Last year, for the first time in its 100-year history, The Ivy started serving breakfast. The menu comprised a classic selection of eggs, porridges, homemade bread and waffles, but the restaurant could have chosen to serve anything: in catering to the morning trade it was responding to what is now one of the fastest-growing areas of the food market.
According to a new report commissioned by potato brand Lamb Weston, more than half of the people it surveyed considered the first meal of the day to be the most important. Millennials are driving the trend for breakfast and brunch out-of-home, and are the most likely to eat it on a monthly basis across all types of hospitality venues. Nearly half of 18 to 24-year-olds go out for breakfast at least twice a month, making it a meal time that many restaurants can’t afford to miss out on.
It’s not all hungover students and lazy Sunday brunch fans contributing to the ever-increasing breakfast market, however. Breakfast and brunch meetings are now widely seen as a viable alternative to business lunches, with 34% of UK adults choosing to meet for work over a morning meal- a figure that goes up to 44% in the business hub of the capital.
The ‘full English’ has long been considered the nation’s go-to breakfast choice, but things are changing. Some 61% of people surveyed by Lamb Weston agree that there are more interesting breakfast or brunch options available now than there used to be. Restaurants are creating more unusual and exciting breakfast menus, with the morning offerings well on their way to becoming just as diverse as those for evening meals. Here are some examples of breakfasts with a difference:
The Japanese one: Koya Bar, Soho
Koya Bar, sister to the sorely missed Japanese restaurant Koya, offers a breakfast menu from 8.30am each day in Soho. A fusion between the udon broths Koya is most famous for a range of flavours more familiar to the British palate, the menu at Koya features a selection of ‘porridges’ made from rice, and udon soups. English breakfast soup comprises ‘floppy’ bacon, soft egg, shiitake mushrooms and udon noodles in a rich dashi soup while ‘okayu’ rice porridge is topped with pickles, soy simmered fish, and an egg with the option to add ‘natto’ (gooey, alien-esque fermented soy beans) and wakame seaweed. Chilled teas are served in place of coffees, and a ‘Japanese breakfast’ of rice, fish and miso soup as opposed to bacon and eggs, make this a light, sophisticated way to start the day.
The Indian one: Dishoom, various locations across UK
Indian food might seem a rather aggressive choice to opt for first thing (reheated curry breakfasts may evoke memories of the student diet for some), but Dishoom’s offerings are a clever balance between good quality British breakfast meats and classic Indian spices and techniques. The ‘Full Bombay’ consists of akuri (spicy scrambled eggs), smoked streaky bacon from The Ginger Pig, peppery Shropshire pork sausages, masala
baked beans, grilled field mushroom, grilled tomato and buttered pau buns. Vegetarian options such as the kedjriwal – two fried eggs on chilli cheese toast - and a spicy omelette with fire bread, are abundant as a nod to the vegetarian-heavy Indian diet, while the restaurant’s naan rolls - for which it is famed - with fillings such as eggs, bacon and chilli tomato jam are a clever amalgamation of Indian and British flavours. Rotis filled with fruits and mascarpone, on the other hand, give the option of a sweeter start to the day. Dishoom serves breakfast from 8am, and for each breakfast bought the restaurants donates a ‘magic breakfast’ to a London school.
The Mexican One: Wahaca, various locations across UK
Besides the customary bacon and eggs and avocado toast, an item commonly found on a British breakfast menu is the more ‘exotic’ option of huevos rancheros. Mexican restaurant Wahaca serves a breakfast menu in its Oxford Circus branch, reasoning that ‘in Mexico, breakfast is a big deal’, and the offering goes above and beyond the
normal choice of ‘spicy eggs’ on toast. The ‘Full Mexican’ comprises grilled chorizo, free-range streaky bacon, two eggs, roasted tomatoes, beans and sweet potato rosti served with buttered sourdough, while a vegetarian option of sweetcorn fritters comes topped with avocado mash, roast chipotle salsa, slow-roast tomatoes and crema. The sweet-toothed can also choose from a whole range of juices and lighter dishes such as homemade granola with fruit compote and agave syrup.
The African one: Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Brixton
Ghanaian food might not be the first choice when it comes to the first meal of the day, but at Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen diners can tuck into a wide range of breakfast and brunch dishes. The restaurant started as a pop-up but now trades at Pop Brixton. Besides the all-day menu, a weekend brunch menu comprises ‘akara’ black-eyed bean fritters, served with okra, chilli, cayenne pepper and red onion with a poached egg and half an avocado; spiced beans with a fried egg, plantain pancakes and baobab butter; and a ‘JFC’ sandwich, with jollof fried chicken and half an avocado.
