The ‘hood centered around Old Brompton Road — South Kensington and Brompton more specifically — is more often known for posh nightlife than daytime activities. Nearby nightclubs like Art Bar and Boujis keep things going till the wee hours all right, but what to do when one wakes the next day, hungry, and possibly hung over?
For the early (and not-quite-so-early) birds, breakfast and brunch options abound, in fact. Not just a stateside tradition, these morning feasts have, in London, evolved to serve gourmet versions of the typical English breakfast, as well as the best of varieties from further afield.
There are classic Brit breakfasts to rev your engines for the day: eggs, bacon, sausage, baked beans, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms plus toast (Marmite optional, thank you very much). Take Tom’s Kitchen and the Full English Breakfast from chef Tom Aiken, who contemporizes British fare by focusing on local, seasonal, sustainable goods. “I border on the edge of obsession in my quest for the finest ingredients for everything I cook,” he admits. “Our traditional dishes are created with an emphasis on seasonality and great British produce, meticulously sourced from carefully selected independent suppliers.”
At Bumpkin, British comfort food also gets a facelift in a funky but fashionable farmhouse-themed restaurant. Again the aim is on locavorism and provenance of the highest standards, meaning the country-inspired cuisine rests on simplicity and quality.
For those seeking lighter fare, Continental fare has made its mark as well, including baguettes and croissants, cheeses and yogurts, coffees and fresh juices, and müesli and tarts to rival any across the Channel. At the Kensington Hotel, it’s of course possible to take in top-tier brunch to suit any palate, whether classic or cross-cultural; but most astounding is the overflowing buffet spread.
Multiple müeslis, innumerable juices, baskets-full of bread, butters and jams, and yogurts abound, for the purist as well as the inner child (read: sugary and fruit-inspired). The house-made “Best Porridge Ever” features rolled oats cooked with milk, bananas, wild honey and cinnamon served with crème fraîche and chopped roasted nuts.
À la carte hot breakfasts befit any palate as well: British classics include the Bacon Butty, while contemporary culinary trends, such as seasonal produce and local provenance, make inroads, perhaps due to head chef Russell Ford’s history at some of Australia’s top hotels. We’ll leave the cooking to the specialists. All we know is that unfolding The International Herald Tribune while sipping a cappuccino, carefully sourced from specialist supplier Drury, never seemed more estimable.
Madsen Restaurant, near the South Kensington tube station, eyes Northern Europe, with specialties originating from Denmark, Sweden and Norway. It’s during the weekend brunch that the Nordic Brunch Platter makes its appearance amongst other amiable guests, though it wins by combining all sorts of fresh fruits, brie, breads of various varieties (rye and crisp included, naturally), scrambled eggs with sautéed tomatoes, and double chocolate chip pancakes.
No breakfast listing would do without a Francophilic favorite, which is where Aubaine comes in. It covers all the bases as needed — fruit, omelettes, salads — but what’s most exciting are the Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine and Eggs Royal, with an impeccable hollandaise to keep them company.
Old Brompton Road might be famed for other daytime activities as well, we suppose: the Natural History Museum, Victoria & Albert and Science museum, plus shopping at Harrod’s and Harvey Nichols north toward Hyde Park. But these won’t do for those recuperating from the previous night’s carousing, nor can they be enjoyed without sufficient get-up-and-go grub. Which is why brunch for Old Brompton dwellers is of utmost import.
Originally published by TabletTalk on May 3, 2011.