday Brunch
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore - Grand Vintage Champagne Sunday Brunch
Roka Brunch – Aldwych
Book review: 500 Breakfasts and Brunches
Book review: Brunch
Book review: Gale Gand’s Brunch
Sunday Brunch - Kurobuta
I confess, I had no idea what to expect. Yes, it was going
to be Japanese. But a Sunday Brunch Buffet? How was that
going to work? In my admittedly somewhat limited experience, Japanese
food comes in two varieties: first – casual noodles; second –
etiquette-riddled kaiseki cuisine. So how would a Sunday brunch buffet
work then, between those two possible options?
Kurobuta the restaurant was a surprise. None of the minimalist and pale
lines of so many Japanese restaurants in London. Think beach bar or a
nightclub specialising in food, that just happens to have exceptionally
good live music on Sundays. It’s urban and completely fitting the
location and the local clientele. Think fun and young.
Every Saturday and Sunday, Kurobuta Marble Arch offers a Brunch Menu
with Live Buffet. That doesn’t mean the food is still moving, only that
it’s freshly cooked and that is, after all, the ethos of Japanese
cuisine. The buffet starts at noon and last seating is at 4pm. It’s an
all-you-can-eat buffet for a set price including wine and beer, with
options to upgrade to unlimited prosecco. There are
also items from the regular menu which one can order as
extras, and there are a couple of those which I can recommend.
You will be welcomed with a glass of punch or a cocktail and be shown
to your rustic table, and then it’s on to the food! First there is the
Build your own Ramen station with small bowls of noodles awaiting their
hot broth, and on this day it was either pork or miso with toppings and
condiments on the side to personalise each portion. Yes, Japanese
really do have soup with almost every meal and a good miso soup can be
addictive – with or without noodles.
Kurobuta Fried Chicken is a winner. These crunchy nuggets are spiced to
perfection. One can then grab a bowl of hot rice and top that with
slivers of beer-grilled steak, with perhaps a garnish of finely chopped
spring onions and some green chilli. That’s the charm of this style of
dining – one can compose multiple taste and texture combinations.
Salmon Sashimi Pizza with Truffle Ponzu and Wasabi Tobiko
is an absolute fusion star! The pizza base is
actually thin and delicate fried pastry that holds the beautiful
topping which is finished with striking tobiko. That’s flying fish roe,
often used in some kinds of sushi. Sometimes tobiko is coloured, as in
this case, with wasabi to make it green and spicy.
Tofu Wang-Taki is light bean curd, and the Sushi and
Sashimi need no explanation. And then there was a bowl of Onsen Eggs.
These are traditional Japanese low-temperature cooked eggs which were
originally slow-cooked in the water of onsen or hot springs in Japan.
The eggs have a soft texture, being poached inside the shell and they
are often served with the shell removed in a small cup with a sauce of
broth and soy sauce.
But there are also regular menu dishes. BBQ Pork Belly in Steamed Buns
with Spicy Peanut Soy sauce is a signature dish here and
it’s no surprise. The buns are first steamed and then torched, which
gives a more rustic and hearty appearance. The
meat is meltingly tender after hours of marinating and slow cooking.
But that peanut sauce is for which to die!
Nasu Dengaku - Sticky Miso Grilled Aubergine with Candied Walnuts - is
another dish not to miss. These well-presented chunks of
butter-soft aubergines are glazed with a flavoursome sweet and savoury
preparation and sprinkled with both black and white sesame seeds and
topped with walnuts. I would pay for that recipe!
Mochi Ice Cream is on the regular menu and it’s one of my favourite
Japanese desserts. It’s a combination of the chewy rice-cake wrapper
filled with tangy Yuzu ice cream. A cool end to a delightful meal!
Kurobuta Marble Arch is unexpected but it works and I can see it’s the
way forward as an informal introduction to often-intimidating Japanese
food. It’s friendly and inclusive. There are no issues with a
complicated sequence of courses. There is not the threat of an
inelegant low table nor the pitying glares of waiters as one’s ineptly
juggled sushi disintegrates in the soy sauce; and is it rude to eat
noodles without slurping? I have had sleepless nights of remembered
humiliation over such disasters. No, you are simply in for a good time
with good food at Kurobuta.
Kurobuta Marble Arch
17-20 Kendal Street
London W2 2AW
Monday to Sunday all day bookings from noon to 22.30
Reservations: 020 7920 6440
Visit Kurobuta Marble Arch here
This isn’t my first visit to OXBO and it won’t be my last.
Yes, dear reader, it’s a restaurant in a hotel but it has very individual and quirky charm, and food to appeal to even the pickiest of eaters. Its weekend Brunches and Roasts are becoming celebrated and visitors to London couldn’t find a better location. Oxbo in the Hilton at Bankside is a comfy venue which works well for groups at weekends. Its tables are configured in such a way as to provide a little privacy. Folks can enjoy a meal and then become tourists in this historic area.
Bankside is part of the London Borough of Southwark and
located on the southern bank of the River Thames. The name is recorded in 1554
as the Banke syde. In Elizabethan times it was outside the jurisdiction and
therefore the laws of the City of London and so became the area of choice for
those looking for such amusements as bear-baiting pits and playhouses, and that
included Shakespeare’s Globe. The theatre was built in 1599 but burned down in
1613, was rebuilt the next year, and then closed by the Puritans in 1642 and
demolished shortly after. A modern replica was constructed in the late 1990s. That’s just
around the corner from OXBO!
After the success of the Bottomless Sunday Roasts, OXBO has
now launched its Bottomless Saturday Brunch. This follows the same dining
format as that for the Sunday Roast. One grazes the starter counter first. The Salad
Table might include dishes of potato salad, ratatouille, barley couscous, as
well as lots of other fresh and flavourful preparations. Fish dishes of sliced
salmon and swordfish sashimi, tiger prawns, a couple of varieties of gravadlax,
and swordfish ceviche are on offer.
Carnivores are catered for with platters of ham, peppered
pastrami, smoked chicken, spiced Iberico chorizo, and smoked turkey breast. Vegetarians
are offered yuzu marinated tofu, marinated mozzarella, olives and other vegetable
salads and cheeses. But don’t fill up on these, as Saturday brunch also offers
Brunch is the marriage of breakfast and lunch, so egg dishes
are invariably included. Here the open kitchen presents a platform for chefs to
showcase ‘Eggs Your Way’: boiled, poached or scrambled. But there are also
composed dishes of classic Eggs Benedict and Eggs Royal, Three-Egg Omelette
with fillings, and Waffles, too - and they could also constitute a dessert.
But there is another savoury course before those sweet
waffles. There will be a selection of ever-changing dishes for the whole table
to share. We enjoyed salmon and beef and ravioli, along with glasses of cava
which never dipped below the half-way point. The beef, in particular, was
melting and flavourful, and the cheese and walnut raviolis were an understated
But there was still dessert! Yes, the kids might have their
eyes firmly fixed on the aforementioned freshly cooked waffles along with
syrups and sprinkles, but the rest of the party will appreciate the patisserie here.
There are fine miniature tarts with fruits, nuts or chocolate, and there are
cookies and pastries too.
I met Executive Chef Paul Bates a number of years ago when
he worked at ‘another place’. He has built a solid reputation and OXBO isn’t in
any way a retrograde step. Its open kitchen offers a bit of light culinary
interaction, but it’s the changing main dishes and the quality of the buffet
plates that assure OXBO’s continued success.
Bottomless Brunch includes three courses and unlimited
Prosecco or Cava, the standard Brunch includes three courses and a glass of Prosecco
or Cava, and these brunches are available every Saturday.
Booking allocations are between 12 noon and 3pm.
Bottomless Bookings will have an allocation of 2 hours.
