The best breakfasts in London
Inspired by the year she spent in Copenhagen, Alex Hely-Hutchinson’s Covent Garden café serves up a range of wholesome porridges for breakfast, plus birchers and toasties for maximum hygge. The almond-milk-soaked oats with chia seeds make for an indulgent start to the day, plus there are some exotic dishes worth a try, such as the loquat and sweet cicely porridge. Clumsies should slurp their coffee with caution: the mugs are so Nordic-chic that they don’t have handles.
This place looks a bit like a really glittering ocean-liner restaurant. Fittingly, then, breakfast is a glam affair, replete with cleansing drinks and a ‘healthy’ section packed out with chia seeds. If you’re after indulgence though 45 Jermyn Street can do that too: in the ‘favourites’ section you can binge on scrambled egg with caviar.
This cute Clerkenwell café’s secret weapon is its co-owner, a qualified nutritionist who wields her knowledge for noble ends: a healthy breakfast that also ticks the taste box. The massive full english is entirely oven-roasted and includes genuinely tasty, gluten-free toast, while the frittata muffins are each loaded with three eggs and daily changing extras. There’s a spread of cakes and pastries by the kitchen, too, so grab a seat at the back for drooling purposes – plus there are ace smoothies.
The breakfast menu at this lauded, lavish New York-style brasserie covers the usual eggs every which way (boiled with soldiers, florentine, pimped omelettes), to American-style pancakes and almond waffles. The full english breakfast costs £15.75, but if you’d prefer something a little lighter (actually, a lot lighter), porridge, fruit salad or granola are good options, or get a £10 panier for the table filled with pastries and freshly baked bread. And don’t forget to visit the boulangerie on your way out.
Occupying a sweet spot on Islington Green, this Alsatian-themed high-end brasserie from the folks behind The Wolseley serves breakfast in wood-panelled retro surroundings. Tempting standards include viennoiserie, buttermilk pancakes and various egg plates, but the Alsatian influence ups the breakfast ante in the form of buckwheat crêpes filled with ham and gruyère. The only downside is walking out of the door knowing your day can only go downhill.
It may be a gluten-free zone, but this branch of the Beyond Bread Bakery is a rousing success – particularly if you roll up for breakfast (served till 3pm each day). Of course, you’ll be wanting some bread, and the staff of life is everywhere – from toasted banana loaf with natural yoghurt to charred goat’s cheese on sourdough. The full english is a cracker too (with more of that sourdough toast, of course).
In the lowlands between Holborn and Covent Garden lies The Black Penny, a cheery café where diners will struggle to choose just one of the enticing cooked breakfasts on offer – there’s brioche french toast, crispy confit duck hash and even bubble and squeak. Make sure you sample the Gatherer – one of the finest vegetarian breakfasts in central London (grilled halloumi, sautéed spinach, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and homemade baked beans) too. Also check out its Sloane Square branch.
The Ned’s attempt at a grand railway café in the Parisian mould means that anyone looking to start their day with a ham and cheese croissant would do well to stop in here. The vibe is informal, and the menu is basically just omelettes and pastries. Nothing wrong with that.
This most fashionable of London restaurants is virtually impossible to get a dinner reservation at, unless you’re an A-list celeb. However, it does breakfast from 7am-10.30am on weekdays. Be warned: prices are very high. Eggs benedict costs £18, granola is £9 and pancakes are £15 – but the dishes are all excellent. There are also supermodel-esque juices, such as kale, cucumber and ginger. No bookings are taken, so arrive early – and smile!
The dining room at this re-launched Victorian pub looks like a cross between a cottage and a conservatory. Cosy up and enjoy the gourmet spread of coconut and pecan granola, mushrooms on toast and avocado with poached eggs – or sample the delicious bacon-and-egg bap. Teas, coffees and fresh juices are also on offer.
