Whether you're waking up in Soho ready for a big breakfast or grabbing an early morning coffee before work, Soho has a great range of cafés and patisseries for a breakfast of any length. Choice venues include Berwick Street's shabby chic Flat White and much-loved, trendily utilitarian Fernandez & Wells. Find the best breakfast joint to cater to your needs with Time Out's guide to breakfast in Soho. Do you agree with the choices? Use the comments box below or tweet your suggestions.
The three outposts of classy Fernandez & Wells bustle all day with the clatter and chatter of Soho folk on breaks; this plainly decorated yet welcoming café branch (the other two are dubbed ‘food and wine bar’ and ‘espresso bar’) is near perfect on every front. Coffee is roasted to F&W’s own specifications and produces a consistently smooth, clean-flavoured cup: a black coffee had not a hint of bitterness, even at the last sip. Staff are earnest, polite and eager to please. The food – inventive sandwiches and an irresistible selection of own-made cakes – clearly uses top-end ingredients. The counter seating and stools don’t make Fernandez & Wells a place to linger, but it’s hard to find a better place in Soho to stop for a coffee.
This diminutive, dimly lit room beside the veg stalls of Berwick Street Market was one of the places that signalled, when it opened in 2005, the increasing influence of Antipodean coffee culture in London. Hugely popular from the outset, it has changed little over the years – even though there’s been a change of ownership (the people behind Giaconda Dining Rooms took over in 2012). The food menu is small but sound. Decor and seating are basic, and the place can feel cramped when busy. But at quieter times, Flat White is bliss – especially if the weather is good and you can bag a seat outside.
A little sister of the other Gail’s scattered across London, this branch of the artisan bakery is fighting its corner, quite literally, in Soho. The interior decor is a product of the same white/red/grey palette of its siblings, and the zinc-topped counters and exposed lightbulbs parading around the perimeter of the room remind you that Gail’s is taking its arrival in W1 seriously. Standing united on multi-tiered displays are an interesting mix of baked delicacies, largely inspired by northern or Eastern Europe.
Jackson & Rye is modelled on a smart US diner, and - mostly - successfully so. The weekday kitchen kicks off the day with a diner-style breakfast menu (8-11.30am) that includes creamed grits (a maize porridge originally from the Southern states) topped with flaked almonds, berries and maple syrup, and enough brunch-style egg dishes to keep a Boston cabbie’s blood pressure up; our baked eggs with ham and spinach were slightly overcooked, a common problem when using a cast-iron cocotte dish. At weekends the menu shifts towards a more brunch-oriented menu (9am-4.30pm Sat; 10am-4.30pm Sun).
Breakfast for two with service: around £25
This second branch (next door) of the ever-popular udon noodle joint Koya opens for morning meals. As well as the classic Japanese combo of grilled fish, miso soup, pickles and rice, Koya Bar is turning breakfast on its head with morning udon dishes such as hot noodles with raw egg and soy sauce (kamatama udon), and English breakfast-inspired egg, bacon and shiitake mushroom udon. There’s also rice porridge with mixed mushrooms, egg and pickles, or kedgeree-style with smoked haddock. Expect Koya’s usual high-quality, handmade wheat noodles plus hot green tea or cold barley tea.
Breakfast for two with service: around £30
Maison Bertaux is a blessed relief from identikit coffee chains – the interior is painted cream and pale blue, and, in Diamond Jubilee year, festooned with bunting and royal ephemera. There’s an upright piano wedged into the tiny ground floor, and art on the walls of the first-floor room. The window is packed with top-notch baked goods, from creamy fruit tarts to sultana scones.
Surroundings are spartan: on our visit, the white-washed walls were decorated with an exhibition of dramatic photographic prints, while a pair of ceiling fans idly pushed the air around. A splash of colour came courtesy of the blood red counter, while scuffed school chairs and a soundtrack of hip-hop beats brought a modish old-school edge. The small savoury list shows potential, with a handful of interesting open sandwiches and salads.
‘Dark rye bread. Cinnamon buns. Coffee’ reads the sign (Helvetica, of course) in the picture window of this stylish Finnish café. That pretty much sums it up. Flat circular sandwiches of tasty dark rye bread enclose fillings such as prawn, smoked salmon, ham and cheese, or hard-boiled egg and herring (the last with a tangy mustard sauce). The cinnamon buns are dark, sticky and hefty. Coffee is well made and strong.
On a sunny Saturday morning, Nude was a sea of milky foam, artfully feathered on a non-stop procession of cups. The long, light room was packed out, and not just with hip caffeinistas but parents and young children too. Despite the crowds, solo customers were allowed to sit at tables for two and watch the world go by. Nude takes its food ever more seriously. The brunch/lunch menu was imaginative, and very popular: half a dozen plates of ricotta pancakes, with roasted grape and pomegranate molasses went by us in 20 minutes, and much else besides.
