London town isn’t short of brunch spots, but it’s rare one finds oneself dining in St James’s. Situated within The Sofitel hotel, the grade II listed The Balcon may be a classic French brasserie, however, in recent months they’ve introduced a new weekend offering inspired by the classic British brunch. Combining The Balcon’s signature French cuisine with British influences, the team will merge culinary traditions from both sides of the Channel to offer ‘Le Brunch’.
The Balcon oozes old school glamour; a little Gatsby-esque in its styling, the restaurant features double-height ceilings, statement spiral staircases and chic banquettes. The tables are a little too close together in some areas - it was a squeeze to get in to our table without knocking the table next to us!
The menu features classic egg dishes, mains such as a rare breed beef burger and a rather delectable looking soft shell crab, as well as a grill, fruits and seeds (for those with a healthier palette) and a decent selection of sweets. The Weekend Brunch is a great option if dining for an occasion; £49 per person will give you free-flowing champagne, viennoisseries, a savoury main, a sweet dish or two Parisiennes pastries and a Bloody Mary.
I started off with the Trealy Farm croque madame, with raclette cheese and a duck egg; a plateful of gooey, oozy, cheesy deliciousness. Do not underestimate the joy raclette can bring. My guest enjoyed the poached lobster and avocado eggs Benedict, though remarked that the portion could have been a bit more generous.
The banana, coconut and blueberry pancakes served with hefty blob of dangerously moreish cinnamon mascarpone were perfectly light and fluffy. In fact, I was so impressed I’m going to try and recreate them myself for Shrove Tuesday! My friend sprung for The Brioche French toast with a mixed berry compote and lemon curd, which also went down a treat, thanks to a welcome juxtaposition of sweet and tart flavours.
Aside from feeling at times that I was dining with those at the next table given we were so close in proximity, our food did take rather a long while to appear, waiting nearly 40 minutes for our second course. It certainly was a tasty treat, but the service could have been quicker - lazy Sunday or not.
OXBO is a bustling, sophisticated dining room occupying the ground floor of the Hilton Bankside. The focus is modern British food with an occasional twist, while oozing that relaxed Sunday vibe we all hanker for.
The vast dining room is notably on trend with exposed brick, white tiles, suspended lighting and industrial style partitions with the open plan kitchen providing a focal point for diners. A chap strumming on the guitar under the mounted animal heads art pieces adds to the laid back, anything goes feel.
The Sunday we visited the restaurant was packed with couples and families with young children, all meeting up for a chilled afternoon.
The interesting concept allows guests to choose from starters and desserts served buffet-style, while guests have three items to choose from for the main course. I decided not to do that terribly English thing of piling my plate high with clashing cuisines, and so opted for the sashimi. The array of fish bowled me over - salmon, swordfish, sea bass and varying cuts of tuna; I devoured three plates worth of the delicate fresh slivers doused in plenty of soy sauce and spiked with wasabi. My partner took one for the team and covered the rest – prawns dipped in mayo, smoked duck breast and salami, a variety of cheeses, salad and cutesy individual crab and mango cups.
Now I would have presumed the roast sat at the helm of the main courses and who wouldn’t order blushingly pink sirloin of beef, but the Josper grilled chicken was just as gorgeous - smoky and charred with that salty crisp skin you imagine could only be achieved from a barbecue. I presume the cod cooked in that same beastly, indoor charcoal oven is equally as delicious. For vegetarians, a cauliflower and broccoli dahl provides a refreshing alternative to the otherwise quintessential Sunday roast. But for me, having had several sneak previews of the beef and marvelling at its on-point cooking, it didn’t disappoint. I find Yorkshire puddings as big as your face are always a welcome presence and the gravy was so tasty I could have drunk it from the jug!
Dessert is served in the same fashion as the starters and when you’re as full as an egg that suits perfectly. A Polly Pocket-sized strawberry crème brulee and a salted caramel chocolate cup were among my favourites. The Rocky Road was a coup.
It’s not called a Bottomless Roast for nothing and to my delight, this extends to the libations. With three courses for £28 and only £40 for the addition of bottomless Cava, it’s well worth pushing the boat out. Where some bottomless servings feel slow and reluctant, this was attentive and generous.
Casual, classy and confident.
On a rainy Sunday morning, I wasn't keen to prise myself out of my bed and into the deluge, but the thought of a scrumptious brunch ahead propelled me to Noak, a laidback cafe in Brockley, South East London. Luckily for those lazy bones who can't bear rising before noon, brunch is served until 3:30pm, so there's no excuse to miss it.
Their 'market-driven menu', which changes weekly, is lovingly prepared by their Head Chef who works with local suppliers to source local produce whenever possible and the make everything they can on-site including: preserves, butter, dressings, sauces, and cured fish and meats.
The restaurant is very casual and the main focal point is a large, wood fired oven in the open kitchen where you can watch the chefs busily beavering away. The atmosphere here is very chilled out with the cafe becoming busy around 11:00 am with locals filing in for a hearty feed.
