BRUNCH IN LONDON

Having hailed from Sydney, a weekend brunch is as much a rite of passage for me as pigs in blankets are to Londoners at Christmas (wtf is up with that btw?) In the true Aussie sense, brunch is typified by avocado on toast and the age old joke that we’ll never be able to afford a house due to said avocado consumption (the joke is over, people).

However, in London, brunch is a whole new ball game. While ‘brunch’ in the typical sense seems to be only a relatively new concept to Londoners, most of whom seem to spend their Sundays nursing a hangover rather than a ham and cheese croissant (or in some cases the two go hand in hand), bottomless brunch has taken the city by storm.

Like any good expat, I have attempted to appropriate my own cultural traditions (ahem, penchant for overpriced brunches) in my adopted city and then gone and written about it below too.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have spent most of 2020 in some form of lockdown or tier system (ie tears) so the brunches of 2020 have been few and far between. I also have not partaken in bottomless brunch at all the below locations or if I had I probably wouldn’t be alive to tell this story – this is a dangerous Saturday morning sport.

Cheers to the best kind of brunch, whatever it is you’re looking for.

TRIED AND TESTED

North/East London (although if you have spent any time in London you’ll probably have realised that almost everything is a chain, and no I am not only referring to Pret, so you’ll be bound to find an offshoot somewhere else)

  1. Farm Girl, Hoxton Market
    Farm Girl is a London staple and serves up just the right amount of ‘interesting’. Adding a bit of flare to regular brunch fare. The most interesting Farm Girl locating is found in Notting Hill, but skip the queue (and sadly, the atmosphere) and check out the new offshoot at Hoxton Market. You’ll also find branches at Soho, Fitzrovia and Knightsbridge – did I mention EVERYTHING in London is a chain?
  2. Skinny Kitchen, Angel
    Skinny Kitchen would be right at home in Bondi. A fab mix of delicious, healthy brekkie options (yes, there is acai), together with some seriously instagrammable decor.
    Skinny Kitchen – 52 Upper Street, The Angel, Islington N1 0QH
  3. Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell
    Go for the decor (British Colonial) as much as the seasonal bellinis on tap (bottomless with breakfast is £27). The breakfast menu contains a fairly standard offering – granola and vegetarian/English breakfasts but the atmosphere is what you really come for here.
    Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings – 42 Northampton Rd, Farringdon, London EC1R 0HU
  4. Lantana, Shoreditch
    Lantana is the token Aussie brunch spot and for good reason has been voted cult favourite of both Aussies and Brits alike. Tuck into Aussie favourites like Corn Fritters, Wild Mushrooms and Smashed Avo or branch out with Indonesian Fried Rice or Courgette & Smoked Cheddar Bread with Chorizo.
    Lantana – 2, Oliver’s Yard, 55 City Rd, London EC1Y 1HQ (or Fitzrovia or London Bridge because apparently even the Australian restaurants are not immune to the chain craze in the UK)
  5. Duck & Waffle, The City
    THE STAPLE. This is the place where you take your friends when you want to show off London (provided you have booked the obligatory 3 months in advance). Go for the views alone, because obvs you will be ordering the Duck and Waffle. NB: Do NOT go if you have even the slightest fear of heights.
    Duck and Waffle – 40th Floor, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY

  6. Breakfast in Bread at The Barge House, Haggerston
    Simple and unassuming in both decor and menu (Breakfast in Bread is your only option here), this place is anything but simple when it comes to innovation and taste. Go and see for yourself and soak in the atmosphere of the passing crowd on Regent’s Canal while you are there.
    The Barge House – 46a De Beauvoir Cres, De Beauvoir Town, London N1 5RY

  7. Brother Marcus, Angel
    This Angel staple proved so popular it is now also a chain. Think the classics but with a twist. Another great place to enjoy the passing crowd of Camden Passage, Angel.
    Brother Marcus – 37-39 Camden Passage, The Angel, London N1 8EA (also in Balham and Spitalfields)

