It's overtaking the roast as the most sacred of all weekend meals. Stylist takes a look at the brunch evolution
Words: Amy Grier
The table is strewn with empty champagne glasses, high heels are kicked off in the corner of the room and, in an attempt to work off a two-hour three-course meal, everyone has moved to the dancefloor to jump around to vintage Madonna under an Eighties disco ball. But this isn’t a Saturday night out. This is Sunday afternoon at 3pm. This is how we do brunch in 2012.
Two years ago, brunch meant eggs Benedict and the weekend papers, but things have, well, moved on. Today, brunch is accompanied by a Bourbon milkshake and designer bike rides, a gospel choir in a Gothic church or drag-queen karaoke. You’re as likely to request that the meat in your bacon naan is crispy as you are to ask for your huevos rancheros sunny-side-up. Here’s our pick of the best new brunches around.
Best for... all-day eaters
The Breakfast Club, London N1; thebreakfast clubcafes.com
As famous for its queues as its huge plates of pancakes, this is a slice of NYC cafe culture in London. Our favourite hangover brunch is its immense huevos al Benny – chorizo, avocado, roast peppers, chillies, eggs and hollandaise on a toasted muffin. It totally sorts you out.
You say: “I love the family feel of The Breakfast Club. Despite the queues, you’re never rushed.” Jo Swift, 26, accounts coordinator
Best for... carnival spirit
Alma de Cuba Gospel Brunch, Liverpool L1; alma-de-cuba.com
There’s nothing quite like a live gospel choir to blow away the cobwebs. Add a pinch of Brazilian mayhem and a brunch menu that spans tapas to roasts, and you have Alma de Cuba. The setting is stunning too – stained-glass windows, Gothic chandeliers and deep booths in which to while away the afternoon.
You say: “A Sunday meal with wow factor – and great service.” Helen Tweed, 28, sales manager
Best for... a view from the top
Duck & Waffle, London EC2N; duckandwaffle.com
Twenty-four-hour dining hit new heights when Duck & Waffle opened last month on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in London’s square mile. The menu is best-of- British comfort food made trendy with the addition of foaming gin and tonics, an all-day foie gras breakfast and, of course, the signature duck and waffle dish (sweet waffles, a duck leg, fried egg and mustard maple syrup). The best thing about it is that brunch flavours are served all day and night, so you can get your fix whenever you fancy it.
You say: “My favourite dish is duck egg en cocotte with wild mushrooms, gruyère, truffle and soldiers.” Louise Brooker, 29, designer
Best for... arty types
The Food Academy, Leeds LS1; foodacademyleeds.co.uk
A restaurant, art gallery and philanthropic enterprise for young people, eating brunch here ticks the culture, cuisine and good deed for the day boxes. Mooch around the space, which has works by local artists and established names, before settling down to their all-day menu. We’d recommend the fourcheese Welsh rarebit with watercress, shallot and tomato, and the Waldorf salad. Hidden on the third floor of a period building, it’s one of the calmest and most interesting places to sit with a glass of wine and the Sunday papers spread across the table.
You say: “This is just a really nice place to spend some time at the weekend.” Matthew Barnes, 29, lawyer
Best for... boozing and biking
Cut at 45 Park Lane, London W1; 45parklane.com
It’s easy to leave Wolfgang Puck’s all-American eatery so full you can’t move. So, aware of the effect buttermilk pancakes with whipped maple butter and salt-beef hash cake with poached eggs can have on its clients, the Dorchester, which owns the restaurant, offers customers bespoke Brompton bikes to cycle around the area and work up an appetite. Our advice? Do it.
You say: “Watching your Bloody Mary made exactly how you like it is amazing.” Emma Jameson, 30, gallery owner
Best for… coffee lovers
Caravan King’s Cross, London N1C; caravankingscross.co.uk
One of the only brunch spots in the country to have an on-site coffee roastery, this explains why the central feature of this light-filled Grade-II listed ex-granary is the coffee bar. The menu is a big draw too. We love the ‘on toast’ section, and the salt-beef bubble with eggs and hollandaise, which perfectly taps into the trend for Jewish home-style cooking.
You say: “The raclette with bacon and watercress was the standout dish for me.” Sophie Clarke, 33, communications director
Best for… hidden gems
Oxfork, Oxford OX4; oxfork.com
This underground supper-club-turned-cafe, restaurant and ad-hoc music venue serves some of the best brunch grub in the region. A tongue-incheek menu – with sections such as ‘egg-ulars’ – includes a poached egg plate that allows indecisive eaters to have eggs Benedict, Royal and Florentine all together. Extroverts will love the window seat, which places you in sight of envious passersby.