Hilton London Bankside
2-8 Great Suffolk Street
London SE1 0UG
Phone: 020 7593 3900
Visit OXBO here
For more information on the Sunday Roast visit here
Brunch Counter – Vauxhall
One could easily miss it! Counter
truly is under the arches at Vauxhall station. Its entrance is
understated but don’t pass by. This is worth a visit at any time of
day. It has great character and is something of a Tardis. Its narrow
frontage opens onto London’s longest restaurant, its 175 covers in a
200-foot long arch! Yes, a large restaurant but its architecture
contrives to create an intimate ambiance.
Counter is a brasserie, a breakfast venue, a lunch café, a
convivial dinner spot and a venue for late night revels. Some days see
Counter opening at 7am and closing as late as 1.30am. The atmosphere
and clientele change over those hours, although many of those visitors
are regulars. The location couldn’t be more convenient but it’s the
food and the service that are the cornerstones to success in a city
that boasts plenty of choice.
I have visited for dinner and also for a hot winter afternoon snack but
this was my first daylight encounter with Counter. Brunch is a casual
meal and one to be shared. One sits comfortably, ponders menus, chats
with friends, makes plans for the rest of the day and eats …and drinks.
Brunch isn’t a meal to hurry.
Counter is vibrant at any time of day or night. Brunch finds tables
filled with animated hungry folks who want either classic breakfast
offerings or more lunchy temptations. Along with their chosen plates
they will likely enjoy a Bottomless Bellini, a glass of prosecco or, my
favourite, a Bloody Mary!
Brunch with some sort of fizz is standard these days but this was the
first brunch in ages that has offered me a Bloody Mary. It’s more
spiced than others I have tried but was absolutely to my taste. If you
aren’t interested in a hit of zing then order one without chilli …I
think that would be called an alcoholic tomato juice and
would be, in my opinion, standing in Mary’s shadow. I hope Counter is
never tempted to change that recipe for the sake of the timid.
Counter has familiar egg dishes such as the ubiquitous
Eggs Royale with Smoked Salmon, poached eggs, hollandaise, and a
muffin, as well as the original Eggs Benedict, but they also offer some
departures which are worth trying. Chicken Fried Rabbit
was a new one on me. I love rabbit, yes, I admit it – I enjoy eating
bunny. It’s a mild-flavoured meat and it should be more popular as it’s
sustainable. The ‘chicken-fried’ element refers to the coating which is
similar to that used for poultry or, in the US, for chicken fried
steak, which is a brunch staple.
The Counter brunch introduced me to Spiced Avocado. This was served
with poached eggs, and presented on toasted sourdough from a local
baker. I also had a serving of crispy bacon which complemented the
creamy avocado. The spicing was delicate and didn’t overpower the green
fruit – or is it a vegetable?
My guest, a man with an appetite for all things meaty, ordered the
substantial Pastrami Sourdough open sandwich. The slices of cured beef
were topped with fried eggs, melted Swiss cheese and hollandaise sauce.
This would not have been out of place in any New York diner.
Baked Alaska Bomb was that still-peckish companion’s dessert, who
proffered the lame excuse that he hadn’t had that flavourful rabbit
starter. This sweet tower consisted of ricotta ice cream, blueberry
sponge, blueberry compote with a cap of grilled (I suspect
blow-torched) glistening meringue. This was a delightful presentation
of a dessert which was full
of berry flavour but it was that ricotta ice cream that was
outstanding. This is perhaps some of the best ice cream
I have had in any casual restaurant anywhere. Don’t miss this one.
I had expected to enjoy Brunch at Counter Vauxhall Arches and I did.
It’s a casual spot with polish. The menu offers something for every
taste and appetite and the service is friendly. I am now devoted to
spiced avocado with a side of Bloody Mary!
Opening times - Bar and Brasserie
Monday to Thursday: 7am – 12.30am
Friday: 7am – 1.30am
Saturday: 9am – 1.30am
Sunday: 9am – 12.30am
Counter Vauxhall Arches
50 South Lambeth Place
Phone: 020 3693 9600
Visit Counter here
Roka Brunch – Aldwych
Brunch is perhaps my favourite meal of the week. It isn’t
a big, indigestible breakfast with the prospect of needing a nap by
10.30 (although I can be tempted by an English fry-up at almost any
time). It’s not a dinner, when one might be exhausted from the
exertions of the day and much prefer Marmite on toast, a cuppa and an
early night. This is Sunday Brunch and it is perfectly timed, and
something over which to linger.
Aldwych has the attraction of good restaurants and theatres. Its
transport connections are excellent, being within a short distance of
Covent Garden as well as Temple and Embankment Underground stations.
It’s the ideal spot to start a Sunday of unique shopping opportunities,
tourism and food.
ROKA Aldwych is the fourth ROKA to open in London and it marks the 10th
anniversary of the opening of the flagship of the restaurant group, on
Charlotte Street. This restaurant shouts understated class. One is
aware on arrival that this is going to be a rather impressive
establishment. The swish of the two sets of automatic glass doors hints
I have not, as yet, visited the other ROKAs but this one is striking.
There is a central open kitchen with its usual
counter seating but then there are regular tables with generous spacing
between. Although there are no outside windows in the main restaurant,
the height of the ceiling and the lighting create an airy and spacious
dining room that is welcoming to parties as well as couples.
The grey timber walls offer a neutral and natural backdrop to the
activity of this vibrant restaurant. It presents a very subtly Japanese
note to this not overly-themed restaurant, but the food is indeed
contemporary Japanese, based on tradition. ROKA takes the diner away
from the ubiquitous sushi (although that’s on the menu) and into the
broader realm of real Japanese food.
The word ROKA is the Japanese name for a meeting place where food and
drinks are served to friends (ro) with heat and warmth (ka). The Sunday
Brunch for me and my companion included both hot and cold dishes from
the regular menu, and main dishes from the robata grill: this method
originates from the fishermen of the northern coastal waters off Japan,
who would cook the catch on their boats.
The Brunch menu is divided in two with all of the starters
included, and then one has the choice of main courses, so we started
our culinary adventure with edamame salad with ginger and soy dressing.
These beans are light and just right as part of a starter selection, or
even alone with drinks before a meal.
Otsukemono no Moriawase are an array vegetable pickles which are so
popular in Japan, with each family having their own
favourite recipes …when they don’t buy them from the store, that is.
Horenso no Ingin Salada was an absolute delight and I am
stealing this simple idea for myself. It’s baby spinach leaves with a
light sesame dressing made with tahini, dashi stock and sesame seeds.
Tempura Moriawase is assorted tempura in some of the best batter you
will find in London. The seafood and vegetables were all cooked to
perfection in a crunchy coating that was practically greaseless. Just a
little spicy sauce was all that was needed by way of condiment.
Jagaimo to Tamago Salada was a real surprise and might fall into the
category of Japanese comfort food. It was a mashed potato salad with
bacon and egg and was moreish and, strangely, this did work with the
more traditional starters that included beautifully presented sashimi,
and sushi in the guise of the outstanding crispy prawn and avocado
maki, and others. The Gyuniku to Goma no Gyoza are a Japanese take on
Chinese dumplings. These were stuffed with beef and ginger and were
tangy and fresh.
Hinadori no Miso Yaki was my guest’s choice of main
course. This is grilled baby chicken with lemon, miso, garlic and soy.
The chicken was served atop a traditional table-top grill although this
wasn’t the cooking implement – the grilling had been done back in the
kitchen. It did make a striking presentation for one of the best
chicken dishes I have had in ages. It’s a must-try here.
Gyuhireniku no Pirikara Yakiniku is another worthy dish for
meat-eaters. This was a considerable serving of tender beef sirloin
with a little chilli and spring onions. Granted, it’s not overtly
Japanese but it fitted admirably with all the other dishes.
