The Woolpack

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Once upon a time there was a young student who lived in Bermondsey.  Every weekend she would head to The Woolpack with her housemates and gorge on cheese on toast and a greasy fry up.  A few years later she awoke with a sense of nostalgia and decided to revisit her old local.  She traveled from North London to Bermondsey.  She saw the pub.  The outside retained the deep green tiles and wonky signs and she breathed a heavy sigh as she remembered old friends and the laughter they once shared here.  She opened the doors and gasped.  Whilst everything looked the same, everything had changed. The green leather chairs with deep mahogany tables were the same, but they were clean.   The wooden floorboards were the same but they were swept.  The barmaid either hadn’t aged or was different but in any case, she smiled.  The Woolpack has succumbed to peer pressure from the Bermondsey Street elite and has cleaned up its act. Literally.

The brunch menu has decidedly shrunk and has taken a minimalist approach. I was upset that my old favourite of cheese on toast no longer seems worthy of the new trendy eatery after all its years of celebrated gooey goodness.  I realised I had to follow the The Woolpack’s example and grow up.  I am no longer a student.  I should no longer feel the need for a comforting welsh rarebit and a mocha.  I am now a coffee drinker for the taste rather than the caffeine.  I needed to have a word with my palette and stop the immaturity before I ran back to my student house to moan to my housemates about how my boyfriend doesn’t understand me.   I took a deep breath and reread the menu.  It actually sounded delicious.  Yes, it is limited, but I would rather few options done well than too many inedible options. I went for the poached egg with avocado on sourdough and my usual latte. The barmaid smiled. A small part of me hated her for it.

The food arrived and was well presented.  Apparently the bread  is sourced from the bakery on the same street and they get all of their meat from the butcher down the road which are nice touches.  I grudgingly admitted that my meal was nice.  The portion size of the fry up has diminished somewhere along the aging process and has turned decidedly drier.  Whilst I would have probably appreciated this the other half was slightly disappointed at his lack of a greasy bacon silhouette left the plate.

So how would I rate “The Woolly”?  I have to admit I liked it.  My food was nice and the staff were friendly.  The fry up was overpriced for the amount on the plate but my meal was reasonable and a good size.  Looking back, the friendly staff and cleanliness probably reflect a more adult me and I would no doubt have complained should the shabbiness of the past still be active.  I also love that they support local businesses and source their food locally.  I don’t think I would make the effort to travel so far to revisit The Woolpack but if I had friends who lived close by I wouldn’t advise against a visit.  It is a lovely little place and wasn’t too crowded.

7/10

Address:

98 Bermondsey St

London

SE1 3UB

 

Tel:

020 3437 0139

Website:

woolpackbar.com

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The Delaunay

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How better to spend a lazy Sunday than with good food, good coffee and amazing company whilst surrounded by understated style?  Let’s skip the suspense and say that I adored our brunch here.  Upon entering the restaurant you are hit with an air of German elegance and I could have forgotten I was in London.  The restaurant is busy yet calm and diners looked chic and happy.  I visited with my Viennese friend and The Delaunay brought back memories of our carefree time in Vienna visiting beautiful cafes and idling by the Danube.

I went for the blueberry pancakes and my partner in brunch went for an omelette. pancakes The service was quick and attentive, coffee was creamy and aromatic and the food was fabulous.  The pancakes were the fluffiest I have had in London and had a good portion of blueberries and creme fraiche rather than being drowned in compote. Similarly, the omelette was apparently wonderfully cooked with the perfect amount of filling. The menu has a great selection ranging from pastries to bigger lunch options.  The schnitzel particularly caught my eye and it was a very tough choice. Clearly my sweet tooth won out on this occasion.

 

After brunch we ordered tea and sat for a long while catching up.  We were able to stay as long as we pleased without being forced out to make way for more diners which is novel for a central London venue recently.

So… how would I rate The Delaunay?   Like you couldn’t guess.  Everything for me was divine.  The decoration, the staff, the food, the drinks… all perfection. I have read a few reviews which state that the menu is overpriced but for the location and quality of the food it is actually very reasonably priced coming to around £40 for both of us. If you are visiting London as a tourist and want a nice brunch to start your day, want a nice venue to take the girls or even if it’s date day, The Delaunay makes for a perfect setting.

