Founded by Giovanni Quaglino in 1929, Quaglino’s has long been a symbol of decadence. Loved by royals, celebrities and the public alike, dining here has always had an air of exclusivity.
In the 1950s the restaurant was said to have had a table permanently reserved for the regular visits by Princess Margaret, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Princess Alexandra. Other notable royals who have graced the establishment include Queen Elizabeth, King Edward VIII, and most recently, Prince Harry. And what’s a hip place without a celeb following? Celebs who have visited include Judy Garland, Barbara Cartland, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Benedict Cumberatch, Alexa Chung and Lindsay Lohan, to name a few.
In the 90s Quaglino’s was revered as the hottest restaurant in town to see and be seen, thanks to it being a favourite spot of Ab Fab characters Patsy and Eddie and its reputation as a place to let your hair down in style. The signature ‘Q’ ashtrays that were scattered throughout the bar, were often nicked by guests as they were seen as a status symbol. Rumour has it that over the years more than 25,000 ‘Q’ ashtrays 'mysteriously' disappeared.
Today, Quaglino’s retains its style and charm thanks to a £3 million facelift by owners D&D London in 2014. There is a sense of 1920s grandeur throughout the restaurant, thanks to intimate lighting and a moody colour palette of charcoals, burgundy and gold, which creates a sexy atmosphere. As guests sip cocktails in the upstairs bar, they can relax on black quilted leather banquettes, which encourage you to stay a bit longer than you probably should.
Even the bathrooms are seriously stylish with striking monochrome zigzag decor, which has given us serious bathroom design envy.
At the heart of the restaurant is a grand staircase with illuminated stairs with a gold tortoise shell design, that simply begs for guests to make a fabulous entrance as they shimmy down the stairs to the dining room below. The expansive dining room is an impressive space with a circular gold bar and a stage flanked by red velvet curtains, which serve as key focal points. Each night guests can enjoy performances by either live bands or a DJ, which adds to the sense of occasion.
Saturday brunch at Quaglino's
We visited on a Saturday afternoon for the Q Brunch (available Saturdays and Sundays from 11.30am-2.30pm). If you’re feeling festive, there is the option to add unlimited prosecco for £18 per person, when eating two courses or more for the duration of your meal.
The Saturday brunch offering features standard options such as Eggs Benedict, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs (a safe bet), sandwiches (croque monsieur or demoiselle), a variety of fish dishes (sea bream, cod, stone bass), a sirloin steak and egg or venison tartare and oysters as well as a selection of sides and desserts.
The salad with mozzarella, tomatoes, nectarines and endive was fresh and light and the croque monsieur in all its cheesy, carby glory is the perfect cure if you’ve indulged a bit too much the night before.
Service is top-notch, as you’d expect, and is refreshingly friendly rather than stuffy, which makes it all the more welcoming.
We’ll definitely be making a repeat appearance, but next time we’ll be indulging in dinner and sipping classic cocktails. Get your glad rags on and give it a go – it’s the cat’s whiskers.
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!
Any bottomless brunch is always a winner. Throw lobster in to the mix however and there’s a real risk you might never want to leave. The Big Easy’s weekend affair is one that’s not to be missed; available at all three branches (Covent Garden, Chelsea and Canary Wharf) with unlimited prosecco, Big Easy Brew, frozen Bacardi mojito or house wine for £29.50, it’s the perfect excuse for a weekend feast.
If you like your brunch spots quiet and refined, The Big Easy isn’t for you. Covent Garden is big, brash and ballsy, with pumping tunes, a buzzing atmosphere and a plastic bib handed to you on arrival. So far so good.
Being that it’s a lobster shack and smokehouse, you can guess what the menu looks like; heavy on the crustaceans, with a healthy (or maybe not…) dose of southern-style barbecue dishes and a veritable smorgasbord of sides. With dishes like deep fried pickle chips and chilled Atlantic crab claws, to dry-rubbed St Louis pork ribs and Texas slow-smoked brisket, you’ll be hard-pressed to make a decision. Everything that came out while we were perusing the menu looked - and smelt - utterly sublime. Word of warning - one visit won’t be enough.
Being that this is somewhere famed for its lobster, we figured it’d be rude no to try the star of the menu. The Big Easy have been working with the same fishermen in Nova Scotia for the last 20 years. The blighters are flown in three times a week, with the Covent Garden restaurant housing almost 2000 live lobsters in specially designed tanks, so it’s pretty damn fresh.
We plumped for The Big Easy Original, a 1 3/4lb lobster, served with salad and fries (if that’s a little much, there’s also The Pounder at a more modest 1lb). Fresh, juicy and with an utterly sublime jug of garlic butter, it was seriously delicious. The winning side dish takes the form of the trio of macaroni cheeses; not for the fainthearted, these three little dishes of joy - one with lobster, one with brisket and one with just cheese - are the ultimate comfort food.
Suffice to say our meal was enjoyed; lobster and prosecco? It’s basically the perfect pairing. We left stuffed to the gills in a slight food coma with very big smiles and very tight belts. I’ve been back twice since, I think I’m converted.
Food and drink *****
Staff attentiveness/friendliness *****
Big Easy Bar.B.Q & Lobstershack
12 Maiden Lane
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.
Restaurants, Bars and food/drink pop ups and reviews
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