Then there was dessert. It was the ROKA dessert platter. I have had
dessert platters before so was just about getting my
coat on when it arrived. There has got to be a better name than ROKA
dessert platter. Yes, OK, it was dessert and it was served on a platter
but this was an extraordinary sweet confection of chocolate, sorbet,
ice cream …and some fruit to make the diner feel noble even after some
ROKA ticked all my previously pencilled-in boxes and added a few more.
It’s a matter of taste, for sure, but ROKA was very much my taste. My
taste for hot Japanese food. My taste for thoughtful design. My taste
for relaxing afternoon ambiance. I can highly recommend this Brunch.
It’s worth waiting six days for.
Phone: +44 (0) 20 7294 7636
Visit ROKA Aldwych here
Canada Square for Saturday Brunch
Let’s be honest: most of us love the adrenalin-inducing
frantic pace of London life. We are
perhaps lucky if we can grab a plastic sandwich for lunch, and dinner
can often be something of a rush or a take-away. But there is always
Brunch can be a special time. A quiet time partnered with delicious
food. An occasion to meet friends who have that same hectic life
profile. It’s a few hours when we don’t need to hurry. Yes, Brunch
ticks so many boxes of relaxed conviviality.
One Canada Square restaurant is a newly-found gem for this writer. I
recently enjoyed lunch so much that I wanted to visit for brunch. It’s
a small restaurant but beautifully appointed with Art Deco hints, green
Guatemalan marble, dark wood and classic service. Saturday brunch has
casually dressed guests rather than the flock of be-suited business
diners who populate it on weekdays. The ambiance is relaxed but the
attention to detail is still evident.
Brunch offers the best of both breakfast and lunch, and One Canada
Square invites you between 9am and 5pm every Saturday. If you arrive
around 1pm you will likely be welcomed by a pianist tickling the
ivories (it’s not really ivory, my dear ecologically-aware reader) of a
white baby-grand piano. This is old-fashioned charm even though the
music is a mixture of contemporary and high-brow pieces, and perhaps
some snatches from the musicals, too.
The menu is extensive and offers two selections.
There is the Full Brunch menu or the Bottomless Brunch menu, which is
slightly shorter but gives the appealing advantage of an endless supply
of fizz or Bloody Marys.
I do think that a good egg dish is important at any self-respecting
brunch. It’s the very eggy definition of that multi-faceted meal. Eggs
Benedict is ubiquitous and for very good reason. They do a classic Eggs
Benni here with a runny yolk that bathes the ham and is seasoned by the
Hollandaise Sauce. There is a luxurious version that sounds divine –
Soft-shell Crab Benedict with jalapeno hollandaise. There is also,
amongst many other items, an ‘OCS Breakfast’ that sounds as if it could
be the brekkie of choice for strapping rugby players - fried duck egg,
crisp pancetta, chorizo, morcilla (a kind of black pudding), hash
browns, and an English muffin.
There are salads for those with less capacity than hefty sportsmen. The
Heritage Tomato Salad with Feta was fresh and flavourful and a riot of
colours. Those little fruits (yes, a tom is a fruit) range from the
savoury to the sweet, the flesh from meaty to melting. It’s only
tomatoes but simple can sometimes be outstanding.
The menu changes often to reflect the best of produce but my Saturday
offered Crab Tagliatelle and it was outstanding. There was a decent
amount of seafood, a good-sized portion of pasta and plenty of flavour.
There are also steaks, burgers and chicken as well as vegetarian
If space allows, a dessert will be in order. Bitter
chocolate delice with salted caramel and burnt orange ice cream is a
sweet triumph. The delice was rich and dark and the caramel a
delightful garnish (they should serve this by the pot-full). But the
star was the ice cream!
Canada Square, the location, that is, sparkles with glass and metal – a
striking city landscape. But this cosy restaurant found in the corner
of the foyer of One Canada Square, the building, is a stylish step back
in time, and a very welcome one.
One Canada Square
London E14 5AB
Reservations: 020 7559 5199
Visit One Canada Square Restaurant here
Millenia Singapore - Grand Vintage Champagne Sunday Brunch
Singapore is special in so many ways. It’s many-faceted
and presents the food lover with temptations at every turn.
Opportunities for vibrant casual eating abound but there are also those
restaurants that present the visitor with delicious
memories along with unadulterated gastronomic pampering. The
Vintage Champagne Sunday Brunch at Greenhouse in The
Ritz-Carlton is iconic and unmissable.
Sunday brunch is now available in every city across the
globe. One can expect a brace of egg dishes and a couple
of roasts and a fish option. There might be a nod in
the direction of vegetarians with roasted vegetables in a sauce, and
there is bound to be a dessert or two. But then there is The Ritz
Vintage Champagne Sunday Brunch at Greenhouse and that puts the gilding
on brunch, and those other meagre impostors in the shade.
It’s Sunday and we want to relax with friends and family. Perhaps it’s
a celebration, although every Sunday brunch here seems festive. Folks
arrive in their Sunday best with ladies sporting floral finery, and
every shoe and child is polished. The guests bring their own touch of
charm to the occasion and they will be rewarded for their trouble from
the moment they arrive in the high-ceilinged, light and airy salon.
Sunday Brunch at The Ritz must surely rate as one of the finest of its
genre. The smart-casual event is famed. It’s not stuffy and muted. The
staff are friendly and helpful. There is a buzz of conversation from
groups of guests enjoying good company along with that unbeatable food.
It offers an excuse to dress up a little and to indulge a lot.
Younger members of the party will be eyeing the ice-cream station by
the entrance, while more mature grandparents are drawn
to another ice display which offers seafood. There are eight
types of oysters and all shucked to order and served
with red wine vinaigrette or lemon. It might be a couple of years
before the kids appreciate those but they will surely
be tempted by some prawns.
Moët & Chandon vintage Champagne fills the flutes of all those
who haven’t chosen an expertly muddled Mojito or shaken exotic cocktail
from the bar. The champagne is unlimited and
marvellously complements the aforementioned chilled
crustacea – every class of shellfish seems to put in an appearance at
this brunch. One might consider moving on to a more
robust red to pair with a traditional roast with all the trimmings. It
is Sunday, after all …but a more exciting one than usual.
Yes, it’s Sunday but this is Asia so the bill of fare here offers a
wider tapestry of taste than one might find in a European or North
American restaurant. Diners are free to mix Mediterranean tapas with
Japanese sushi, cooling leaves with spiced pork ribs. The Ritz-Carlton
Sunday Brunch contrives to represent the very best of all that
Singapore food has to offer, and that is the best available from every
continent. Diners can travel the world by stepping from one counter to
the next, from nigiri garnished with delicate green wasabi and shreds
of pink ginger (there are trays of various sushis), to slices of
traditionally roast meat with glazed orange carrots (there’s always a
choice of several roasts).
A cheese board is very much a part of any self-respecting Sunday brunch
but I confess I had not expected to find one in Asia
and more to the point, I hadn’t expected a restaurant in Singapore to
have the best selection of cheese I have ever come across on one table!
Yes, it’s true that I have found equally magnificent arrays of artisanal
lactic goods in Europe but only in specialist shops. The striking
international cheese selection features over 50
different cheeses from Australia, England, France,
Italy, New Zealand and Switzerland and there is even Port
available at the bar. That’s a marriage made in heaven.
The kids may well have grazed on desserts all through brunch, but those
sweets are sophisticated enough for the most discerning palates. The
beautiful confections are created by Executive Pastry Chef Terence Pang
and they range from Kuih - a broad term which includes
Chinese cakes, dumplings, puddings and biscuits - to European pastries.