  8. Dishoom, Shoreditch or Coal Drops Yard
    It is no secret that London has some of the best Indian food going. Dishoom really stepped that up when it began in 2010, so much so that I once waited 55 minutes in the rain to get a table for dinner on a Friday night (worth the resulting cold). Now, they have blown brunch in London out of the water with their own offering, which includes chai on top (ie heaven). Think multiple kinds of breakfast naan, and that’s only just the beginning of it.
    Dishoom – 7 Boundary St, Hackney, London E2 7JE
    (also in Kensington, King’s Cross, Carnaby and Covent Garden)
  9. Caravan, Exmouth Market
    A popular chain in London serving up not your usual kind of breakfast fare. Locations in Exmouth Market, King’s Cross, Bankside, City and Fitzrovia.
    Caravan – 11-13 Exmouth Market, Farringdon, London EC1R 4QD
  10. Ask for Janice, Farringdon
    Tucked away in a quiet spot behind Smithfield Market (which is a wholesale meat market, don’t get confused with Spitalfields, but is also due to be redeveloped into the new Museum of London), this cute diner serves up a quintessentially British brunch menu (think smoked salmon, hash browns and bubble and squeak but done with class). It is on the small side so save it for if you are in the area.
    Ask for Janice – 50-52 Long Ln, Farringdon, London EC1A 9EJ
  11. Sons + Daughters, Coal Drops Yard
    This one is still on my list but apparently specialises in sandwiches for when you are on the hunt for something simple. Plus actually finding something open at Coal Drops Yard at brunch time is always a win.
    Sons and Daughters – Unit 119a Coal Drops Yard, London N1C 4DQ
  12. Barbie Green, Barbican (Daisy Green Cafes)
    The Daisy Green chain is something of an Aussie institution in London (there’s also Bondi Green – Paddington Basin, Daisy Green – Marylebone, Scarlett Green – Soho, Ziggy Green – Covent Garden, Timmy Green – Victoria, Darcie & May Green – Paddington and Beany Green (more of a takeaway vibe) outposts at Little Venice, Broadgate, Regent’s Place and Southbank). This is your quintessentially Aussie cafe, with fab decor to match). There is a standard menu at each and usually involves something delectable and very insta-worthy (see the feature image of this page).
    Make any one of these your go-to when you need something reliable.
    Barbie Green – 2 London Wall, Barbican, London EC2Y 5AU
  13. Ottolenghi
    You must have been living under a rock if you haven’t heard the name Ottolenghi. And, just as dinner at Ottolenghi (or with, if you are playing along from home) is an experience for your taste buds, breakfast is no exception. Think pastries, Iranian herb fritters and shakshuka (note, the menu is not extensive nor as inventive as dinner). There are also Ottolenghi outposts at Spitalfields, Notting Hill, Belgravia Rovi in Fitzrovia and Nopi at Warwick St.
    Ottolenghi – 287 Upper St, The Angel, London N1 2TZ
  14. Apres Food Co, Clerkenwell
    Their motto is ‘amazing tasting meals, based on nutritional, science-led advice’. I always thought this place was called Make Friends With Food because that’s what it says on the window. Works for me. The vibe in this general area is more 9-5 so I wouldn’t go out of your way.
    Apres Food Co – 72 St John St, Farringdon, London EC1M 4DT
  15. Granary Square Brasserie, Coal Drops Yard
    Go here for the atmosphere as much as anything else. Situated in Granary Square, which forms part of the new Coal Drops Yard development at King’s Cross, this brightly coloured offering is as good for people watching as it is for eating. The menu is a bit same-same but worth a try nonetheless!
    Granary Square Brasserie – 1 Granary Square, Kings Cross, London N1C 4AA
  16. Modern Pantry, Clerkenwell
    Breakfast with a twist, to contrast the simple decor.
    The Modern Pantry – 47-48 St John’s Square, Farringdon, London EC1V 4JJ
  17. Neptune
    I have never been here and the food looks slightly intimidating but the decor looks INSANE.
    Neptune – Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 5BE
  18. Berber & Q
    I like this place for the location alone, situated under the railway arches at Haggerston. Check out the Israeli style mezze for two for something different.
    Berber & Q – 338 Acton Mews, Haggerston, London E8 4EA (there is also a location at Exmouth Market)
  19. Coal Office, Coal Drops Yard
    Apparently this is actually a Michelin Restaurant (whoops). A good place to go if you are at Coal Drops Yard though.
    Coal Office – 2 Bagley Walk, Kings Cross, London N1C 4PQ
  20. The Folly, The City
    I came here about a week after I moved to London and was filled with optimism for the brunch prospects in London. The food is standard English breakfast style (think eggs and sausages) but the decor is v v cool and a cute place if you are in the middle of the central business district (CBD means something else in the UK).
    The Folly – 41 Gracechurch St, Candlewick, London EC3V 0BT
  21. Sunday, Islington
    TBH I’ve never even attempted to get in here even though I live close by because apparently the line stretches around the corner. People do rave about it though.
    Sunday – 169 Hemingford Rd, London N1 1DA
  22. Hoi Polloi, Shoreditch
    Hoi Polloi and the Ace Hotel in which it was situated have sadly been victims of the corona crisis, but I had to include it for good measure anyway because when I went for brunch I was seranaded by a STRING QUARTET, yes a real live one. The grub was great too (although not the sort of place you would go with a raging hangover – I was planning to learn from that mistake until…).
    Hoi Polloi – 100 Shoreditch High St, Hackney, London E1 6JQ
  23. Wild Food Cafe
    This is an Angel institution and for good reason – both the food and the decor are tasteful and tasty. The kim chi pancakes were a highlight, and yes you read that correctly.
    Wild Food Cafe – 269 Upper St, Islington, London N1 2UQ