The menu features typical brunch offerings (e.g. smashed avocado on thick slabs of sour dough bread, poached eggs and salmon, pancakes, etc. - with dishes priced from £6-£11) but they also have other treats on offer such as the baked banana bread with mascarpone, seasonal compote and nut crumble (£5.50), which was gorgeous and beautifully presented with a small edible flower. We also loved their baked beans, which aren't the typical English baked beans you get with a full English, but a hearty portion of mixed baked beans with a smokey flavour, which reminded me of something that I reckon cowboys would have eaten back at the ranch, but perhaps I've seen too many Westerns!
A classy brunch affair in the heart of Vauxhall...
When one's looking for a classy restaurant that serves brunch, Vauxhall doesn't necessarily spring to mind. While the Vauxhall area has been slowly becoming gentrified over the past few years, it has a reputation for being a bit seedy and lacking any decent restaurants - until COUNTER came along.
COUNTER is a 175-cover all-day bar & brasserie housed in an expansive 200-foot long arch. The decor is equal parts futuristic and retro with glittering antiqued mirrors and a palette of lacquered grey tones, which are highlighted with brass detailing and custom-made lighting set off against reclaimed teak floors.
When we arrived at around 11am on a Sunday morning, the restaurant was fairly quiet, providing a relaxing environment for my husband and I to catch up over a perfectly made latte - a crucial part of any breakfast as one knows.
There's something so decadent about brunch. It implies shameless lingering in bed, only rising to indulge in a calorie-laden feast and a cheeky cocktail or two. And that's why I love it. It makes no apologies for being neither breakfast nor lunch and instead, let's you choose to enjoy whatever you so desire.
Today, I desired Dirty Bones, a laidback restaurant nestled in Kingly Court, Soho, renowned for serving American comfort food at its best. I made the pilgrimage to Dirty Bones to try the recently launched weekend brunch menu, which includes a mains and bottomless Prosecco and coffee for £15 (every Sat & Sun until 5pm - for those who are really lazy).
Belt busting entrees on offer include: The MacDaddy, (a 6 oz. aged steak burger smothered in mac-n-cheese and pulled beef short rib in Dirty Bones' barbeque sauce and served in a brioche bun); the Benedict Burger (6oz house burger, topped with poached egg and black treacle bacon, smothered in Dirty Bones hollandaise sauce); Steak & Eggs (a 30-day aged flat iron steak, chargrilled and served with two free range fried eggs and Dirty Bones smoked ketchup); and Short rib & cheese toastie (a triple stack toastie of beef rib, charred gherkin, English mustard, taleggio and cheddar on sourdough).
The MacDaddy definitely lived up to its hype. The burger was ridiculously juicy and the mac-n-cheese was sinfully decadent. As a food combination it shouldn't work, but the macaroni added a whole other level of sheer gluttonous pleasure. I reckon it's quite possibly the best cure for a hangover, making it an ideal choice for those suffering from pre-Christmas over indulgence. Needless to say, the burger was quickly (and shamelessly) devoured.
As one would expect from any fabulous brunch offering, the brunch included bottomless Prosecco and coffee, which really helped perk us up and add a bit of cheer to our afternoon.
One thing that struck us during or visit was how genuinely friendly all of the staff members were, which really added to our overall experience. The atmosphere was really positive and everyone seemed to enjoy getting stuck into the Prosecco and copious amounts of comfort food.
Although we weren't going to indulge in dessert, the manager recommended the Milk and Frosties dessert, a panna cotta made with the milk from a bowl of Frosties soaked overnight. The panna cotta was quite thick in consistency and the Frosties provided a pleasant crunch, but overall, it didn't blow us away. After finishing our dessert, we experienced serious dessert envy when we caught a glimpse of the couple next to us enjoying the Banana Toblerone-Tella waffles, a seriously sinful dessert featuring caramelised banana, Toberlone-Tella, blueberry jam and peanut butter gelato. All I know is that it looked like the love child of a waffle and a banana split. Now if you ask me, that's the perfect way to end any day...
Food and drink: ★★★
Staff attentiveness/friendliness: ★★★★
For media mavens, The Refinery is best known as the post work watering hole next to the Bluefin building where everyone goes for a well deserved whistle wetter after a long week. For everyone else that visits during the work week, it's simply a bustling industrial chic restaurant/bar in the heart of Bankside.
Brunch options are pretty standard fare, including the full English, eggs Benedict, mashed avocado on toast with poached eggs on fresh sourdough, blueberry pancakes, Cumberland sausage, a crispy bacon sandwich, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, and a great selection of burgers, sandwiches or desserts, providing enough options to satisfy any cravings.
If like me you're 'rise and shine' challenged, you need not fret as the Sunday Brunch is served all day, granting you permission to hit the snooze one more time...
During my visit on a Sunday morning, my fellow diners were comprised of a mixture of groups of friends and young families in their early to late thirties, all enjoying whiling away the hours over a casual brunch.
As a creature of habit, I indulged in the eggs Benedict (classic, but delicious) and my friend opted for the mashed avocado on toast with poached eggs on sourdough, both of which were lovely. Drinks consisted of a latte (good foam) and a Ketel One Bloody Mary (excellent, according to my friend).
The best bit about our visit was the 'no rush' ambience, making it the perfect place to catch up with my friend - without feeling pressured to shoo us out the door to make way for other diners. And in my estimation, a lazy brunch is the makings of a perfect brunch...
Restaurants, Bars and food/drink pop ups and reviews
There's nothing more delicious in life than indulging in a sensational meal.