There is plenty of choice for those chocoholics as well. If cheesecake
or crème brûlée is your passion then
be disappointed. There is also fresh fruit to help you feel
noble, and ice cream if the kids haven’t finished it!
The Vintage Champagne Sunday Brunch is served from 12 noon to 3 pm in a
single sitting and is priced at S$168 per adult, S$84
per child (6-12 years) or S$42 per child (3-5 years). It includes
unlimited Moët & Chandon vintage Champagne,
house red and white wines, selected cocktails, chilled
juices and sparkling mineral water. Prices are subject
to 10% service charge and prevailing government taxes.
For dining reservations
Call Restaurant Reservations on 6434 5288
The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore
7 Raffles Avenue
Phone: +65 6337-8888
Fax: +65 6338-0001
Visit The Ritz here
Dirty Bones Kensington for Brunch
It’s raining in Kensington and we are hungry for brunch.
Yes, that convivial meal twixt brekkie and weekend dinner that allows
for a broad menu over which to pore. Kensington is posh and I would
venture to say that Dirty Bones has the only entrance in the area that
resembles that of an iffy dive or old-fashioned speakeasy. It has a
nocturnal persona as a buzzy bar, which accounts for this edgy urban
The red-tiled staircase leads to something of a warren of bar and
dining areas. It’s an eclectic mix of rustic tables, wood-clad walls,
more tiles and enamel pitchers. It’s quirky but it works. There are
banquettes for groups (and I am sure there are many of those during the
evening service), as well as romantic tables for two. Low lights even
for the weekend lunch crowd, but that did make for a cosy ambiance
after the cold and grey of Kensington High Street.
Dirty Bones cocktails are outstanding, so start your
brunch with one. True, I have not
sampled the whole mixology bill of fare but I can highly
recommend at least a novice’s selection of two. Mezcal Old Fashioned is
a drink over which to linger. Granted, there isn’t a roaring open fire
down in the basement sanctuary but this smoky libation is right for
just such a spot. Del Maguey Mezcal Vida was sweetened
with Agave Syrup and lifted by a few shakes of both Angostura and
Orange Bitters. At the risk of sounding sexist – this could be one for
Dirty Gimlet had my name on it. I have been a long-time lover of a
gimlet of any hue. They are sweet and sour concoctions with a truly
adult taste. The Dirty Bones Gimlet was one of the finest of the genre
it has been my pleasure to try. The key is the Chilli-Infused Bombay
Sapphire Gin which imparts delicious measured heat which has a
counterpoint from the classic Rose’s Lime Juice and Celery Bitters.
This is a must-try at any time of the day.
The dishes here are described as American comfort food and there is a
lot that falls into that category. A brunch favourite at Dirty’s will
likely be The Mac Daddy. A 6oz house burger is topped with pulled beef
short rib, and that’s the secret to the success of this dish. That
additional meat is tangy with a light BBQ sauce which elevates the
patty into something extraordinary. The Mac element is Mac and
Cheese which was mild and creamy.
Coffee and Donuts for dessert? That sounds improbable but
it’s a cuppa Joe with a difference. It’s coffee
gelato and served in a coffee glass with a hot donut alongside. I would
love the recipe for this ice cream. It’s not over-sweet and with a
flavour that reminded me of the Camp Coffee of my childhood. This was a
delightful treat and a masterful presentation.
Dirty Bones Kensington is a great location for a weekend brunch. It
might be a challenge to find the front door but the effort will be
Dirty Bones Kensington
20 Kensington Church Street
London W8 4EP
Visit Dirty Bones here
Tues - Thurs: 5pm - midnight
Fri: 5pm - 1am
Sat: noon - 1am
Sun: noon - 9pm
at Balans Soho Society Kensington High Street
I am not naturally an early-morning person. I am not
naturally a morning person of any time classification, but I do love
breakfast – as long as I am not cooking it. If you are going to go to
the trouble of sitting down to a meal at that time of the day then it
had better be worth waking up for. Brunch at Balans Soho Society is good. Very good.
The motto is ‘Too much of a good thing is a good thing’ and it’s
appropriate for an establishment such as Balans Soho Society. The restaurant is a
casual and quirky bistro-style dining spot of character. Perhaps that
should be Character with a capital C for its individual charm is
noteworthy. Yes, it’s a matter of taste, but Balans Soho Society on Kensington High
Street has my vote, both gastronomically and aesthetically.
The bar is well stocked as one would expect and sports a brace of
candlesticks of monumental proportions.
Tables for breakfast and brunch (I can’t testify to other meals) were
laid with crates of condiments. The napkins were of crisp white linen
and the silverware heavy and embossed with the Balans Soho Society
marks of keys and keyholes. Class in casual fashion writ large here.
A full English breakfast is always tempting: it’s on offer at Balans Soho Society and evidently popular. I noticed that the menu had a
couple of less-than-traditional items that sounded intriguing, and,
assuring myself that I could have the fry-up on the next
visit, I ordered Eggs in Hell! The worst offence a restaurant can
commit is to entice the prospective diner with the expectation of
vibrant spice and then not deliver. This dish was pleasingly spicy with
well-balanced heat from a tomato-based sauce. This bathed
sautéed potatoes (Balans potatoes) which made a nest for two
poached eggs and parmesan. A breakfast fit for any sluggish riser or
lover of heat. Consider adding a slice of crusty bread for mopping.
The High Society Eggs Benedict was my guest’s brunch of choice. He is a
man of refined tastes and appreciative of the better
things in life. The regular eggs beni has been a favourite since the
dish was first invented in the US in the 1890s. The
regular poached eggs, bacon, English muffin and hollandaise sauce has a
couple of additions here - creamy avocado and lobster. The preparation
was pronounced delicious and worthy as a weekend
treat for the discerning.
Brunch at Balans Soho Society Kensington High Street is great value
for money. The brunch menu caters for those with hearty appetites,
those with more modest cravings and even those unfortunates who are
looking for a morning-after-the-night-before reviver, who will likely
benefit from those heavenly hellish eggs.
Balans Soho Society
187 Kensington High Street
Phone: 020 7376 0115
Visit Balans Soho Society Kensington High Street here
If we eat our cornflakes late on a Sunday morning we might
think we are
eating brunch but that, dear reader, is only a late breakfast. Brunch
is an event! It’s a great way to feed a crowd in style.
Lee is a Californian (did they invent brunch?) who lives in
Italy and divides her time between Tuscany and Sicily. She has taken
another look at the whole concept of brunch and has devised a selection
of themed menus. You don’t have to stick slavishly to those; you can
mix and match the dishes and even add a few of your own favourite
breakfast or lunch recipes.
The chapter headings are evocative and charming. November in Tuscany, A
Parisian Valentine’s Day, and Ski Lodge are just a few of the themes.
Each chapter has a menu and a selection of dishes appropriate for the
occasion and season. The recipes are simple but make quite an impact,
so you can cut a culinary dash without all the effort of a full-scale
The English Garden Party menu is a good start. Rachel has been kind
enough to say “The stereotype that English food is bland and overcooked
can be officially put to rest.” There are a few nice twists to the
traditional dishes but this would be a fantastic way of feeding a lot
of people on a warm (we wish) summer day. There is kedgeree, cucumber
sandwiches and summer pudding but also baked Monkfish, Stilton and
Chive Scones and the suggestion of a chilled glass of Rosé.
These lovely recipes could work just as well with other meals. Don’t
disregard this book just because you don’t think you are a brunch
giver. It’s the nature of these dishes that they are quick and easy. No
one would host a brunch if they had to get up before dawn to finish the
The art of brunch has as much to do with people as eating. Friends and
family create a convivial atmosphere, and you provide the delicious
distraction of fine food to pick at, to linger over and to admire.