You say: “The homemade baked beans are legendary.” Genevieve Willis, 32, artist liaison officer
Best for… Mexican heat
Wahaca by Thomasina Miers, published by Hodder & Stoughton, photograph © Malou Burger
Wahaca Charlotte Street, London W1; wahaca.co.uk
The last two years have seen the Mexican food trend take off in the UK, but it’s mainly been about lunch (that’ll be the burrito bars on every corner) and dinner (think ceviche and tequila tastings). But now, the latest opening from UK street-food pioneer Thomasina Miers, Wahaca Charlotte Street (it only opened a few weeks ago), has a brunch menu. Sweetcorn fritters with avocado mash are delicious and the breakfast torta (with added chorizo, of course) will sate even the most voracious appetite.
You say: “I’d never tried an avocado smoothie, and its Mexican vanilla doughnuts are pure indulgence.” Richard Banks, 32, film producer
Best for… nyc spirit
Tribeca Cafe, Glasgow G11; tribecacafe.com
It’s the most recognisable brunch-stop in Glasgow thanks to the New York taxi parked outside, and the US-style portions keep Tribeca busy from noon until night. Top of our order was a snow-blizzard – a thick ice-cream milk shake you can pimp with a choice of Oreos, Dime Bars or Bounty. Food-wise, you can’t go wrong with the Varick – French toast with maple syrup and the option of bacon and/or banana flambé. Pure brilliance.
You say: “The Americansized portions can be a challenge, but the price is budget-friendly.” Evie Adams, 24, actress
Best for… duvet days
Simple Bar, Manchester M4; simplebar.co.uk
We have to take our hat off to anyone who actually offers duvets to customers eating Sunday brunch. Snuggle up while scoffing waffles (they fly in the mixture from New York) and watching whatever Eighties film is showing on the big screen. It is also one of the few places in the country to serve Lucky Charms (a sugary American cereal) for breakfast. If you hang around for long enough, Sunday night is game night so make sure your Connect Four skills are up to scratch!
You say: “Great atmosphere and the chocolate chip and banana pancakes are amazing.” Rose Beynon, 27, communications executive
Best for… grazing
The Cookbook Café, London W1; cookbookcafe.co.uk
Be honest, buffets bring out the child in all of us – and the minute ours saw the salad bar, carvery, pancake station and dessert trolley at the Cookbook Café she started yelling, “What? I can have it all?” Highlights include unlimited Bellinis, succulent roast beef and coffee profiteroles.
You say: “There are cookbooks on the side to read. This is the place to go if you’re a foodie.” Debbie Wolf, 38, receptionist
Best for… Parisian flare
Les Deux Salons, London WC2; lesdeuxsalons.co.uk
Located just off Trafalgar Square is a little slice of Paris. Velvet booths and dark wood panelling, dessert trolleys lingering just in view and waiters who are really French all give this place the feel of a grand Parisian brasserie. You can choose the size of your eggs Benedict (large = two eggs, small = one) if you want more room to guzzle the rest of the menu, which includes oysters, burgers and a roast of the day.
You say: “The waiters wheel around silver trolleys laden with patisseries to tempt you to stay on for afternoon tea.” Ruth Grier, 36, teacher
Best for… party lovers
Bunga Bunga, London SW11; bungabungalondon. com
A ukulele player, karaoke and a drag queen? It could only be Bunga Bunga, an Italian-themed restaurant named after Berlusconi’s infamous parties. They’ve turned brunch into a matinée with live cabaret and a three-course meal that includes the Bunga’s Benedict pizza with hollandaise, smoked salmon and an egg. There are Bellini kits on each table and carafes – yes, carafes – of unlimited prosecco.
You say: “The last time I went, there was drageoke and we were dancing on stage by about 2pm!” Chloe Williams, 25, PR
Best for… exotic tastes
Dishoom, London WC2H; dishoom.com
This cult modern Indian restaurant gives brunch an eastern twist. The Full English is replaced with the Full Bombay – akuri (spicy scrambled eggs) on toast, bacon, sausages and vine tomatoes – and the fruit smoothie with a breakfast lassi, a refreshing Indian yoghurt drink made with mango, banana and oats.
You say: “At weekends, I have a Naughty Chocolate Chai, which has a slug of bourbon in it.” Katherine Bower, 29, teacher
Best for... big screen lunch
Cornerhouse, Manchester M1; cornerhouse.org
Already the best Manchester venue for independent film, Cornerhouse has also cottoned on to the brunch phenomenon and now offers an impressive menu in its restaurant. Great for veggies, home-baked Boston beans with garlic buttered toast and cheese is the ultimate comfort food (especially with a dollop of HP sauce on the side), as are the devilled mushrooms on toast. After you’ve eaten, stroll around the building and catch a Sunday matinée film – the best way to spend a rainy day.
You say: “Sometimes they play classic films. I saw The Breakfast Club there and loved it!” Rhiannon Spencer, 26, social worker