Breakfast is booming in the City of London as bankers and brokers meet over coffee and eggs and restaurateurs seek alternative income streams to the long lunches where wine once lubricated the wheels of business.
I’ve been eating around the financial district for the past couple of weeks, generally trying the full English -- or its equivalent -- with a glass of orange juice and a cappuccino.
Here’s are my Top 10 breakfasts in the City of London.
1. Hawksmoor Guildhall +44-20-7397-8120 or http://thehawksmoor.com/locations/guildhall.
Food: This is the winner. Each element -- Plum Pudding bacon, sausages (pork, beef and mutton), eggs, hash brown, grilled mushrooms, roast tomatoes, trotter baked beans -- is full of flavor. The juice is so fresh, it’s like the waitress squeezed it into your mouth. The service is so good, she might. The coffee is as hot as One Direction, only less frothy.
Service: Hawksmoor is recognized as one of the U.K.’s top employers and it shows. I haven’t been surrounded by such friendly and attentive people since I lingered outside a Hare Krishna temple.
Ambience: The dining room is busy and buzzy, with people who look like they are having a good time. It’s enjoyable, but you are in a basement and the lighting isn’t flattering.
Price: 24.75 pounds ($38.65).
Verdict: Tina Turner of breakfasts, simply the best. 9/10.
2. Dishoom Shoreditch +44-20-7420-9324 or http://www.dishoom.com.
Food: The Full Bombay consists of akuri (scrambled egg with onion, tomato, chili powder, turmeric, green chili, coriander), back bacon, Cumberland sausage, tomatoes grilled on the vine and toast. The juice is genuinely freshly squeezed as it is at only three of the 10 locations. The coffee is well made.
Service: Friendly and appears relaxed, yet very efficient.
Ambience: You can sit outside. It’s lovely on a summer day. Dishoom is just outside the City so handy for private meetings. The Shoreditch crowd is mixed and refreshingly un-corporate.
Price: 15.30 pounds, the cheapest of all.
Verdict: Great place for a summer breakfast, good value. 8/10.
3. Modern Pantry +44-20-7553-9210 or http://www.themodernpantry.co.uk/
Food: Go off piste here with the sugar-cured New Caledonian prawn omelet, with green chili, spring onions, coriander and smoked-chili sambal, with toast. It’s very good. The coffee was great, as you might expect with a chef from New Zealand, where coffee is an obsession. But the “freshly squeezed” juice is bought in.
Service: Owner Anna Hansen’s relaxed style is reflected in the service, which is friendly and accommodating.
Ambience: Modern Pantry is also just outside the City. It’s beautiful to sit outside on a summer’s day. Indoors, it’s a little intimate for business meetings.
Price: 16.88 pounds.
Verdict: Similar qualities to Dishoom, only drops a point for the bought-in juice. 7/10.
4. 1 Lombard Street +44-20-7929-6611 or http://bit.ly/1ZzZd
Food: The breakfast includes tea or coffee, juice from a bottle, croissants, toast and pastries as well as eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, tomato and mushrooms. The black pudding is made by Vickers Game Ltd. on Casey Fields Farm. The bacon is cured by Vickers and the pork is supplied by Windsor Farm. The Cumberland sausages are made by Westminster Meat Market Ltd.
Service: Prompt, friendly and efficient.
Ambience: You’re in a former bank. It feels corporate. But it’s comfortable and there are plenty of newspapers. There is piano music in the background.
Price: 20.19 pounds.
Verdict: The cooking and ingredients are fine and the breakfast is good value. 6/10.
5. Duck & Waffle +44-20-3640-7310 or http://duckandwaffle.com/
Food: Homemade Yorkshire pork sausage using rare-breed, free-range shoulder & neck, with herbs and spices; black pudding from West Cork; Charles Ashbridge free-range, rare-breed bacon, U.K. free-range eggs; tomato, field mushroom, hash browns, trotter-braised beans, sourdough toast. Chef Dan Doherty’s breakfast is one of the best. But the “freshly squeezed” juice doesn’t taste like it has hung out with oranges lately.
Service: Inconsistent. On a good day, you can feel loved. On a bad, it feels aggressive at street level, passive-aggressive at reception and passive once you are seated. (It was fine this time.) Only the Guardian was available when I arrived and left. There’s a newsagent just over the road.
Ambience: The views are among the best in London.