10/10 I actually can’t think of a single fault.

Address:

55 Aldwych, London WC2B 4BB

Tel:

020 7499 8558

Website:

thedelaunay.com

Return to Brunching – Buckle & Vaughan

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buckleIt’s been a while since my last brunch but as my life of travel seems to be dwindling a return to the urban domesticity of Sunday brunching seems apt.

 

 

I took some friends to our local “hot spot” Buckle & Vaughan in Winchmore Hill.  The decor is modern and the front opens up which not only makes it breezy in the current humidity but gives it more of a holiday feel.  Our waiter did not seem to understand our accents very well but with an Australian, 2 Irish and me with my mix of northern, Welsh and London it is quite understandable!  Our drinks arrived quickly and my latte was the perfect mix of creamy milk and strong espresso, although juice was bottled which was a disappointment.

After such a long brunch break I went for my old favourite of eggs benedict. My fiance (lots has changed in the last 3 years!) went for the farmhouse breakfast and our 2 friends went for the granola with fruit and the eggs florentine.

The food arrived quite quickly and was well presented.  I would have taken photographic evidence but unfortunately I was too hungry and wolfed everything down before a camera could be produced. My eggs were cooked beautifully but the hollandaise sauce was slightly acidic.  Despite this it was still lovely and I have no regrets on my choice.  The Man loved his fry up but he isn’t particularly fussy about his food.  Our friends on the other hand were not impressed.  The granola is described on the menu as being toasted but apparently it was very soggy.  I cannot comment as I didn’t try any but I have to admit it looked fantastic. Our friend with the florentine thought that his hollandaise was very acidic and described his breakfast as “average”.  I think this may be a slightly harsh critique as he is Australian and they take brunch to a whole new level.

Overall, I enjoyed the ambiance of the restaurant and I enjoyed the food.  The toilets, whilst nice, had toilet roll over the floor and there was a door open leading into what I assume is the staff room with boxes and rubbish everywhere so this takes away from the image upstairs of relaxed chic.  I think we will be back at some point in the near future to test the granola as I refuse to believe something which looked so good could actually be as bad as was described. But then it did come from a reliable source…

7/10

Address:

10-12 The Green, London N21 1AY

Tel:

020 8886 2981

Website:

http://buckleandvaughan.com/

 

 

Hoi Polloi

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With family visiting from the north I thought this would be a perfect excuse to try out somewhere new for brunch.  Hoi Polloi is inside the ACE Hotel and we were rather confused when we arrived as to if this was actually the restaurant or if it was a canteen for hotel guests!  The decor is sparse with a bit of a 1960’s twist shown with the lamps and the seating (and the pink toilet seats…).  In my opinion this isn’t pulled off particularly well… the gold ends up looking trashy instead of Mad Men the tables reminded me of school instead of an old, upper class eatery.  It almost feels like the restaurant hasn’t decided on what the theme is going to be and has mish mashed together lots of little bits from different eras and styles.  We did enjoy the string quartet which played music including the likes of Nirvana and Katy Perry though!

The menu was rather limited and quite overpriced although I did like that it was in a newspaper style, it kind of added to Mad Men theme.  There was some confusion as to which part of the menu we should be using as we had arrived at the cut off for breakfast and the start of brunch, the transition of which seems to be a major operation.  I went for a small eggs benedict, my sister had eggs florentine and my nephew chose the eggy bread with bacon.  The egg dishes were both around £6 and when they arrived my sister audibly gasped.  Half a muffin was served with one poached egg and whilst I had a fair amount of ham she had a rather pathetic couple of leaves of spinach.  The meal was absolutely delicious though and I was satisfied at the end of my meal.  My sister on the other hand had finished her brunch before I was half way through mine and whilst she admitted the poached egg was good the muffin was too small for her to appreciate any part of that. If you go a large you get 2 eggs on 2 half muffins but at £9 it’s not the cheapest.