From the same crew behind The Palomar and The Barbary, this Tom Dixon-designed restaurant dishes out the flavours of modern Jerusalem – it’s a melting pot of the region’s most exciting edibles, from North Africa and the Middle East. Dishes include pancakes with date syrup, winter vegetables with tahini, plus a red or green shakshuka.
This riverside joint near Tower Bridge has plenty going for it – ace aquatic views from the sunny south-facing terrace, a luxe brass wraparound bar, striking herringbone flooring – but the glam-but-chilled breakfast menu is one of its best features. The eggs line-up is benedict or kiln-smoked salmon royale, both served on toasted english muffins or ‘naked’; while the virtuous ‘garden breakfast’ comes with field mushrooms, roast tomato, eggs and halloumi.
An all-day café in a handsome glass and zinc pavilion – this place bashes out quality dishes with slick service. The food here is well executed – organic bacon sandwiches, coconut-milk porridge and hearty scrambled eggs – and the specialty coffees (made with Assembly Roast) are awesome.
Even at an early hour, the dark-panelled dining rooms of this ever-popular all-day Soho restaurant buzz with the animated chatter of media types. The smooth service eases things along nicely, too. It’s largely classics on the breakfast menu: eggs all ways, porridge, kedgeree, full english. There are fruit smoothies and Scots will be heartened to see tattie scones and lorne (square) sausage on the menu.
The Covent Garden branch of this Bombay-styled café is ideally placed for morning meetings but has enough colonial knick-knacks to make you feel a million miles away from London. The Parsi power breakfasts, bacon naan roll and gently spiced chai are a hit among the masses. Green-chilli-flecked scrambled eggs are just as popular – a warming plate with traditional (and fluffy) pau buns served on the side. In a hurry? The bacon naan roll is a cult favourite, and you can grab it and go.
The richly indulgent breakfast menu here has it all: English fry-ups, shakshuka and South American-style scrambled eggs, plus a waffle section owned by the signature duck ’n’ waffle – crispy duck leg confit on a sweet waffle, topped with a fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup. Temptation abounds: truffled and baked duck eggs are served with wild mushrooms, lots of melted gruyère and toast soldiers, while drinks options include cocktails, bubbly and hot chocolate.
Venue says Join us after hours for new late night dishes, unique cocktails and perfect sunrise views everyday from 11:30PM - 5AM
If ever proof were needed that not all caffs are created equal, this Grade II-listed greasy spoon on Bethnal Green Road is it. People come here as much for the atmosphere and decor as for the (good-end-of-average) grub. Inside, it has an almost opulent feel, harking back to a time when caff culture was king in the capital. Chrome-lined vitrolite panels cover the outside, and the wood-panelled interior is full of formica tables and art deco touches. Food is still prepared with pride every day by Mama Maria – queen of the kitchen since 1966.
Venue says A classic east London café serving the local community for over a century.
It’s all about the all-day brekkie at this sweet Portobello Road café, but if you’re after a greasy fry-up, forget it – this place offers more wholesome deliciousness. Wolf down one of its superfood-stacked dishes, from to acai bowls to granola with orange zest and elderflower. Slightly naughtier are the berry pancakes (made with buckwheat flour) or the three-egg omelette (cooked in coconut oil). There are also Farm Girl outposts in Soho and Chelsea.
This eco-friendly opening initially caught our eye thanks to a health-conscious daytime menu not stinting on flavour. Breakfast’s the same bag. Rich, creamy porridge is great, literally brimming with chia seed and quinoa goodness. There are also dairy-free pots – from yoghurt with berry compote to the all-day breakfast smoothie. Farmstand has a branch in Canary Wharf, too.
Venue says SUMMER flavours have landed at Farmstand Covent Garden & Farmstand Canary Wharf
Ah tea and crumpets, the most English of breakfast duos. Thankfully, the folks behind this café have steered clear of stuffy chintz and instead present a very modern version of the combo. Buttermilk sourdough crumpets are served with a choice of toppings – we liked the raspberry jam best. After strong coffee and grease? This probably isn’t the place for you. But for a light morning bite, in a laidback setting, with a professionally brewed cuppa, this is a proper nice spot.
