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, London has plenty of exceptional venues that cater to those in search of an indulgent and unhurried start to the day. But what many people don’t realise is that 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 are still 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 a hearty brunch on a weekly basis. From a three-course Champagne brunch with a live jazz band to a classic English breakfast reimagined by a Japanese noodle bar, the best brunches in London are certainly worth getting out of bed for.
In a celebration of British produce, The Northall offers weekend visitors an elegant three-course brunch accompanied by live jazz music. Every Sunday from 12:30pm, talented jazz singers entertain guests as they feast on a decadent offering that includes starters of truffled Eggs Benedict with Monmouthshire Beech smoked ham and Grouville Bay oysters dressed with merlot vinegar and shallots. With main courses like half grilled native lobster thermidor with thin cut chips or roast Cumbrian beef sirloin served with Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes and vegetables, diners certainly won’t leave hungry. Round off this extravagant brunch with a delectably fruity dessert of rose, raspberry and guava profiteroles. There’s even an option to add free-flowing Laurent Perrier champagne to your three courses, too.
From £55 for three courses
Run by acclaimed chef Peter Gordon, this Marylebone restaurant is famous throughout the city for its weekend brunch, which skilfully combines classic dishes with tantalising, international flavours. Available on Saturday and Sunday from 9am-3pm, standout dishes include the grilled chorizo with sweet potato miso hash, soft-boiled egg, garlic labne and star anise cashew nut praline, or the vegetarian-friendly miso-baked aubergine with pine nuts, dates, feta, crispy buckwheat and tahini yoghurts. Be sure to order one of the freshly made smoothies, juices or nut melks to wash it all down.
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 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 hot Japanese tea or homemade hot ginger alongside of 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 London’s trendy Stoke Newington, The Good Egg has thankfully opened a more central outpost just off Carnaby Street. Incorporating Jewish comfort food classics alongside Middle Eastern touches, 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 the chocolate and cardamom Oreo.
Bread Ahead Bakery gained a loyal following when it opened as a stall at London’s famous Borough market, and now the newly-opened Beak Street bakery and café means even more opportunity to sample their superlative baked goods. Give yourself a hearty start to the day with brioche French toast with bacon and syrup, demi-brioche with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, or opt for the more virtuous build-your-own porridge menu. Dessert has to be 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, rose and raspberry Bellini, before diving into the garam masala roast banana, date, cocoa and pecan granola, which comes with coconut yoghurt and passion fruit. 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, Kashmiri masala marinated pulled pork 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.