Brunch is a colourful large-format book that will give you all the
tools to entertain in a truly smart but casual fashion.
Author: Rachel Lee
Published by: Apple Press
Elephant – Imperial Wharf, London
Imperial Wharf sounds smart and indeed it is. It was for
centuries a working-class area with poor housing. My mother’s
family lived just a short walk from the new complex and my uncles
learnt to swim in the Thames. Things have changed and it’s doubtful
that youngsters will be diving off the sides of gleaming yachts into
the murky tide. The river bank is now fringed with new and stylish
apartment blocks and moorings for those aforementioned boats. There are
restaurants, and one of those is The Blue Elephant – tasteful in every
This isn’t a new restaurant but it is a new location for a much-loved
establishment. Until recently Blue Elephant called Fulham Broadway home
and it was an outpost of Thai refinement there for 25 years or so. But
the views from Imperial Wharf are much more interesting and attractive,
and now there are tables outside – they will be the ones sought, should
we ever have a summer.
Blue Elephant occupies an enviable plot in that new development, but
step though those anonymous doors and you are in Thailand; more
accurately a traditional house in Thailand. The interior was inspired
by the Saran Rom Palace of Bangkok, which was once the seat of
Thailand’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. It has the ambiance of a home
rather than a restaurant. OK, a home with lots of friends over for
The new Blue is smaller than the original but its intimate proportions
add to the cosy atmosphere. It’s designed to give flexibility of
seating as well as space for private dining. The restaurant is a
testament to Thai craft and continuity. There are carved statues and
friezes and a lower ground floor bar which is a shimmering vision of
tooled gold. Teak woodwork and exotic flowers make this an unmistakable
satellite of mainland Thailand.
The menu has been created by the founder of the Blue Elephant Group,
Chef Nooror Somany Steppé. She is one of the most celebrated
chefs in Asia and indeed among the most respected woman chefs in the
world. She is considered the unofficial culinary ambassador of
Chef Nooror was born in Chachengsao province and grew up surrounded by
a family that was involved in the food industry. Her mum taught her how
to pound spices to make the curry pastes to sell at the market. These
days Blue Elephant curry pastes can be found all over the world.
When Nooror was a teenager she moved to Brussels where her brother was
studying Hotel Management. She met Karl Steppé there and married
him, and a few years later they and a few friends opened their first
Thai restaurant in Brussels. There is now a veritable herd of Blue
Elephants across Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It’s still very much
a family business though, with Karl taking care of the administration,
daughter Sandra looking after the Bangkok complex, and son Kim is in
Phuket at the new branch.
Sunday Brunch at Blue Elephant is a must for any lover of Thai food
with midday hunger pangs. It’s also the ideal venue for an introduction
to Thai food, as one can take just a little of each dish from the
buffet, and decide on one’s favourites. One can graze on exquisitely
crafted starters. There are fish cakes with dipping sauce and they are
a perfect first taste to provide the novice with a hint of aromatic
spice typical of this cuisine: a Thai dish should have hot, sour, salty
and sweet notes to create a delicious flavour tapestry.
Spring Rolls offer texture and freshness. This is a ubiquitous dish on
many Asian restaurant menus but these were generously stuffed and
worthy of a try. Rice cakes are offered on porcelain spoons with a
chicken sauce alongside. Thai salads are chopped and crushed before
your very eyes. Skewers of marinated grilled chicken
partnered with satay dip is bound to be popular as it’s a snack
familiar to everyone, but a must-try from the starter station is Banana
Dim Sum: strange but true – this is a startlingly simple Oriental
nibble of crunchy deep-fried wrapper and sweet banana interior. Banana
is, in fact, one of those fruits that work perfectly well in both
savoury and sweet dishes.
You will want to take the rare opportunity to try some Thai wine.
Monsoon Valley Blended Red (vintage Buddhist era 2553) from the Siam
Winery was a revelation. In truth Thailand isn’t a country famed for
its wine but this was a creditable bottle and would have passed muster
even if it had sported a French label. Siam Winery was established in
1986 by Chalerm Yoovidhya and now has a state-of-the-art winery in
Samut Sakorn, 30 miles south-west of Bangkok. They cultivate over 300
acres of vineyards and have a wine tourism and education centre. Siam
Winery is surely a producer to watch, and a visit is bound to be
fascinating for any wine enthusiast.
Blue Elephant offers an array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian main
dishes, many of which are unique to the restaurant, along with some
traditional soups and salads. The seafood curry had plenty of tender
fish, squid and shellfish and an aromatic sauce, but the star of the
non-vegetarian selection was the venison with chilli. This was rich and
warming but without searing, mouth-numbing heat. Thai cuisine does have
fiery dishes but it has many more that are complex melanges of ginger,
lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil. The pineapple curry was
outstanding, mild and comforting.
I have one small criticism of Blue Elephant. They don’t supply
blindfolds at the door. It’s a great restaurant to go to if you
subscribe to the philosophy of eating dessert first: it takes strength
of character to stride by that display
of cakes and sweets near the entrance. The array of cut fruit might be
your salvation and could even persuade the kids that fruit is
delicious, although their plates will likely be garnished with a
serving of chocolate-fountain-dipped marshmallows.
Blue Elephant introduced me to a new fruit. The salaka looks like a
long-faced lychee with a hair-cut but has a taste somewhat between that
and a pineapple. The jellies, flavoured with fruit or jasmine, and with
a crunchy sugar coating, make an exotic petit four, with a few morsels
of moreish Kao Too, rather like a brown-sugar coconut ice which I think
this restaurant should sell by the boxful.
This isn’t Indian food with a difference; it’s not Chinese food with a
slant. Thai is a classic cuisine in its own right and
Blue Elephant is spreading the word. The Sunday Brunch is great value
for money and it’s the opportunity to relax and enjoy high-end food
with the family. Children are welcomed and will find not only food to
enjoy but also face-painting to make their outing even more memorable.
There is an elephant on the Thai flag, and Blue Elephant flies that
flag every day to entice us with glimpses of Thai culture and
delightful food. Chef Nooror Somany Steppé is an ambassador with
some amazing embassies across the globe.
Monday to Saturday: 12 noon – 2:30pm
Sunday: 12 noon – 3:30pm
Monday to Saturday: 06:00pm – 11:00pm
Sunday: 06:00pm – 10:30pm
Blue Elephant - London
The Boulevard, Imperial Wharf, Townmead Road,
London SW6 2UB
Phone: +44 20 7751 3111
Fax: +44 20 7751 3112
Visit Blue Elephant here
Balans Soho for
It’s a chain of restaurants and has branches in both
London and Miami. The menu in the UK is slightly different from that
found in Florida but the style is the same, as are the majority of
It’s situated on Old Compton Street, named after Henry Compton who
raised funds for a local parish church in 1686, although this area was
later to become known for less-godly pursuits. This corner of London is
geographically and historically a long way from those sunny
neighbourhoods of Florida; it does, however, have one common ingredient
in that it became a refuge for immigrants through the ages. The area in
general and this street in particular became home for French refugees
after Charles II gave protection to that country’s fleeing Protestants
in the early 1680s.
The ground floors of those original houses have become shops and
restaurants. Balans makes its home in one of these with a small facade
which hides a sizable restaurant stretching back in Tardis fashion,
offering different and defined dining spaces for its clients, who can
enjoy Balans for almost 24 hours a day. There are few places in London,
or indeed the UK, where one can enjoy some food and perhaps a cocktail
at almost any time.
Balans Soho was warm and welcoming on a cold and wet Sunday morning. It
has the casual air of a French bistrot with a high bar at the front and
booths with red leather, velvet curtains and that distinctive
gold-marbled mirror glass that reflects a rich light. That description
of the front section is accurate, but if it makes Balans sound rather
French-classic the staff and clients contrive to make this a truly
contemporary and animated restaurant.