  24. Attendant, Shoreditch
    Think New York industrial vibes with a few plants thrown in. This kitsch cafe serves its home roasted beans across London. The Fitzrovia branch is in a disued Victorian Gentleman’s lavatory – let’s hope they have good cleaners.
    Attendant – 74 Great Eastern St, Hackney, London EC2A 3JL

CENTRAL/WEST LONDON

  1. Hally’s, Parson’s Green
    A cute local, typical of an Aussie cafe (ie tiffany blue mugs and saucers and neon lighting) but they still don’t quite know what a piccolo is. This ‘Californian-inspired hangout’ serves up a solid avo on sourdough, along with the usual eggs and English breakfast.
    Hally’s London – 60 New King’s Rd, Fulham, London SW6 4LS
  2. Granger and Co, Sloane Square
    Ask anyone for a brunch recommendation in London and this is always the first thing that springs to mind. Maybe it is because I am Australian, or maybe it is because Australians really just do brunch best. The flagship is found at Sloane Square, the infamous home of Made in Chelsea and the interiors are chic af, the wait time is not so however. Make sure to try the famous ricotta hotcakes, but I also wouldn’t blame you for snapping up an acai bowl at one of the ONLY places in London that serves them. You can also find Bill in Notting Hill, Clerkenwell and now apparently King’s Cross too.
    Granger & Co Chelsea – 237-239 Pavilion Rd, Chelsea, London SW1X 0BP

  3. Lina Stores, Soho
    Not your regular brunch offering. This Italian deli with its trademark teal colouring was such a hit that they have now opened up a second offering at Coal Drops Yard (well, when they can actually open, in between lockdowns and tiers and tears (mainly mine) and what not). They are renowned for their pasta, but their website says ‘For the first time, diners can start their day at Lina Stores with a generous breakfast menu of sweet and savoury options alongside a strong espresso’ so if that sounds like your style, it’s there for the taking.
    Lina Stores 51 Greek St, Soho, London W1D 4EH
  4. The Good Egg, Soho
    A friend actually mentioned to me yesterday that they had been riding to the Stoke Newington Good Egg every day for breakfast, so I have included this on the basis that her commitment must mean something. The dishes are middle-eastern inspired and are not limited only to eggs. Fab for something with just a hint of difference, particularly if you are looking for some sustenance before a big day in one of the world’s best shopping districts. Need I say more?
    The Good Egg Soho – Unit G9 Kingly Court, Kingly St, Carnaby, London W1B 5PW
  5. Flat White, Soho
    This whole in the wall serves vegemite on toast, nuff said (well if you’re an Aussie looking for your fix that is). Nestled between some of the city’s more erotic retail offerings, the coffee isn’t half bad either.
    Flat White – 17 Berwick St, Soho, London W1F 0PT
  6. Sketch, Mayfair
    While you might not know this place by name, you’ve definitely seen it on Instagram. You know the one, with the egg shaped bathrooms and the multi-coloured roof and the gallery better known as ‘the pink room’. The sort of place you can’t say you’ve been too unless you have posted it on Instagram. Apparently they do breakfast too, but who cares what they serve, you’re just there for the photos right?
    Sketch – 9 Conduit St, Mayfair, London W1S 2XG

