Like the ritual of the Sunday papers, brunch is a non-negotiable weekend tradition for many. Whether you prefer a simple crushed avocado on toast or something a little more exotic, the best places to have brunch in London come in many guises, with plenty of exceptional venues catering to those in search of an indulgent and unhurried start to the day.
Despite its popularity over the pond in America, brunch in fact has its origins in England in the late 1800s, when it was first served as a buffet-style meal. Guy Beringer is the man largely credited with the invention of brunch thanks to his essay, Brunch: A Plea, written in 1895. He suggests that “Saturday night carousers” can be spared the struggle of rising early for breakfast by opting for a midday meal instead, which starts with “breakfast fixtures” before moving onto more substantial dishes. Beringer also stresses the social element of brunch, stating that the meal is: “talk-compelling… it puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, and sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” Well, we couldn’t agree more.
Today, diners all over the world remain devoted to the restorative effects and social nature of this hybrid meal. Thankfully, some of London’s best restaurants are committed to serving their own interpretation of the hearty late breakfast-cum-early lunch on a weekly basis. From perfectly golden American pancakes to a classic English breakfast reimagined by a Japanese noodle bar, our pick of the best places to have brunch in London are certainly worth getting out of bed for.
In celebration of fresh, local produce, The Northall offers weekend visitors the definitive Corinthia brunch in London. The elegant restaurant serves the Full English and beyond until 11am. Its decadent offering includes all the brunch favourites, with Breakfast Bowls and berry-laden American Pancakes for a fresh start, Grilled Manx Kippers for traditionalists and, for brunchers with a taste for indulgence, the baked Lobster Arnold Bennet omelette. Add extra sparkle with a flute of Laurent-Perrier.
Serving a delicately spiced start to the day is Dishoom, easily claiming its position among our best places to have brunch in London. Since it threw open its doors in 2010, this stylish Bombay café has established itself as a local favourite, and its brunch menu has a devoted following. The menu swerves indulgently from Kejriwal’s fried eggs and chilli cheese on toast to the exceedingly popular and ingeniously simple Bacon Naan Roll for a very satisfying Eastern take on a British classic. Can’t decide? Opt for the Weekend Breakfast Feast, where the entire menu is available banquet style for guests to help themselves.
Located 40 floors up in East London’s Heron Tower, Duck & Waffle not only bills itself as one of the city’s highest restaurants, but it’s also open 24 hours. Stop by 11am-3.30pm on any weekend or Bank Holiday and you’ll be treated to jaw-dropping views of London and a lavish brunch menu. Take in the city panorama as you tuck into the signature Duck & Waffle dish, crispy confit leg of duck with fried duck eggs and an addictive mustard maple syrup. Anyone with a sweet tooth will also want to order the famous Full Elvis waffles, loaded with peanut butter and jelly, vanilla cream, peanut brittle, berry and caramelised banana.
Experience an authentic Japanese breakfast in the heart of Soho at much-loved Koya Bar. Opt for a traditional Japanese assortment of grilled fish with rice, miso soup and pickle, or try out the ‘English Breakfast’-style dishes, which are inspired by the restaurant’s British roots. Sip on Japanese tea or homemade hot ginger alongside a steaming bowl of English breakfast udon noodles with fried egg, bacon and shiitake or the English breakfast rice, which is restorative mix of fried egg, bacon and shiitake porridge accompanied by miso soup.
A brunch institution in Soho’s chic Kingly Court, The Good Egg incorporates Jewish comfort food classics alongside Middle Eastern touches to establish one of the best places to have brunch in London. Be prepared to try a bit of everything here. Start the day with The Good Egg’s exemplary shakshuka, cornbread French toast or Hanukkah brisket hash, and then share a selection of the café’s fantastic baked goods such as Oded’s Babka, a rich dough twisted with dark chocolate or date jam and toasted pecan nuts.
Bread Ahead Bakery gained a loyal following when it opened as a stall at London’s famous Borough market. Its consequent proliferation across London is testament to its quality, and its Beak Street bakery and café means even more opportunity to sample its superlative baked goods. Give yourself a hearty start to the day with smoked salmon and cream cheese in a brioche bun, cinnamon buns and fresh croissants. Or course try one, or perhaps two, of Bread Ahead’s legendary doughnuts, with flavours such as classic vanilla, raspberry jam and hazelnut and almond praline.
Created by talented chef Anna Hansen, The Modern Pantry has been wowing diners with its globally inspired dishes since opening its doors in 2008. Consistently turning out food that’s utterly delicious and also refreshingly modern, the weekend brunch here is a great introduction to the restaurant. Start as you mean to go on with a lychee, passion fruit or white peach Bellini, before diving into a generous bowl of fresh fruit salad drizzled with rose mint syrup. Leave room for the toasted English muffin with poached eggs, yuzu hollandaise, hazelnut and macadamia dukkah, topped with your choice of hot tea-smoked salmon, bacon, braised pulled lamb shoulder or chilli ginger and tamari braised mushrooms. Balance it out with a green juice or order a Chilli Espresso Martini that’s guaranteed to revive any weary Saturday night party goers.
From confit duck to moules frites, brunch at Balthazar is a wonderfully French affair. Admire the glamorous surroundings and old school charm of this Parisian inspired restaurant and bakery in Covent Garden as you order from an extensive menu that includes caviar, lobster, steak and Balthazar’s impeccable Viennoiserie. Anyone feeling particularly delicate after the night before will find a cure all in the Balthazar steak and eggs, served with a golden mound of pomme frites. There’s also a winning menu of alcoholic and non-alcoholic brunch cocktails, including the invigorating Umami Red Snapper, made using Umami gin and Plymouth gin mixed with a secret blend of juice and spices.
London-based chef Yotam Ottolenghi is the Midas of Middle Eastern cuisine. Nopi in Soho is a lively addition to his blossoming portfolio of popular eateries and champions the chef’s ingenious flavour combinations as boldly as his other restaurants. Serving the first meal of the day until 11.30am on weekends, the breakfast menu seals Nopi as one of the most delicious and dynamic places to have brunch in London. The fruit-topped black rice and coconut milk is an exotic alternative to porridge, while the perfectly spiced Shakshuka is a robust take on the Israeli classic, ideal for hearty appetites. Wash it all down with a flute of Champagne for the true brunch of champions.
Borough Market is a gourmet paradise and draws a sizeable flock of on-the-go foodies. For a sit-down brunch, however, you’ll need to venture further afield. Flat Iron Square is a stone’s throw away, and has a similar market atmosphere but with seating options for those wishing to linger. Its courtyard is flanked by a range of street food stalls and restaurants, one of which is Where The Pancakes Are. Its All Day Pancakes Menu is a delicious buttery romp from the maple syrup-soaked American to the egg and bacon-piled English Breakfast, with vegan and wheat-free options available. Non-traditionalists can enjoy a crepe take on the Reuben sandwich, and Welsh Rarebit gets a deliciously French makeover.