Breakfast is the one meal the Brits have always done well. The novelist Somerset Maugham once observed that "to eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.'
That’s no longer true, of course, but it still wouldn’t be a bad idea to eat nothing but breakfast in London.
The city has one of the most dynamic and diverse food scenes in the world, and while everyone knows the range you can find at night - from a heart-stopping Indian curry to a table full of Middle Eastern mezze to a grand old British roast – it’s even more energizing to experience this range of culinary experiences as your first meal of the day.
For one thing, the Brits have been serving notable morning meals for centuries. In the 1300s, a full, well-made breakfast preceded a day of hunting for the upper class.
In the Victorian era, the expansion of the British Empire and the onset of the Industrial Revolution gave a newly wealthy class a chance to show off at breakfast, with tables stocked with exotic ingredients, as well as an array of English staples such as meat pies, full hams, and eggs.
Bloomberg asked leading chefs from around the UK and the US to share their favorite London breakfast dishes and the places to find them. The picks range from a hefty bacon sandwich made with house-cured meat to a Japanese repast and, of course, a full English set-up. Here are their recommendations.
Campania & Jones
Breakfast: Uova e Spinaci
This small Italian restaurant in East London is a top tip of chef Angela Hartnett, who lives nearby. “It’s just really simple and unfussy, when many restaurants are trying too hard these days,” she says, noting her favorite breakfast of spinach (or asparagus, when available) with fried eggs and Pecorino cheese.
The brick walls are bare, and there are just a few wooden tables and chairs in Columbia Road, best-known for its Sunday flower market. “The service is friendly, there’s a good vibe, and they do takeaway coffee, too,” Hartnett says. 23 Ezra St, Bethnal Green; recommended by Angela Hartnett, chef/owner of Murano and Café Murano in London.
Brooks & Gao
Breakfast: Baked Egg in Aubergine Imam
This coffee shop in the south London suburb of Streatham has vegan specialties, as well as coveted baked eggs, with additional offerings that change by the day – and it flies under just about everyone’s radar, except for that of chef Anna Hansen, who was born in Canada and raised in New Zealand.
“I live in Streatham, and it’s my local,” she says. “I love this dish. Grilled aubergines and an egg are cooked in a rich tomato sauce spiced with cinnamon and paprika, blobs of feta on top, and sumac, served with sourdough toast. It’s delicious comfort food that is healthy and heartwarming at the same time. Also, they serve the best coffee. It’s an elegant place – not quite hole-in-the-wall, but simple and pared back, with a great playlist.” 28 the High Parade, Streatham High Road; recommended by Anna Hansen, chef/co-owner of the Modern Pantry in London.
Riding House Café
Breakfast: Buttermilk Pancakes
This Fitzrovia café was an early-adopter of the all-day-dining model when it opened in 2011. With London property prices and local taxes climbing, you need to squeeze as much revenue as you can from a site. The breakfast menu is varied, from full English to shakshuka, but it’s the buttermilk pancakes that grab the attention of chef Vivek Singh.
They are served with either berries, vanilla clotted cream, and maple syrup, or triple-smoked streaky bacon and maple syrup. “They have pretty much everything for the good and for the greedy, but it is the buttermilk pancakes I love best,” he says. 43-51 Great Titchfield St, Fitzrovia – recommended by Vivek Singh, chef/co-owner of Cinnamon Club, Cinnamon Kitchen, and Cinnamon Bazaar in London.
Breakfast: Shakshuka, Halvah, and Chocolate Danish, and a Flat White
The famed Israeli-born chef Yotam Ottlolenghi made his name in London, opening his first eponymous cafe in 2002 with a menu that helped familiarize the city with dishes such shakshuka (eggs baked in a tomato sauce) and hummus with pools of olive oil. His culinary empire has since spread around the city.