The daytime menu has those comforting and substantial
dishes that Sundays deserve. A full
English Breakfast is here and will likely be the plate of choice for
those early-morning risers and for those who have not yet made it to
bed – this is Soho after all. But this is Balans and it would be a
shame to stick to the traditional British fare. Steak and eggs is a
hearty start (skirt steak, potatoes, and two free-range eggs) and
appealing if you are a truck driver, but another choice for those
craving some Americana are pancakes with either fruit or bacon; or
cinnamon-sprinkled French toast served with strawberries and banana.
It’s a rib-sticking start but the fruit will make you feel noble.
We ordered pots of tea and toasted crumpets (yes, real crumpets with
the holes on top to catch melted butter) and scanned the menu for
dishes that would set us up for a day of walking. My guest was tempted
by corned beef hash with poached eggs and fire-roasted tomatoes. The
meat was proper corned beef cut from a cured joint rather than the sort
that was ubiquitous a while back – mushy and from a square tin. Lots of
onions in this version of hash, and a manly portion.
Ham and eggs was my breakfast and it was a considerable plateful of
gammon steak cooked on the grill, Balans roast potatoes garnished with
chillies and spring onions, and two free-range eggs fried over-easy.
They don’t short-change the morning diner here, it’s quantity and
Balans offers this same bill of fare for every day but Sundays are
special. One has time to meet friends and enjoy food together but the
occasion is so much more relaxed when it’s not you doing the early
morning cooking and the inevitable washing up. Balans is an ideal place
to take guests who can choose their brekkie favourites, but Balans
could also be your regular haunt if you are looking for a cosy
banquette to nestle with the papers and perhaps some luxurious smoked
salmon and scrambled eggs.
Monday to Thursday - 7.30am to 5am
Friday to Saturday 7.30am to 6am
Sunday - 7.30am to 2am
Old Compton Street
London, W1D 4UG
Phone: 020 7439 2183
Visit Balans Soho here
des Indes for Sunday Jazz Brunch
Sundays are for relaxing, or that was the old-fashioned
notion. It is the day, at least in most of the Western world, for
gathering with friends and family, and there was usually a traditional
Sunday roast involved in the conviviality
and perhap Two-way Family Favourites from The BBC Light Programme
playing in the background. That is still a meal full of nostalgia and
Yorkshire puddings, but we have broader horizons these days and take
the easier option of going out and letting others do the cooking – and,
more importantly, the washing up.
Lots of Indian restaurants offer a special Sunday menu, but all Indian
restaurants are not created equal and it’s easy to be put off from this
gastronomic interlude by previous encounters with dubious curry-houses,
the sort that proclaim as many as 6 dishes (one of them being a
poppadom) and as much as you can eat for £7 a head with service
that will continue till the oil congeals on top of last week’s
left-over korma. There is a quite different class of Indian restaurant
that will charm, tempt and enthral its guests, and La Porte des Indes
is counted amongst their number.
It’s long been a favourite of mine and one visit will convince those
weary of dingy curry-houses that this will likely be their weekend
venue of choice, their polished gem in a sea of culinary mediocrity (or
worse). It is, quite frankly, stunning. Sunday Brunch here will offer
the visitor the chance listen to some live jazz and to wander around:
the buffet is displayed over two floors so you will get the chance to
glide down that sweeping especially-imported-beautiful-bespoke
staircase like some transplanted Rajesque Scarlet O’Hara.
One can marvel at the murals throughout the unique ex-ballroom and
ponder seating arrangements for your next visit.
Some tables are placed for animated chatter between just two diners,
while others are big enough to accommodate a family:
brunch is a casual meal and a buffet allows everyone to try a little of
this and to have an extra portion of that with never a hint of “Finish
those sprouts or you don’t get any Arctic Roll.” Everybody can pick
their own favourites, tantalise their tastebuds with the best of Indian
cuisine; parents can enjoy a stress-free mealtime and kids might
discover that they do actually like fish.
The Sunday Brunch buffet is famed and it’s easy to see why. The lower
floor is where you will find the starters. Chefs man hot food stations
and will tempt you with such things as mini potato-filled dosa or
stuffed puri. There are several kebabs from which to choose and each is
presented with their accompanying chutney. It’s a street-food
extravaganza and it would be easy just to spend an afternoon grazing on
these perfectly-formed little savouries, but there is more food on the
Copper chafing dishes stand in rows – one section for
vegetarian dishes and another for those containing fish and
meat. I am not an Indian food expert but I noted that half the diners
at La Porte des Indes were Asian. They all seemed to be
enjoying the food as much as I did, and many were evidently regulars
there. Surely that must be a sign of the quality of the
food. These folks know more about Subcontinental cooking than this
writer, and they were all going back for seconds, so we followed them.
The selection of dishes on offer is huge; there is something to please
every palate. The Lamb Biryani was aromatic and the meat tender. The
Chicken Makhani was flavourful and mild. The vegetarian options
supplied a spicy star in the guise of small, whole Asian aubergines.
This was a rich and warming vegetarian option that just needed some
plain boiled rice and some yoghurt on the side. Fresh naan bread was
provided at the table.
It’s a universal truth that one can eat savoury dishes until one can
eat no more and one swears that not another morsel will pass one’s lips
until at least teatime, and then someone mentions that the desserts are
at the foot of the stairs. Somehow we get a second wind: well, perhaps
something light might help with digestion; sweet after savoury
definitely constitutes a balanced diet. The desserts here are almost
too good to eat. Individual portions of each and sized to allow
everyone to try almost everything on offer. Kheer (Indian rice
pudding), mango yoghurt served in terracotta bowls (my favourite),
chocolate truffles, white chocolate and lime mousse, a mithai platter
sweets) with a fig and honey confection for which to die; and then
there was the fresh fruit that you will take either because you know
it’s good for you and it does look refreshing, or (and this is more
likely) because, even though you really want some more mithai, you want
the people on the neighbouring table to think that you have amazing
Sunday Brunch at La Porte des Indes isn’t the occasion for overt
displays of restraint. It provides all the fixin’s for a thoroughly
civilized smart-casual meal. The restaurant offers the most delicious
Indian cuisine in a setting that is unique and a feast for the eyes.
One visit will never be enough and the experience can be summed up in
one word: Memorable.
La Porte des Indes
32 Bryanston Street, London W1H 7EG
Phone: +44 20 7224 0055
Fax: +44 20 7224 1144
Visit La Porte des Indes here
500 Breakfasts and
It’s often said that breakfast is the most important meal
of the day. Well, that’s probably true with regard to nutrition and a
balanced diet but it’s also the most eagerly-awaited meal of the day –
at least by me.
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
Cookbook Cafe –
It might not be any longer the Biblical day of rest but it
still tends to be the day we ear-mark for special events, loved ones
and unwinding. We might treat ourselves to a bit of a lay-in, enjoy a
delicious meal, have a read of the Sunday papers, catch up with family
and friends, perhaps a walk in the park... relax with...Errrr, so what
was that about lovely food? If we are all soaking up the culture of the
weekend periodicals and strolling around then who is doin’ the cookin’?
I have, dear reader, the solution to the dilemma. You’ll get your walk
in the park (Hyde Park) and you’ll even find some reading matter in the
guise of a cookbook or two. Visit the Cookbook Cafe at the
InterContinental Park Lane for Sunday Brunch.
I can hear it now: a chorus of “Has our favourite
reviewer won the lotto?” “Does she think we are made of money?” I have taken leave of neither my senses nor much hard-earned cash. You will be pleased to learn that the aforementioned brunch is amazing value for
money (under £50 per head) at an unbeatable location.