  7. Farmacy, Notting Hill
    Their website reads organic and biodynamic and if that isn’t enough to make you feel better about your exposure to the city’s pollution then I don’t know what is. All jokes aside, Farmacy has both a breakfast and brunch menu and both endeavour to appropriate breakfast/brunch staples with healthy substitute ingredients (ie the dream). Think ‘rawnola’ and a Farmacy lasagne with yellow lentil lasagne sheets.
    Farmacy – 74-76 Westbourne Grove, London W2 5SH
  8. Black Penny, Covent Garden
    For when you want to break your fast in the middle of central London. Serving up classic English staples.
    Black Penny – 34 Great Queen St, Holborn, London WC2B 5AA
  9. Berner’s Tavern, Soho
    Full disclosure, I am still desperate to make it to Berner’s Tavern. With walls adorned with classical style portraits, this hotel dining room is as much about the atmosphere as the food. A London bucket list brunch spot.
    Berner’s Tavern – 10 Berners St, London W1T 3NP
  10. Eggslut, Soho
    Londoners rave about eggslut and for obvious reasons you should steer clear of this US fan favourite if eggs aren’t your thing.
    Eggslut – 185 Portobello Rd, Notting Hill, London W11 2ED

OTHER (ie South of the River)

  1. Brickwood, Clapham
    Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that there are other amazing brunch spots in South London, but if I was to go for brunch in the ‘little Australia’ that is Clapham, I would be going to Brickwood. Not your standard Aussie offering, the food is inventive and delicious.
    Brickwood – 7ab, 16 Clapham Common South Side, Clapham Common, London SW4 7AB

ON THE WAITING LIST

  1. Palm Vaults, Hackney
  2. Brunswick East, Hackney
  3. Barboun, Shoreditch
  4. Electric Bar at The Ned (an outpost of Soho House’s Electric Diner in Notting Hill)
  5. Gunpowder, Tower Bridge

FANCY AF

  1. The Wolseley
  2. Claridges
  3. Balthazar
  4. Chiltern Firehouse

BOTTOMLESS (that don’t generally involve some kind of performance)

  1. Blame Gloria, Covent Garden (involves a performance)
  2. Skinny Kitchen, Angel (healthy af)
  3. Flesh & Buns, Covent Garden (Japanese Izakaya)
  4. Coin Laundry, Farringdon (relaxed pub vibes)
  5. Roka, Aldwych (Japanese)
  6. Bourne & Hollingsworth Buildings, Clerkenwell (insta worthy)
  7. Bar Elba, Waterloo (rooftop)
  8. Redfarm, Russell Street (dim sum)
  9. Aqua Nueva, Regent Street (Spanish)
  10. Aqua Kyoto, Covent Garden (Japanese with views for days)
  11. Coya, Mayfair (Peruvian)
  12. Megan’s, various (modern English)
  13. Darcie Green, Paddington (Aussie on a barge boat)
  14. Ballie Ballerson, Shoreditch and Waterloo (it has a ball pit, who cares about the food?)
  15. Zobler’s at the Ned, City (New York Deli)
  16. Bunga Bunga, Covent Garden and Battersea (Italian)
  17. Issho-Ni Izakaya, Bethnal Green (Japanese)
  18. Breddos, Clerkenwell (Tacos)
  19. Pachamama, Shoreditch or Marylebone (modern English)
  20. Chotto Matte, Soho (Japanese)
  21. Ella Canta, Park Lane (Fancy af)
  22. Skylon, South Bank (All about the views)

JUST PASSING BY?

If you’re short on time, don’t fancy the awkward table conversation or want to squeeze in as much of London as you possibly can, Borough Market and Spitalfields host some phenomenal brunch spots for takeaway.

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