Jean-Georges Vongerichten appreciates the breakfast served at the Belgravia outpost, near his own dining room at the Connaught. “I have always loved those Middle Eastern flavors that Ottolenghi does so well,” he says. “It reminds me of Istanbul. A flat white is my go-to morning coffee drink, and it’s perfect with the halvah and chocolate Danish. What’s not to love about that pastry?” 13 Motcomb St, Belgravia, SW1X 8LB; recommended by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, chef/owner of Jean-Georges in New York and Jean-Georges at the Connaught in London.
Breakfast: Green Vegetable and Cheddar Omelet
A pioneer in Britain’s sustainable food movement since 2002, Daylesford has created a small empire of restaurants with attached shops that feature meats, dairy, baked goods, and produce from its Gloucestershire Farm. Michelin-starred chef Anne-Sophie Pic favors the location in Notting Hill because she likes the neighborhood and the colorful houses.
Sure, the breakfast menu is stocked with classics such as pancakes, but Pic has a secret: an off-the-menu cheddar omelet, made with cheese and eggs from Daylesford dairy and whatever greens are in season from the garden (kale, spinach, and, in springtime, peas). Pair it with a fresh-pressed orange juice, and you’ve got the perfect morning meal. 208-212 Westbourne Grove; recommended by Anne-Sophie Pic, consulting chef of La Dame de Pic in London and Singapore.
Breakfast: The Convict
Restaurateur Jason Atherton takes his daughters to this South London café for a weekend treat. “They’ve got a sandwich called the Convict, which is incredible,” he says. “It’s an English muffin toasted, with crispy bacon, sausage, hash browns, and fried egg. And then a spicy sauce, almost like a sambal. It’s got to be thousands of calories.” Milk is popular and doesn’t accept bookings, so be prepared to wait for a table. 18-20 Bedford Hill – recommended by Jason Atherton, chef/co-owner of Pollen Street Social, London, and the Clocktower, New York.
Breakfast: Pellicci’s Full English
This family-run East End café has been serving a full English breakfast since 1900. It’s a plate piled with sausage, egg, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms, with fried bread or toast, all for £7.80 - and you can substitute baked beans, if you must. The crowded room is little-changed in decades, with its paneled walls and art deco styling. “It’s a London landmark,” says chef Mark Hix, a regular. “You can’t beat a full English when it’s properly cooked and not messed about with,” he says. 332 Bethnal Green Rd; recommended by Mark Hix , chef/co-owner of Tramshed and Hix Soho in London.
Breakfast: Japanese Breakfast
Mayfair's famously glamorous hotel traces its history to 1856 and is now an art deco landmark filled with celebrities and the super-rich. In such luxurious surroundings, the £45 price tag for the “Japanese” breakfast – one of the most expensive among other options such as “European” and “Healthy” – wouldn’t raise many eyebrows. The dish, of miso soup, grilled salmon, poached egg, and steamed rice, comes with sides of pickles, ajitsuke-nori (seaweed), and green tea. Presented on white china on a black tray, it is the pick of Ruth Rogers. “It’s very salty, with a lot of protein, and I like that start to the day,” she says. Brook Street, Mayfair; recommended by Ruth Rogers, chef/owner of River Café in London.
Saray Broadway Café
Breakfast: Gözleme with Spinach and Cheese
This East London market, in Hackney, has more of a neighborhood feel than the better-known Borough Market. It has been a home to traders since the 1890s and features clothing, arts, and crafts, as well as food. The street is lined with pubs and restaurants, including the unassuming Saray Broadway Café, a favorite of New York chef Marcus Samuelsson.
When he’s in London, he always makes the time: “I love to stop by on the weekends and pick up a delicious Turkish flatbread with spinach and fresh cheese,” he says, noting that it’s from a huge round of dough that’s stuffed and cooked on a griddle right in the shop’s window. 58 Broadway Market; recommended by Marcus Samuelsson, chef/owner of Red Rooster in New York and London.