The Cookbook Cafe is a contemporary restaurant with huge windows onto
one of the best corners of one of the world’s most vibrant and exciting
cities. It’s bright and welcoming although the split-level dining area
helps to create a cosy ambiance with tables arranged to be convenient
and appealing to both couples and groups.
Hotel brunches so often disappoint. Perspex cylinders containing
long-lingering and soggy cereals flanking half-hearted congealing
attempts at a full English fry-up represent the breakfast section,
whilst a slowly-drying quiche and curly cold cuts might launch the
lunch element. The Cookbook Cafe brunch, however, draws a line in the
sand and dares pretenders to compete.
The staff were welcoming and attentive. The champagne and Bellinis were
in continual supply along with Bloody Marys and fruit juices. There was
plenty of advice about the dishes on offer and the food was, quite
simply, marvellous. There were salads and vegetable dishes enough to
warm the heart of any committed vegetarian, fish aplenty and meats to
satisfy the most carnivorous of visitors. The rustic display of
starters offered some simple and standard fare, and the buffet was no
worse for that, but we were tempted by other less-common platters.
Seared tuna is a pricey item on regular restaurant menus but here it
was laying in ranks. It was perfectly cooked and looking like a tray of
semi-precious stones. The nuggets of salmon with a hoisin glaze were a
vision of glistening mahogany; a sea of smoked salmon was quickly
replenished when there was even the slightest risk of the tide going
The cheese board was small but enticing. Cashel Blue and a Cornish brie
tempted me. They were presented in perfect condition. The smoked turkey
actually tasted as if it had really been on nodding terms with
smouldering wood, and the pumpkin was sweet and tender enough to have
been invited to garnish the dessert display.
After devouring a plate (well, three) of starters, it was on to the
cooked selection. Brunch to me means New York, and New York is Eggs
Benedict. This was made while I waited and was everything this simple
dish should be: creamy, tangy and moreish. My guest chose a traditional
roast with all the trimmings. The lamb (a joint of beef was also
available) was detached from the bone with tongs! He is a Yorkshire lad
who proclaimed the accompanying Yorkshire puddings as being “reet
champion” (translation: As good as you’ll find in Barnsley.) The
chafing dishes also offered a mixed seafood casserole aromatic with
dill, seasonal vegetables, boiled potatoes, exotic aubergines, and duck
in cherry sauce which is a must-try.
I have mentioned desserts in passing but I wasn’t and you won’t be,
passing, that is. I am not typically a lover of sweet things but the
array of tarts, cakes and brulees was too tempting. My companion opted
for an individual lemon meringue pie and a raspberry brulee which he
described as smooth and delicately crusted. I chose the white chocolate
torte which was rich and creamy and a cut above other versions of the
same confection I have recently encountered. All the desserts here are
made by the Cookbook Cafe chefs.
Cookbook Cafe Sunday Brunch is the best brunch I have had in many a
long year. No exclamations of “How much???” when the bill arrives.
You’ll know exactly how much before you lift a fork. Great value for
money. This is the spot to celebrate your son’s exam results, your
auntie's return from Tierra del Fuego or just Sunday.
Opening times:12.30pm till 4pm on Sundays
Restaurant review: Cookbook Cafe at the InterContinental
1 Hamilton Place, Park Lane
tel.: 020 7318 8563
Gale Gand’s Brunch
Brunch is a long-established American tradition. It’s easy to understand why it has become so popular. It is
an activity that combines social interaction and delicious food... or a
way of entertaining friends and family without the fuss and arduous
preparation of a full-scale dinner party.
Sunday morning (unless you are a priest or a vicar) is often a time
devoted to walking the dog, washing the car or cutting the lawn. Those
pleasurable (yeah, right) tasks could be postponed till the afternoon,
allowing pleasant morning hours of convivial companionship shared with
loved ones... and fabulous food.
Brunch food should be easily prepared, a delight for the eye and
present the kinds of dishes that can be consumed in an unhurried
fashion. Gale Gand's Brunch offers recipes that tick all the boxes. Not
only are all those boxes ticked but it’s done with style and
imagination. Brunch isn’t an excuse for an unreasonably early Sunday
lunch or a late breakfast. Somehow the English “Full Monty” (that fried
breakfast of legendary proportions) doesn’t have the class of Gale’s
Gale Gand will be a familiar name to all US Food Network viewers. She
was the presenter of Sweet Dreams, the network’s first daily show
devoted to baking. Gale is an award winning pastry chef and co-owner of
the celebrated Tru restaurant in Chicago so it’s no surprise that the
dishes here are delectable. There are around 100 of them so you’ll be
hosting many a brunch before you need to cover the same territory again.
This book leads you through basic brunch favourites like Omelettes but
continues through a whole plethora of toasts, baked goods, savoury
dishes to salads and soups. There is enough variety here to cater for
the dietary whims of all the family ...even your nephew who will only
eat red food. Start him off with a Bloody Mary and feed him Gazpacho.
(It's probably only a phase he’s going through... although he is 46.)
Popovers will be something new for many of my British readers. Think of
the lightest imaginable Yorkshire Pudding and add some flavour. Gale
has Mini Popovers that are airy with a delicate hint of herbs and
irresistible with Lemon Butter. If you have a Yorkshire pudding tin or
muffin tin then you’ll be able to make these.
Baked Camembert has become a classic but Gale suggests a
Cranberry-Black Pepper Compote to serve alongside. That would add some
zing to a dish that is otherwise quite heavy. Caramelized Onion Tarts
are also inspired by the French and this is a fine example using
zucchini (courgette) and feta cheese. This recipe uses ready-bought
puff pastry, as does Peanut Butter and Jelly Turnovers which are bound
to be winners with the kids!
My favourite recipe from Gale Gand’s Brunch is that for Torta Rustica.
This is the most amazing layered pie of vegetables and ham (I am sure
you could make a vegetarian version.) This dish will impress your
guests and have them begging you for the recipe. There is more than a
full page of instructions but don’t be put off. It’s a simple recipe
but one of those that has several elements. A novice cook would gain
confidence and compliments.
Gale Gand’s Brunch will have us all inviting friends over for an
amazing feast. The cook will be able to enjoy the day as much as
his/her guests. I wouldn’t, however, reserve these brunch delights for
Sundays at 11am. You’ll find much here that will be equally well
received at lunches, picnics and dinners. Brilliant.
Gale Gand’s Brunch
Author: Gale Gand
Published by: Clarkson Potter
Price: $27.50 US
Sunday Brunch with UNESCO support
Mexico already has many of its monuments on UNESCO's list
of protected sites. Now it has gained international recognition for the
country's unique cuisine. London has a restaurant which is recognised
by the Mexican Embassy as providing authentic dishes. Mestizo near
Euston Station will provide a vibrant introduction
to Mexico’s culinary heritage.
UNESCO officials have added Mexico's food to the organisation's list of
‘intangible cultural patrimony’. That simply means that the cuisine of
Mexico is now recognised as worth protecting and promoting. The trinity
of corn, beans and chillis forms the foundation of Mexico's food, with
each region of the country adding its own ingredients and spices to
create a rich tapestry.
"We face an enormous threat from junk food and other foreign foods that
are taking over our culture, which is why UNESCO could help greatly by
supporting our traditional cuisine," said Mr. Rojas, the chef at Don
Chon, a Mexico City restaurant specialising in pre-Hispanic dishes.
Traditional Mexican cuisine dates back 3,000 years to the Mayans, who
had a healthy and delicious diet, but the “Mexican cuisine” that most
of us have eaten is largely an adulteration of the authentic original.
These dishes often owe their heritage to restaurants north of the
border. Taste real Mexican food and you’ll notice a difference. The
Sunday brunch at Mestizo is a showcase, and will allow those new to
real Mexican food to graze and savour.