Businessmen are clearly the target demographic for the mainly massive and meaty breakfasts at this esteemed steakhouse (the Guildhall branch is the only one serving at this time of day). You could opt for porridge or granola, but that’s missing the point – here, it’s all about steak, hash browns and eggs; short-rib bubble and squeak; Manx kippers with poached eggs; or a full English that would fill an elephant. All the incidentals – filter coffee, squeezed juice – are also excellent.
This bistro may be known for its former chef Ollie Dabbous, but now under Sylvain Roucayrol it’s become an extremely decent Basque-influenced spot. Try the iberico ham toastie with quail’s eggs, lip-smacking churros and chocolate, or go all out with the full Basque breakfast.
Venue says The menu, by Sylvain Roucayrol, is ingredient-led with simple, seasonal dishes and a subtle accent of the Basque region.
The ground floor of super-chef Ollie Dabbous’s Michelin-starred restaurant-and-bar complex serves up a range of divine breakfast treats. There are the pimped-up basics – like the Jersey milk porridge or the viennoiserie (freshly baked on site daily) – but also some more adventurous, pricier options (try the smoked eel omelette or oysters with caviar).
This bustling Sicilian café, with its perfectly formed pastries, posh cereal bowls and virtuous egg-based breakfasts, is a regular South Kensington stopping point for well-heeled local mamas and their kids en route to the local prep school. Interior design nuts will swoon over the patterned pottery and vibrant colour palette, while the rest of us can just enjoy a serious slice of la bella vita at surprisingly un-SW7 prices, complete with iced coffee that comes in a Martini glass and an array of hand-pressed exotic juices.
Breakfast might look like an afterthought on The Ivy Kensington Brasserie’s all-day dining menu, but despite the less-than-imaginative options, you’re guaranteed to get impeccable food for a bright start to your day. Luxurious dishes such as the lobster-and-asparagus gratin are highlights and really play to the westside London crowd.
A stylish little Neal’s Yard café from the people behind The Barbary, you can sit in for breakfast and the menu is divided into three sections: granola, toasted sourdough and bakes. On the toast you can spread scrumptious things like soft-boiled Clarence Court eggs (really good produce is a big thing here) and avocado, or baba ganoush and feta.
Originally launched as the overflow branch of udon noodle joint Koya (since closed), this place has gone well beyond its remit, opening for morning meals too. As well as the classic Japanese combo of grilled fish, miso soup, pickles and rice, Koya Soho turns breakfast on its head with morning udon dishes such as hot noodles with raw egg and soy sauce (kama tama udon), and full-english-breakfast-inspired egg, bacon and shiitake mushroom udon.
A little slice of California in the city, Malibu Kitchen is one of nine restaurants at the super swish hotel-cum-members-club, The Ned. LA-style superfood is the speciality here – but happily, they’re not evangelical about it: hash browns, bacon and quesadillas are available, too. Of course, that grease is heavily counterbalanced by acai bowls, turmeric pancakes and coconut yoghurt galore.
The East-meets-West cooking here – while no longer such a surprise – remains a delight. Everyday egg dishes are gently tweaked (poached eggs with Japanese yuzu citrus hollandaise, for instance), but we like the original Pantry creations, such as the signature omelette of sugar-cured prawns, with its runny middle and tangy chilli sambal. (Ask for extra sambal upfront; there’s never enough.)
This seafood restaurant in the fancy Kimpton Fitzroy hotel – gawp at the marble staircases and limestone pillars – has a British-American twist in the mornings. Take the vanilla waffles or keep it simple with the full english. For the healthily minded, sample the acai berry ‘super bowls’.
Venue says Join us every day between 6pm and 7pm for Oyster Happy Hour, where all oysters will be half price!