The Breakfast Club
Breakfast: Avocado on Rye
You can see from the long queues down the street just how popular this mini-chain is. It was founded in London’s Soho by two friends in 2005 and now has outposts in Brighton and Oxford, as well as several London branches. There’s a long menu of British and American favorites at reasonable prices, including a by-now-ubiquitous avocado toast; here, they opt for rye.
“It’s healthier and, of course, it’s a much tastier option,” says World’s Best Female Chef Clare Smyth of the bread choice. “They also add lemon, basil, and toasted pumpkin seeds, as well as chili flakes. It is a really good, local, easygoing place and exactly what everyone needs for a good, no-frills neighborhood breakfast.” 5-9 Battersea Rise; recommended by Clare Smyth, chef/owner of Core by Clare Smyth in London.
45 Jermyn St
Breakfast: Scrambling Prawns
This smart restaurant, behind the luxury Fortnum & Mason store, recalls a glamorous age when lunches were long and dinner was more often accompanied by Champagne than sparkling water. It’s open all day, kicking off with a breakfast that features a list of healthy options, as well as less-virtuous favorites such as the Full English.
“I love everything about the place,” says chef Tom Kitchin, who likes to drop in while visiting London from his Edinburgh restaurant. “It’s old school.” His favorite dish on the breakfast menu is the scrambling prawns, which features large shrimp scrambled with eggs, with a side of buttered sourdough toast. “This dish puts a spin on the classic scrambled eggs, and is a great - if a little indulgent - way to kick start the weekend.” 45 Jermyn St., St. James’s; recommended by Tom Kitchin, chef/owner of the Kitchin in Edinburgh.
Breakfast: Three Rotis
A casual Thai restaurant in Shoreditch with a big reputation for authentic and spicy fare, Smoking Goat should be better known for its breakfasts, which are served from Thursday to Sunday. Butcher and chef Richard Turner is a fan, especially of the three roti (flatbread) plates: Cured Tamworth jowl and fried eggs; smoked beef sausage and fried egg; and smoked eggplant, egg, and chili. “They are smoky and spicy and yummy - everything you want in a hangover breakfast,” he says. 64 Shoreditch High St; recommended by Richard Turner, chef/co-owner of Hawksmoor, London, Edinburgh and Manchester; and Turner & George, London.
Breakfast: Kedgeree With Poached Egg
This elegant brasserie is the No. 1 destination for breakfast in London. It’s difficult to find a chef who doesn’t recommend the high-ceilinged dining room, where hundreds of guests gather each morning for business and pleasure. Though New York chef Jonathan Waxman likes everything, from the wild Scottish salmon through the eggs Benedict to the pastries – “My favorite spot for breakfast is easy: the Wolseley,” he says - it’s the kedgeree that’s a knockout.
The Wolseley is famous for rescuing the rice dish, made with smoked haddock, eggs, and curry powder, from Victorian obscurity. Other fans include chefs Jason Atherton, Richard Corrigan, Ruth Rogers, and Marcus Samuelsson. “Get the traditional English breakfast [fried, poached or scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, tomato, black pudding, mushroom] and some very strong drip coffee. You’ll be in heaven,” promises Geoffrey Zakarian, yet another devotee. 160 Piccadilly; recommended by Jonathan Waxman, chef/owner of Barbuto in New York; and Geoffrey Zakarian, chef/partner of the Lambs Club in New York.
St John Bread and Wine
Breakfast: Bacon Sandwich
The white bread for this sandwich is baked daily by chef Fergus Henderson’s St John Bakery, while the bacon is rare breed, either Old Spot or Tamworth. The bacon is char-grilled along with the bread, which is liberally spread with butter, and the sandwich is served with homemade ketchup. Do as chef Isaac McHale does: “The pro tip is to get it to take away, because by the time you get to eat it, the sauce and the fat have mingled with the bread. As Fergus says, ‘All three need to get to know each other.’ The ingredients are so good, I can’t think of a better bacon sandwich.” 94-96 Commercial St; recommended by Isaac McHale, chef/owner of Clove Club and Luca in London.