The virtuous one: NAMA, Notting Hill
Breakfasts don’t always have to be gut-busters, as demonstrated by Notting Hill’s NAMA. Suitably located opposite two Michelin-starred The Ledbury, its breakfast provision is about as far away from a McDonald’s breakfast muffin as you can get, being a fully raw, gluten free, organic and vegan restaurant. A ‘full English’ is on the menu, with cashew scrambled ‘eggs’, ‘bacon’ made from
smoked aubergine, Portobello and herb ‘sausage’ and raw tomato ketchup. Unsurprisingly, avocados are available to add as extras, and avocado toast is also on the menu. Raw porridges, raw pancakes and a lengthy menu of juices make up the sweeter side of the menu
The big one: Hawskmoor Guildhall, City of London
Hawksmoor’s breakfast menu, only available at the steakhouse group’s Guildhall location in the City, kicks off with a list of ‘anti-fogmatics’: Shaky Pete’s ginger brew is made with gin, ginger and lemon juice topped with London Pride, and the ‘corpse reviver’ comprises gin, triple sec, Cocchi Americano, lemon juice and Absinthe. From the drinks to the food, the Hawksmoor breakfast, named the ‘best power breakfast in London’, is a lavish, indulgent, booze-fuelled antithesis to NAMA’s (see above) angelic offering. The eponymous breakfast, at £30 for two to share, consists of a smoked bacon chop, sausages (made with pork, beef and mutton), black pudding, short-rib laced bubble and squeak, baked beans spiked with trotter, fried eggs, HP gravy and a great hunk of bone, marrow grilled. And unlimited toast. It could give you a heart attack just thinking about it,
The sophisticated one: The Set, Brighton
When you think of breakfast one typically considers one large ‘main event’, whether it be a full English, a big plate of pancakes, or some sort of iteration of ‘bowl food’ (acai, bircher muesli, or porridge). Small plates, served tasting-menu style, however, are not something usually associated with any meal before midday. The Set, in Brighton’s Artist Residence hotel, begs to differ and serves a sophisticated menu of small, breakfast-inspired plates that are ordered dim-sum style by ticking choices off on a menu card. Middle white ‘pork sarnie’ with peach ketchup and mustard mayo is a grown-up sausage sandwich, while bubble and squeak with onion jam, a butter fried egg and Marmite hollandaise is the restaurant’s answer to the best parts of a vegetarian full English. A sweet option of buttermilk pancakes with peanut butter and jam make £7 feel like good value for what is essentially a PBJ. Panna cotta, served with milk ice cream and granola, is made with ‘cereal milk’- just in case customers forgot they were at breakfast. “It’s mostly stuff you’d associate with breakfast but with an added element or twist,” says chef patron Dan Kenny. “There’s an element of risk, but I didn’t want to do a basic breakfast menu.”
The niche one: Butterscotch Bakery, White City
White City Development’s brand new Butterscotch Bakery has a secret - inside is a Golidlocks Porridge Bar that serves a wide range of – unsurprisingly - porridges, with a choice of 60 toppings. Customers pick a base of either organic Shipton Mill Pinhead oats with milk; activated five-grain (millet, amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa and flaxseed) porridge with homemade organic coconut milk; Greek yoghurt or chia seed pudding; or an acai smoothie bowl and then choose from a wide range of toppings that include maca powder, raw date syrup, blueberries, bourbon compote, and fudge sauce. Porridge has never been so exciting.
Cracking news for lovers of runny eggs
A breakfast favourite, dippy eggs are back on the menu, as the Food Standards Agency relaxes its guidelines. The FSA confirmed las month that British Lion eggs – eggs bearing the British Lion stamp - are safe to be eaten runny and raw, even by more vulnerable people, such as infants, children, pregnant women and elderly people. Since 1988, as a result of the salmonella scare, the government has been advising that vulnerable people should not eat eggs unless they are fully cooked.
The new advice follows a year-long risk assessment by the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food. Extensive food safety measures, introduced within the British Lion Code of Practice in 1998, are to thank for the dramatic fall in human cases of salmonella, which has resulted in the new advice. “The major reduction in the risk of salmonella in Lion eggs is testament to the work carried out by egg producers” says Heather Hancock, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency. “The measures they've taken, from vaccination of hens through to improving hygiene on farms and better transportation, have dramatically reduced salmonella levels in UK hens.”
“We very much welcomed the new FSA guidance which applies to eggs produced under the British Lion Code of Practice, including our own Heritage Breeds range," says a spokesperson for high quality egg supplier Heritage Breeds. "Eggs are as nutritious as they are delicious and it’s great to see them getting the recognition they deserve as nature’s multi-vitamin. Like all eggs, Heritage Breeds contain all essential amino acids, making them one of the best sources of protein and contain 10 essential vitamins including A, B, D and E. Heritage Breeds eggs boast rich yolks and exceptional quality egg whites - making them a firm favourite in any chef’s kitchen for a Great British fry up!”
This BigHospitality feature was sponsored by Heritage Breeds.