Mestizo offers a warm welcome at any time. I have become a frequent
visitor and have never been disappointed. I eat out several times each
week and still this restaurant is amongst my top three in London. It
has a casual ambiance, and many regulars from the Mexican community,
who must know a great deal more about this exciting cuisine than I do.
The brunch starts at noon and is available till 4pm. Go early as it’s a
popular spot. Settle yourself at a table and
check out what your neighbours are eating. There is a good chance that
they will be Mexicans or regulars, so ask them what they have chosen.
Don’t bother asking what’s good – it’s all good. Pour a glass of Agua
de Horchata (rice, cinnamon, milk) or Agua de Jamaica made from
hibiscus, and head for the food.
Perhaps start with Huevos Rancheros. This is a typical Mexican
breakfast dish of fried eggs on fried tortilla with red or green salsa,
rice and beans. A substantial plate, so come with an appetite or you
will miss out on so many other delicious possibilities, such as Menudo
soup, considered as a cure-all. Pozole is a traditional corn soup
garnished with lettuce, radish, onion, avocado, chopped chilli and
lime. Birria is lamb stew with tomato, onion and chilli ancho.
I wandered along the buffet and selected a little of this and a
spoonful of that. This form of dining is ideal for groups as each guest
can make their own selection and return as often as they like. There
are salsas to spice the aromatic dishes and there are salads to cool
the chilli-rich ones. Plenty here for vegetarians and even fish lovers
as well as those who crave meat. The kids can amuse themselves by
designing their own Taco or Quesadilla and you could celebrate Sunday
with a shot or two of tequila.
The Tamales at Mestizo are comfort foods. The steamed corn husks are
filled with masa and a variety of fillings. Try these with a drizzle of
green salsa. Simple but memorable. The chafing dish to the right
contained Pescado Relleno de Champinones, a delicate white fish wrapped
in corn husk and steamed in its own juices with mushrooms. This was one
of the best fish dishes of any ethnic persuasion I have eaten in ages.
The flavours here are surprisingly subtle. Pollo en Salsa Romero is a
creamy chicken dish and ideal served with rice. Mild and with the
chicken cooked to succulent perfection. This is another must-try.
I spent a long and contented lunch and enjoyed a sampling of almost all
the savoury dishes on offer. I could be condemned to eat the same on my
next visit, for next visit there will surely be, and I would be looking
forward to the experience anew. But I needed a taste of something sweet
and so I cut a slice of Tres Leches cake from the dessert display. This
was a moreish preparation of light sponge soaked in a sauce made from,
as the name suggests, three milks. If you are not sure of your capacity
then I would counsel eating dessert first. Yes, its rich but it’s worth
Mestizo Restaurant and Tequila Bar
103 Hampstead Road, London NW1 3EL
Phone 020 7387 4064
Mestizo now has an online shop. Visit here
Brunch at Indigo restaurant – One Aldwych
One Aldwych has one of the best locations in London. It
stands on a corner plot in the middle of the capital in
Covent Garden, that neighbourhood being famed as the backdrop for My
Fair Lady. It’s a stone’s throw from the River Thames and all the
iconic sights of old London.
The hotel is nestled between the City and the West End where The
Aldwych meets the Strand, and opposite Waterloo Bridge. It’s just a
short distance from more than a dozen celebrated theatres as well as
the world-famous Royal Opera House. It is considered a noteworthy
Edwardian building and is now protected by English Heritage. It’s an
architectural extravaganza of Continental-inspired splendour, designed
by Charles Mewes and Arthur Davis, the Anglo-French duo behind the Ritz
hotels in London and Paris.
This stylish hotel is the lodging of choice for many a visitor from
beyond these shores. It’s prized for being just around the corner from
so many places of interest but it also caters for those who are not
staying but just passing through. Guests who drop in for a meal and
even for some entertainment in the small but well-appointed cinema next
to Axis, One Aldwych’s other restaurant.
It was a bright Sunday afternoon and we were in the mood for brunch.
Indigo at One Aldwych offers a striking restaurant, a calming ambiance
and a thoughtful menu. It’s a small enough restaurant to feel intimate,
and casual enough for you to feel comfortable meandering through the
Sunday colour supplements.
Our fellow brunchers comprised a few who were evidently hotel guests
lingering over the papers and breakfast, but also some regulars from
across the Pond. The staff were bombarded with requests for dishes
which were almost but not quite on the menu. A ham omelette sans ham –
the guest would like that on the side. Some goat cheese - that wasn’t
even on the menu but there was a promise that the restaurant would find
some. These requests were fielded with courtesy, charm and a
willingness to please. I was warming to Indigo and we hadn’t even
Indigo offers soup, salads, on-toast items, mains, desserts, and any
two courses of the above with unlimited Prosecco for only £24.
That sounded like outstanding value but the food has to be good. The
Soup of the Day was watercress and it was the most vibrant and light of
its kind that my guest and I had ever
seen. It was delicately garnished with oil and crème
fraiche and served with a selection of breads.
Some folks expect a roast on Sundays and Indigo offers that in an
interesting fashion. A roast beef salad with watercress, Yorkshire
pudding and horseradish sauce. It’s a light alternative to the
traditional Sunday lunch, but my fancy on this occasion was Wild
Mushrooms and Caramelized Onions on Toast. This simple dish was a small
culinary triumph of both texture and taste. The fungi were cooked to
perfection and still held their original contours. The large field
mushrooms added substance and the onions were sweetly moreish. A very
Other items on the Toast menu included Welsh Rarebit and Scotch
Woodcock. A word or two by way of explanation: Welsh Rarebit is not a
bunny from Wales but is a dish of seasoned melted cheese on toast,
sometimes containing a dash of ale and/or Worcester Sauce. Scotch
Woodcock isn’t a highland game-bird but a savoury dish consisting of
scrambled eggs served on toast that has been spread with something
tangy like anchovy paste or Gentleman's Relish. Yes, a British menu can
confound the visitor.
Kedgeree has been a breakfast favourite since Queen Victoria and the
days of the old Raj. An Anglo-Indian preparation of seasoned rice,
hard-boiled eggs and smoked haddock. It’s often dry and uninteresting
but the version at Indigo has been tweaked into a moist and flavourful
dish which, although still holding to its roots,
was somewhat elevated. The rice had a rich yellow hue from spices and
had the consistency of an Italian risotto. The eggs were quails’ and
the grilled haddock was perched on top rather than finding itself
broken into petals and mixed with the rice. A more refined
presentation, and a delicious take on a classic British favourite.
Other dishes at Indigo also warrant mentions. The Crab and Chilli
Risotto is a flavourful preparation and well worth trying. A creamy
texture with a subtle suspicion of chilli. Plenty of seafood and an
attractive coral colour. If you are a lover of more substantial fare
then consider the Fish Pie which was well received by guests on the
adjoining table and was a substantial serving.
Desserts tend to be a treat. Very few of us have the time to prepare a
sweet during the week. Sunday brunch at Indigo offers the ideal
opportunity to have a leisurely meal with a decadent finale. The
brownies here were popular; the Banana Split came highly recommended
and it was indeed the sort of pud that would make any diner feel like a
kid again. Soft bananas with a crunchy sugar crust, chocolate and
vanilla ice cream and fruit. Two spoons and a couple of cups of
espresso and we were replete, complete and ready for the week.
Indigo at One Aldwich is an overlooked treasure. Grab a table on the
balcony above the Lobby Bar. Enjoy the views from the magnificent dark
wood-framed windows. Take a couple of hours to unwind and remember why
Sundays were invented. Indigo does it well. Amazing value for money.
1 Aldwych, London WC2B 4RH
Tel: 020 7300 0400
Fax: 020 7300 0401
Visit One Aldwych here