Price: 21.84 pounds.
Verdict: Good food, amazing view. 5/10.
6. Bread Street Kitchen +44-20-7592-1616 or http://www.gordonramsay.com/bread-street
Food: Two free-range eggs, two rashers of smoked streaky bacon from Dingly Dell Pork, pork sausage from Dingly Dell, using shoulder and belly, mushrooms, tomato. Toast costs extra. The coffee was notably good. The juice tastes like it went to school with Tropicana and left before graduating.
Ambience: Bread Street Kitchen is a big restaurant with various nooks, which means you can have a meeting without being heard or a job interview with some hope of not being seen.
Price: 20.48 pounds.
Verdict: The breakfast is acceptable, if unexciting. 5/10.
7. Bonds +44-20-7657-8090 or http://www.bonds-restaurant.co.uk/
Food: Two eggs any style, smoked streaky bacon, “rare-breed pork,” Lincolnshire sausages, black pudding, breakfast potatoes, field mushrooms, grilled tomato, basket of morning pastries or toast with butter and preserves. It’s a good-quality hotel breakfast.
Service: Fine without being very friendly or attentive.
Ambience: High-ceilinged hotel dining room, with fine linen and tableware. Somewhere to take your parents.
Price: 25.31 pounds.
Verdict: Remember the “Waldorf Salad” episode of “Fawlty Towers,” first broadcast in March 1979, when an American diner complains that the juice isn’t fresh? “Isn’t it?” Basil asks, baffled. “We’ve just opened the bottle.” Same story here. The “freshly squeezed” juice comes from a bottle. Freshly squeezed? Freshly unscrewed. 5/10.
8. Coq d’Argent +44-20-7395-5000 or http://www.coqdargent.co.uk/.
Food: Two eggs, Cumberland sausage, sweet-cured streaky bacon, black pudding, roast tomato, rosti, mushrooms, home-made baked beans. Mickael Weiss is a very talented chef, who should be better-known. This is one of the best breakfasts.
Service: Friendly and professional.
Ambience: Coq d’Argent is in the heart of the City and it’s a business venue. Breakfast here is for business, not fun.
Price: 24.19 pounds.
Verdict: The cappuccino is the worst I’ve paid for in years. If I were served it on Ryanair, I’d be unhappy. It tastes like that nasty stuff you get from machines that are hostile to humanity. It’s Dalek coffee. (The coffee in fellow D&D London venue 3 South Place is strikingly similar.) I was served a beautiful cup after complaining. You should, too. 5/10.
9. Brasserie Blanc +44-20-7710-9440 or http://www.brasserieblanc.com/
Food: This is the value option, a basic breakfast of bacon, sausages, tomato, egg and toast. Brasserie Blanc says it is planning a revamp across the chain in coming weeks.
Ambience: The place was almost empty. It would be a good venue for a job interview or an affair. No one will see you.
Price: 15.75 pounds, including a tip of 2 pounds.
Verdict: The coffee is watery and the juice not nice, but this breakfast isn’t bad for the price. 4/10.
10. 3 South Place +44-20-3215-1270 or http://www.southplacehotel.com/restaurants-and-bars/3-south-place/
Food: Blythburgh Bacon (two pieces of streaky and one of back) dry cured and lightly smoked with Oakwood. The Cumberland sausages are made with 60 percent shoulder meat and 40 percent fat and seasoned with sage and other spices. The black pudding is Morris Gold and the free-range eggs from Bowland Forest. The Italian plum tomatoes that are slow roasted and seasoned with thyme and parsley, served with grilled Portobello mushrooms and baked beans that are made in house. The coffee is rubbish.
Service: Prompt and efficient.
Ambience: Feels like the hotel it is, and the fact there were only two other guests when I arrived didn’t help. Sit on the low sofas by the windows and your food is close to eye level. Plenty of newspapers, which is good.
Price: 27 pounds, the most expensive of all.
Verdict: I enjoyed the food a lot and the juice is really freshly squeezed. But the coffee speaks to me: It says, go somewhere else for breakfast until they fix it. 4/10.
Failed to qualify: Mercer +44-20-7628-0001 or http://www.themercer.co.uk/
Verdict: Closed for a private event. 0/10.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include the New York and London weekend guides, Farah Nayeri on film, Lewis Lapham on history, Jeremy Gerard on U.S. theater and Greg Evans and Craig Seligman on film.