Rapha CC is a cycle clothing shop and café. The café area occupies a little less than half the floor space of this very smart cycle clothing shop, and it provides ample seating for those wanting to rest their feet after patrolling on nearby Regent Street or picking up a pair of merino knee warmers from across the room. At the table next to ours, two young Japanese people relaxed with shopping bags nestling at their feet. And it is a remarkably relaxing place, largely because of the chatty but efficient staff. And man, do they love coffee. A lovely haven near Piccadilly Circus.
This is the third branch of what was formerly known as Tapped & Packed (the other two are on Rathbone Place and Tottenham Court Road), and don’t be surprised if it’s not the last. The formula is simple and very effective. Buy good beans and treat them with respect. Create a space that’s unintimidating and relaxing – a very long space in this case, with skylights running almost its full length. Food: majoring on sandwiches and salad of reasonable prices (by Soho standards), plus the usual baked goods. A completely satisfying experience. Leaving was a wrench.
Even at an early hour, the dark-panelled dining rooms of this ever-popular Soho all-day restaurant buzz with the animated chatter of media types, and breakfast here makes you feel important, even if you don’t have the head of BBC3 on speed-dial. The smooth service eases things along nicely too. It’s largely classics on the menu: eggs all ways, porridge, kedgeree, full English. There are fruit smoothies for the pious, and Scots will be heartened to see tattie scones and lorne (flat) sausage.
Breakfast for two with service: around £30
The big brother of the Ottolenghi cafés, NOPI has the same sense of culinary adventure found in Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookery books. The menu advises choosing three small sharing plates each, though it’s possible to have a three-course meal. The best dish from the veg list was a thrilling five-spice tofu with tomato and cardamom passata and braised aubergine. Six dishes, plus a shared pudding and one glass of wine, came to more than £90 at lunch – spend less and you’ll leave peckish.
Introduced to London by Alan Yau in 2008, this smart outpost of a Milanese bakery chain remains a popular all-day option. The food is varied enough to keep diners coming back for more: as well as cakes, pastries and breads, there’s a choice of filled focaccia (parma ham, say, or mortadella), hot dishes (lasagne, aubergine parmigiana), slices of pizza and lots of attractive salads (chicken and avocado, mozzarella and tomato). Prices are higher than average, but it’s all quality, seasonal stuff.
Venue says: “Dine with us and enjoy live music! Our swinging house bands play six nights a week from 9.30pm (9pm on Sundays).”
Corbin and King, the restaurateurs behind the Wolseley and the Delaunay, know how to run grand brasseries. When you combine this with a historic and impressive art deco setting – the former ballroom of a vast hotel at Piccadilly Circus – you already know you’re in a destination restaurant. Yet rather than hiking the bill and making Brasserie Zédel ‘exclusive’, this time the duo have priced dishes low enough to make Café Rouge blush. You’ll find set meal deals such as three courses for £11.75, and even an à la carte dinner for two might only come to £80 or so. The menu is resolutely old-school French; the £19.75 formule offers a starter of lamb’s lettuce and beetroot, a choice of duck confit or grilled salmon for main course, and ice-cream or sorbet for dessert. The more interesting dishes are on the carte; choucroute alsacienne (a big heap of sauerkraut with hunks of salted pork, charcuterie and sausages) was a delight. Yet the very size of the Zédel – it’s of ocean-liner dimensions – can count against the place. With an ever-changing relay of staff, we’ve found the service to be confused at times, and dishes don’t always arrive à point.
In Soho’s crowded lunchtime landscape, it’s all about offering something different and new. The area’s latest addition, Flatplanet, has created a new gimmick with a USP of topped flatbreads. The pittas come with toppings such as ‘Moroccan chicken’ (£4.85) – houmous, sour cream and tabouleh – or spicy cured sausage with rocket and parmesan shavings (‘El Diablo’). While we like the concept, a lukewarm chewy pitta base paired with a cold topping can’t beat a crisp pizza with a meltingly hot topping.
Mother Mash is a lively place for tucking into some prime comfort food. The three-step ordering process adds to the fun – choose your mash, choose your main, choose your gravy – although a variety of enticing options at each stage ensure this isn’t as simple as it sounds. On our visit, a daily special of toulouse sausages was served with a creamy helping of mustard mash and farmer’s gravy (likeably flavoured with red wine, mushroom and onion).
Soho restaurants open and close all the time, but Stockpot somehow remains. Known for its wallet-friendly, filling food, the restaurant attracts a diverse clientele. From Japanese tourists to groups of elderly ladies enjoying a pre-theatre meal and local workers reading the papers while tucking into a hearty lunch, Stockpot unites them all. The nostalgia-packed menu is served in tacky, old-school surroundings – a wooden interior with varnished tables and sticky plastic menus adds to the experience – it all seems stuck in the 1960s, but charmingly so.
Around the corner from Covent Garden’s main piazza is Boulevard Brasserie, a low-lit restaurant set across three levels and decorated in Parisian style – think chequered flooring and old, framed posters – to match the French cuisine on offer. Its proximity to the Royal Opera House and a number of theatres makes it a popular choice for pre-show dining. The menu covers classics like moules marinières, boeuf bourguignon and duck confit as well as traditional British dishes such as fish and chips and roasted pork belly. As expected of a French brasserie the wine list is varied and can be ordered by the carafe.