The bread’s the star of the breakfast menu at this swish Danish bakery. It’s all about simple, dough-based flavour combos: floury white rolls stuffed with bacon; a parma ham and cheese toasted focaccia seasoned with just the subtlest lick of mustard-mayo. Take yours to go, or dine in style on Ole & Steen’s smart dark-wood tables. Avo and eggs, luxury porridge and yoghurt are on offer, too – but when the bread’s this good, why branch out? There are other outlets in Richmond, Canary Wharf, Bedford Avenue, Victoria, Wigmore Street, Westfield, High Street Kensington, Charing Cross, and Eccleston Yards.
The Dualit toasters on each table have been a feature ever since this enduringly popular hotspot opened. But really, with a breakfast menu this intriguing, why would you go for toast that you can just as easily make at home? Ottolenghi has put shakshuka, the North African dish of eggs, peppers and tomatoes, on London’s culinary map; and it’s raised baked beans to glorious heights in dishes with chunks of ham hock and fried eggs. This is probably what your first breakfast in heaven tastes like.
An understated canteen set in a classy converted bike shed, Rochelle Canteen is best enjoyed in the summer: what’s nicer than breakfasting outside surrounded by flowers? The menu here is short and sweet: choose between porridge, eggs on toast and a few other items. NB: It opens at 9am, so it’s one for the later workers.
More spacious than Islington’s original Ottolenghi, Rovi bashes out dishes with Middle Eastern, Greek and Asian flavours. There is the shakshuka with duck egg, or the grilled manouri cheese with za’atar honey, alongside scrambled eggs on jalapeño cornbread and the ‘full house’ breakfast with a sumptuous potato rosti.
A kind of produce multiplex, Sourced Market bills itself as a shop-deli-off-licence. The menu features breakfast bagels, vegan and avo hotpots, and handy build-your-own grain bowls. Think: quality fruit and veg, goji berries and a lot of milk substitutes. If you’re not around Marylebone, there are also joints around St Pancras, Barbican and Victoria.
For the most part, the Spitalfields offshoot of Fergus Henderson’s pioneering, clattery nose-to-tail joint replicates the Smithfield original in miniature, but it’s got an early-morning advantage over its alma mater: breakfast. It’s marvellous – a gutsy trip through trad classics such as devilled kidneys, ‘scotch woodcock’ (toast with scrambled eggs and gentleman’s relish) and slabs of just-crisp blood pudding with house brown sauce. Even the granola – topped with poached apricots and rich yoghurt – is ace. Plus, there are brownies and cinnamon ‘rum buns’. Historic stuff.
If you like to start your day with a sense of occasion, it doesn’t get much better than The Wolseley, Piccadilly’s iconic art deco grand café. From a just-baked pastry or an omelette Arnold Bennett, to a plate of smoked salmon with scrambled eggs or the creamed porridge with peach and apricot compote. Prices are not low – the oligarchic caviar-and-lobster omelette is a whopping £55 – but at a place of this exceptional quality you wouldn’t expect them to be. During the week, things kick off at 7am.
Venue says Our celebrated breakfasts are served every day from 7am during the week and 8am on the weekend.
A word-of-mouth favourite of Southwark Street’s many jobbing architects, journos and early-rising tourists, The Table is an ace little spot for grab-and-go coffees, pastries and superlative sandwiches. It’s also a fine place to dine in, with a wider brekkie menu heavy on eggs, avocado and pancakes, as well as a vaunted vegan riff on a full english. You can also ask for some off-the-menu granola. More ‘old-school’ morning meetings could – should! – be incentivised with a breakfast cocktail.
It may be named after a Venezuelan jungle plant, but this eatery serves a fusion of modern European and South American. The bakery selection is on point (try the Danish basket), and there is also an extensive egg menu, including the royale, benedict and florentine.
Or while away the weekend?
Brunch in London is bigger than ever. You can barely set foot out your front door at the weekend without stumbling across a steaming pan of shakshuka or finding the waft of waffles in the air. So let us guide you to the best spots in town for a kick-ass weekend brunch in London, from boozy bottomless brunches to traditional Full English fry-ups and even New York-style feasts, you can start off your weekend in style.
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