London: BreakfastsMay 10, 2015
It’s often said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Especially important, I would say, if you’ve got a day of touring ahead of you. Nothing like the promise of a good hot breakfast and a killer coffee to get you out of bed. While in London, Alex and I relied quite a bit on cafes for a hot drink and a bite to eat – Granger & Co and Workshop Coffee were two of our favourites.
Granger & Co
175 Westbourne Grove, Notting Hill, London W11 2SB
Granger & Co was quite close to our apartment so made a sensible choice on several occasions for coffee and some breakfast. Full to the brim with yummy mummies and other wealthy locals (I recently read Notting Hill hilariously characterised as the place to go if “you like rich people who have died on the inside pretending to be bohemian during their time off”), the cafe is a little pocket of Sydney in West London. And much like cafes in Sydney, you better be prepared to queue.
Granger & Co is almost identical to Granger’s Sydney cafes. I almost feel for a minute as if I am home. Wide windows on two sides of the room let in plenty of natural light, a beautiful marble bar runs along one side, the ceiling is handsomely finished with timber, and there is the occasional burst of green in the chairs and supporting columns. It’s a very pleasant, airy space to be in, and Alex and I quickly relaxed into the cushy banquette that runs along one side of the room.
The menu is also near-identical to the Bills cafes at home. A few tweaks here and there, but apart from that it’s pretty similar. For a man who has the audacity to think he invented avocado on toast, I’ve got to say, the menu looks pretty damn pleasant.
First up – juice. Being on holiday in Europe in winter can mean you end up skimping on greens, so a green juice was just what the doctor ordered. It was pleasantly lemony with a kick of ginger. Alex refused to order one – “green juice is disgusting” – that may be true, but let me feel smug for a moment, please.
Next – coffee. The green juice was good, but the coffee was better. Flat white for Alex, short macchiato for me. Strong, nutty, delicious. Wouldn’t expect anything less from an Australian-style cafe.
Alex went Elvis on me and ordered hotcakes with maple syrup and bacon, a sinfully good sweet/salty combination. Bill Granger is somewhat famous for his hotcakes, it seems. And rightfully so – these were bloody good. Fluffy, buttermilk filled, American style hotcakes with syrup and a generous pile of bacon, handsomely charred. Can’t go wrong, really.
I had rye toast with spicy miso mushrooms and a handful of coriander. Coriander expertly tossed to one side (I find that raw coriander tastes like soap), this was otherwise a delicious dish. Mushrooms so often find themselves on breakfast menus sautéed with some butter, garlic and thyme, usually finished with goats cheese or feta. This was an interesting change from the norm, and the miso sauce was spicy, salty and intensely savoury. A squeeze of lime saved it from being too heavy.
I returned later that week for a quick plate of, yep, you guessed it, avocado on toast. And look, for something that involves toasting bread, cutting up an avocado and throwing an enormous bunch of coriander on top, the chef did an excellent job. He even managed to cut up a wedge of lime. Facetious remarks aside, it was a good version of avocado on toast. I would have preferred a good sourdough to rye (what is it with Bill Granger’s obsession with rye?), and parsley or mint over coriander, but otherwise it was solid.
“I would have preferred it slightly different, but otherwise solid”, is a pretty good way to sum up Granger & Co. Nothing revolutionary, particularly when the raison d’être of the cafe is to mimic an Australian cafe, but pretty good. The huge success of his cafes in London is due to Granger importing the sunny, Antipodean cafe model to a city that is still behind in the breakfast game. Simple, contemporary food that is easy to like. You may not be blown away by the food here, but you certainly won’t be disappointed. You will, however, have to fight your way through the hoards of fur-wearing, Mulberry-toting women. But hey, sometimes that’s life! #firstworldproblems.
27 Clerkenwell Road, Clerkenwell, London, EC1M 5RN
A few days after visiting Granger & Co, we took a double-decker to Clerkenwell at the other side of town for brunch at Workshop Coffee Co. First opened in 2011 as St Ali’s London outpost, Workshop is now an independent coffee roasting business – you’ll find their beans at other good cafes around the city, or at their own coffee bars in Fitzrovia, Holborn or Marylebone. The original roasting epicentre and cafe though, is in Clerkenwell. And it couldn’t be further from Granger & Co if it tried!
The interior of the restaurant is dark and industrial, with low ceilings, exposed pendant lighting, and rough brick walls. It almost has a subterranean feel; a coffee den.
The thing with Workshop is, coffee is their jam. It’s just what they do. My flat white had a great crema, chocolate notes, and was silky smooth as hell. An excellent cup. So excellent, I had a second after our breakfast.
At the back of the cafe is their roasting gear, offices and a cupping room. The best feature of the entire place is a huge vertical garden that draws your eye to the skylight above. It’s a beautiful flash of green in an otherwise dark place.
The menu has an excellent mix of standard breakfast dishes – full Benedict, smoked salmon with avocado – with some more exciting options – Huevo Rancheros, corn fritters, and a ham hock stack with sweet potato.
I always find it difficult to go past a dish of baked eggs – here they were organic, cooked in a pepper, chorizo, saffron and tomato ragu with a scattering of feta. Like a modified version of shakshouka, I suppose, and very delicious. Perfect winter warmer.
Alex went for a plate of corn fritters with baby spinach, grilled haloumi, kasundi and a poached egg. I suspect it’s a hangover from when Workshop was owned by the good people at St Ali (gven how similar it is to their corn fritters dish). Presentation could have been improved, I think, but the flavours were all there – sweet corn, spicy kasundi and salty haloumi a winning combination.
So there you have it! Two good breakfast options at opposite ends of London. Many more to be discovered though – see my list of notable mentions below for some more guidance!
- NOPI, 21-22 Warwick Street, Soho W1B 5NE
- Providores, 109 Marylebone High Street, W1U 7QU
- Made in Camden, Chalk Farm Road NW1 8EH
- Modern Pantry, 47-48 St John’s Square, Farringdon EC1 V4JJ
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