The coffee was good and whilst not the size you usually expect from an english restaurant it was fitting with most european coffee sizes. It was also a relatively good price, although I didn’t particularly like that it was called “posh coffee” on the menu… adds to the statement that they haven’t quite decided on a theme.

The eggy bread was to fluffy for my taste but my family quite enjoyed it.  It comes with 2 pieces of bread and around 4 small rashers of bacon.  It is also quite expensive at around £9.  We did some people watching whilst waiting for my nephew to finish his meal and saw that most people who order the eggs benedict also end up ordering something else to go with it.  They’re clearly already in the know!

The staff are the main redeeming feature of the restaurant.  Every single one of them was polite and friendly in a non pretentious and quite uplifting way for an early Sunday morning.

To conclude, if you are out with hungry northerners this is not the place to take them.  Nor is it the ideal place to go on a date in my opinion as you can go somewhere much quirkier with more of a choice.  However, it is a girly weekend where you want a pastry and a coffee before spending the day leisurely shopping, it’s quite ideal.

4/10

Address:

100 Shoreditch High St          

London

E1 6JQ

Tel:

020 8880 6100

Website:

http://hoi-polloi.co.uk/

Del Aziz (Bermondsey Square)

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I have visited Del Aziz on several occasions and whilst the quality of the service varies greatly the food is consistently good.  The staff have a tendency to ignore you and then drinks can be extremely slow in their arrival (sometimes I’ve even had my food before my morning latte arrives) but when they finally do arrive they fill that gaping hole of inadequacy with deliciously strong coffee.  The juices are all freshly squeezed and you can request your own mix if you so wish.  They also have a variety of smoothies but in my experience these are a little hit or miss. 

The restaurant is decorated in mediterranean hues of purple and dark wood and there are lots of turkish style artwork scattered around.  The bar area has a glass floor at the back which is quite a quirky addition.  The cafe/deli at the front of the restaurant has long tables and amazing looking cakes on display.  The smell of the freshly baking cakes also fills the little area making it feel quite homely.  Some sort of music is usually playing on a Sunday morning but I have been in there before where there was a man playing a guitar.  I quite enjoyed this but I know it’s not how some people would like to eat their brunch!  The clientelle is usually a young crowd of yuppie couples or a small family but it is also a good place to go with friends.  The tables are mainly for two but there are a few tables for four.  I think if you require anything bigger you should probably book as they do get quite busy.  There is an outdoor section for when it is sunny and the back wall opens up to let in the air so it rarely gets stuffy inside no matter what the weather.

Del Aziz has ruined scrambled eggs at any other establishment for me!  They are extremely buttery so you will either love them or hate them.  Unfortunately, if you do love them you probably won’t find anywhere else that does them as good!  The Portobello scrambled eggs are herbed and are really delicious but the mushroom itself is way too salty for me.  You get a lot of tasty bread which is baked on site and portion sizes are fairly large so whilst the meals aren’t the cheapest they are worth it.  The full breakfasts take a slight mediterranean twist with their home-made baked beans but the vegetarian full breakfast is vastly overpriced in comparison. del

If you prefer something sweeter for your morning meal the french toast and pancakes on offer look fantastic… although the french toast was much too dry.  You get a mountain of pancakes with huge amount of topping and there is extra maple syrup on the table if you want to be on a sugar high and for only £6.75 they are an amazing Sunday treat.

So, to conclude on Del Aziz, they are a quirky restaurant doing all of the brunch favourites with a little turkish twist.  You can expect good food in a lovely atmosphere but don’t be relying on quick service (and steer clear of the french toast!).

7/10

Address:

11 Bermondsey Square,
London SE1 3UN

Tel:

020 7407 2991

Website:

http://www.delaziz.co.uk/

The Breakfast Club (Soho)

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The Breakfast Club are a popular “cool” choice.  Pretty cheap and usually guaranteed for some good grub.  I met a friend at the Breakfast Club in Soho where he had been waiting in the queue for 45 minutes and was finally getting towards the front when I arrived (always a good tactic to employ).  Inside it is very small and cramped or “compact” depending on how you look at it.  The decor is quite quirky and bright and it does kind of make you (or possibly just me) feel like you’re in some sort of cartoon. 

