- Jack Andrew Lenton
London is hot on the heels of New York City’s eclectic brunch scene, and where better to experience some of that irresistible English charm than the beating heart of the East End. Bethnal Green has a brunch for everyone, including vegans, daytime drinkers, ostentatious bank breakers and even those in dire need of a haircut. Here’s 10 of our favourites right now.
An East End institution, the Pellicci family has been serving London natives hearty and comforting breakfasts for over 100 years. As you sip your milky coffee, you’ll find yourself sitting back and soaking in the atmosphere of the art deco interior (it’s recently received Grade II-listed status) and the theatrics of orders, compliments and jokes being shouted back and forth. When a tourist stops you on the street and asks, ‘where can I try a classic English Breakfast?’ You’ll be able to answer with a wry grin.
Cereal Killer Café
Walking through the unobtrusive entrance of the café, you’ll wish you brought a pair of sunglasses. The room is illuminated by the brilliantly coloured boxes of every cereal known to man (supposedly over 180 varieties). It’s impossible not to feel nostalgic when looking down the menu. All the childhood favourites are listed as well as odd, novelty additions like Bubblegum and Black Forest Milk, that seem so weird they have to be right. From staple bowls of Special K to the toothsome tang of Bart Simpson’s ‘Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch,’ you could spend a couple of days at Cereal Killer Café fostering a serious love of sugary grains.
Situated in the relative serenity of Victoria Park, brunch at Pavilion Café is a short escape from the bustle of the city. Seating overlooks the pond and is spacious enough to keep the noise to a low hum. The menu is your standard brunch fare with plates handsomely stacked with food. Ordering at the counter, food arrives promptly and steaming in the morning air. From the Rookery Farm eggs to the Ginger Pig’s sausages and bacon, everything tastes delightfully fresh and a special mention should be given to their homemade sourdough for its crispy bite and bouncy crumb.
In the past few years there has been a host of café and restaurant owners combining their food with their other passions. Bikes (Look Mom No Hands!), books and buck’s fizz (Society Club), and you can even buy a new house over a quiche and Arabica coffee at Housepresso. The latest addition is a stylish coiffure combined with great Korean street food at Hurwundeki. Nestled under the arches of the Cambridge Heath line, it’s fast and well-priced with an attentive service (for both stomach and head). The two are kept completely apart so don’t worry. Hurwundeki’s side plates are great for sharing and their steaming bibimbap has us going back time and time again.
The Typing Room is the new authority for early afternoon fine dining lunches. The open kitchen gives you the odd notion you’re in a chef’s studio apartment. Mixed with the casual décor and engaging staff, you almost want to put your feet up on the genuinely comfortable seats. The two-course lunch menu is like a meticulously considered bouquet, both cultivated and soulful. It’s a rare and winning combination. ‘The octopus, pineapple, beef tendon & basil’ is a celebration of clear and bright flavours. It seems the restaurant is well on its way to earning a couple of Michelin stars.
Hidden away on the top floor of a converted warehouse, the décor is clean and considered with bright whites mixed with wood. Bistrotheque’s menu is a blend of old familiars with an array of classic brunch eggs and a few more plucky choices like crab rarebit. Portion sizes are on the smaller side but remain satisfying, and their Bloody Marys should be crowned the queens of that delicious, complicated cocktail.
Brawn is something of a wild flower, yoking together natural, simple and untamed flavours with a vivacity of colour that leaps from the unassuming board or plate. They offer exceedingly well-priced lunch deals. A signature dish (especially for those a little foggy from the night before) is their juicy porchetta sandwich and for those lovers of Sunday lunch, their luxurious chicken roast is worth the crowd surf through Columbia Road flower market.
The Gallery Café
Outside of The Gallery Café’s hidey-hole of an entrance, you might think you’re in a post-impressionist painting; the bunting and woody green paints transporting you to bohemian Paris. Part of the St Margaret’s community project, this snug burrow is a non-profit vegan and vegetarian café that tempts even the most hard line carnivores. Most impressive are their vegan burgers (complete with vegan mayo and cheese) which don’t make use of those odd ‘mock-meats.’ The smoky tofu blended with a mixture of seasonal vegetables is a well-considered combination of zest and herb. Proceeds go back into the charity.
Resident of Paradise Row
Sounding like the title from a 1950s film noir, the dimmed light and faded wood décor of Resident lends itself to the notion of a sophisticated ex-speakeasy. The sociable staff is quick to break the ice (especially when it comes to discussions on the cocktail menu) and this creates an oddly welcoming, shared experience with patrons leaning back on their chairs and askingabout their neighbours’ orders. Resident offers a selection of classic breakfast dishes in generous portions. The home-smoked mackerel with bubble and squeak is a standout choice.
This Californian wine bar and kitchen is most likely to be your ‘noon till dusk’ choice when you see the wine list. It’s a jump from the grilled cheese sandwiches of Sager and Wilde’s original wine bar and it seems to have paid off, combining an inventive menu with their love of the grape. The waiters have excellent skills in deducing the right wine to compliment your meal with the joint ability to explain it to you confidently in minimum wine-speak (a rarity for London). While the lunch and evening menus focus on slightly Italian fare, Mission’s brunch selection is quintessentially English. The brown shrimp and samphire omelette was worthy of a fine-dining haven in Norfolk and the Boston beans on weighty slabs of doorstep bread were more Boston, Lincs than Massachusetts.