The waitress came over quite quickly (obviously as they need the table back asap) and our drinks of a latte and a black americano came out within minutes and were actually pretty good.  I ordered the vegetarian version of the posh sausage sandwich and my friend ordered El Butty.  Considering my first impressions of the little cafe weren’t great the food made it all worth it and I can see why people queue for so long.  The red onion chutney worked really well and did indeed transform the regular sausage bap into, as it says, a posh sandwich.  My friend really enjoyed his el butty which was chorizo and egg in a warm roll and claims that’s what he gets every time he visits!  Must be good. 

posh sausage

This place is a good little find and is a good, cheap choice if you don’t mind either getting there super early or having a long queue.  It is probably more for going with friends rather than a date as nothing kills chemistry like standing in the rain for 45 minutes.  It is also a little claustrophobic for me and I may stick to one of the bigger venues in future.

5/10

Address:

33 D’arblay Street, W1F 8EU

Tel:

020 7434 2571

Website:

http://www.thebreakfastclubcafes.com/

Riding House Cafe

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As soon as I arrived at the Riding House Cafe I was greeted by a friendly waitress and taken to a seat at the bar.  The bar, though full, was still spacious and the stools were surprisingly comfy.  The waiter was extremely attentive and didn’t mind that we were so busy gossiping it took us a good 15 minutes to actually even look at the menu.   All of the staff were efficient yet courteous and the clientelle all seemed casual yet well-groomed.  If there are more than 2 of you ging then you should definitely book as the place gets absolutely packed but if there are just 2 of you and you are happy to sit at the bar then walking in should be fine.  Even though it is moments away from Oxford Street there didn’t appear to be many tourists in there which as a Londoner I really appreciate!

I ordered a latte and my friend ordered a hot chocolate, both of which looked cute with patterns on the top and came quickly.  The latte was made well and wasn’t too strong or bitter.  We both ordered the chorizo hash browns which came with 2 poached eggs and a mushroom.  The eggs were some of the best which I have had at brunch and whilst I wasn’t expecting the hash brown to be quite so spicy it was delicious.  Portion sizes were very fair and it was all well presented.  The prices aren’t the cheapest but definitely worth it.  A full breakfast will set you back £10.50 but you can get eggs on toast for £5.  Coffee is a normal £2-£3 and smoothies and juices are around £5.brunch

You can see straight through to the kitchen and when you sit at the bar you can watch food being prepped.  The chefs in there were professional yet playful, one of which rubbed whipped cream on another’s face (I didn’t check if he washed his hands!) which i found quite endearing and charming as it is nice to see people having fun in their jobs.  It may have been different if he had sprayed the entire thing over him though!

The toilets are down the stairs towards the stables and are quite a quirky addition to the modern look upstairs.  They are clean and quite big filled with little oddities such as a stuffed bird holding a light bulb which makes going for a wee a little more fun!

All in all, I couldn’t fault the Riding House Cafe on… well… anything really.   It’s a lovely, casual brunch place which is perfect for a date or a day out with the girls. 

9/10 !

Address:

43-51 GREAT TITCHFIELD ST
LONDON W1W 7PQ

Tel:

020 7927 0840

Website:

http://www.ridinghousecafe.co.uk/

Why…?

I am a bruncher.  A bruncholite.  A lover of the made up meal.  It’s advantages?  You can have either breakfast or lunch for a start!  2 choices of meal at one time?!  The mind boggles.  Also, it’s an acceptable meal to drink at.  You can’t drink at breakfast BUT if you have breakfast food at brunchtime a mimosa is practically obligatory.   It’s a civilised mealtime where we can meet up with friends at a reasonable hour at the weekend and indulge.  We rarely feel guilty dining out at “nice” places for brunch as it will never come to half as much as dinner would.  And here leads us to the question which brunchers often ponder… where?

I intend to test so that you don’t have to.  If you struggle for a good brunch location whether for a date, family or friend occasion then I really hope that I can be of some assistance when you are looking at the mountains of places on offer.  I also enjoy the fact that when I now go out for brunch instead of my father thinking it is pretentious, I can merely tell him that I am working 😉

Enjoy fellow brunchers x