FOOD + DRINK
YOUR GUIDE TO THE BEST BREAKFASTS IN LONDON
WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM
“I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”
– Steven Wright
Breakfast. The first and finest meal of the day in London. This is a city that prides itself on-all day breakfasts. A town where eating a fry up at 4 p.m. will be greeted with cheers rather than dirty looks. Luckily for Londoners, the wonderful waves of immigration over the years have brought breakfast specialities from the world over to its streets – allowing us to revel in such delights as Turkish or South Indian morning cuisine alongside the superb native greasy offerings. The best breakfast in London is a debate that never ends and is dependent on where you live, how hungover you are, and what your budget is. Relationships have ended over best breakfast discussions. Plates have been flung. Unlike nutritionists, we truly understand how important the first meal of the day is, so we asked the capital’s breakfast believers for their favourite spots. This is not a complete guide but a discernible compilation, one that highlights the variety and quality on offer to the Londoner.
Arthur’s is no longer a secret thanks to some Guardian journalist writing about it – but it is still the best café for breakfast in Dalston. Arthur’s has been in the same family for decades, and its no-nonsense, no-frills attitude to serving top grub at very reasonable prices puts it high on the best of the best list. You may still get served by Arthur, the oldest of the family and well into his twilight years at 90 years old. He still likes to make sure the people coming into his caff are treated in the right way. His grandson prepares the bread at the front of the café, but be warned: if you want a bacon sandwich you’ll have to get it in the morning as they prove so popular Arthur refuses to serve them after midday. Famously, Arthur’s Café never once shut during The Blitz, and that dogmatic spirit continues to this day. Dalston has developed a lot of gimmicks over recent years, but Arthur’s is steadfastly holding on and making sure that beyond the hype of E8, there’s still something real to visit.
Arthur’s Café, 495 Kingsland Road, Dalston, London E8 4AU
Sam’s Cafe in Primrose Hill
Look – you want a north London café that has a jukebox curated by Robert Plant, boasts customers such as Helen Bonham Carter, Dennis Lawson and that bloke out of Supergrass, interior design by Jane Rainey Design (of “Lady Jane”, the Rolling Stones song fame) started by the son of the editor of London Review of Books?
Sam’s Cafe is it. Although it’s a London experience that might make you weep at the price [full English breakfast at £12 (yes twelve whole English pound sterling)], a trip to Sam’s is a treat that is never forgotten.
Sam’s Cafe, 140 Regent’s Park Road, London NW1 8XL
Proper baking. Proper breakfast. These guys don’t mess about – everything in the café is baked from scratch and tastes like it (which means it tastes good, by the way). No preservatives, no “improvers’ – just flour loving goodness. Rolling with things like huevos rancheros, a lip-smackingly good BLT, and a Reuben sandwich, Blackbird do simple really well. They also make sandwiches of your choice to order. Fabulous!
Blackbird Bakery, Arch 134, Queens Road, Peckham London, SE15 2ND
Go to Dishoom and eat the bacon naan!
What’s not to like? Spicy, tangy, masala laced bacon and naan. It’s the breakfast you’ve never known you’ve wanted until the day you eat it, and then you want nothing else but this forever more. Add the faux-Bombay café chalkboard, hand-painted signs, and photos from the ’70s, and Dishoom will charm your pants off. Also, breakfast at Dishoom is probably its least busy time, which, considering the restaurant’s popularity, is something to cherish.
Dishoom, 7 Boundary Street, London E2 7JE.
Cafe Z does the best menemen in the north east. (Editor’s note: Easy now! That’s some contentious claim.) A frying pan of deliciously runny eggs with such a variety of toppings that it puts pizza to shame. Café Z has a lovely vibe, décor, and staff – it’s a veritable institution in Stoke Newington and very popular with the locals.
Café Z, 58 Stoke Newington High Street, London N16 7PB
Parma does not mess around. We’re talking meat, meat, and more meat. The greasy fry-up is one of the finest in the south – always cooked and served at optimum, with care and diligence. The kebabs, if you missed getting one on your way home the night before, are well worth giving a go for breakfast. Don’t judge until you’ve done it; it could well be the breakfast that changes your life.
Parma, 412 Kennington Road, London SE11 4PT
Buhler and Co.
It has a really adventurous global brunch menu including Indonesian Gado-gado and a full Indian-inspired veggie fry-up with homemade paratha and paneer – because who doesn’t want fried cheese before midday? The coffee is great, as are the bakes – especially the chocolate, halva, and tahini brownie. It also has a back garden for al fresco breakfasts. It gets busy on the weekend, but it’s worth queuing for. Afterwards, you can take a stroll up to the picturesque Walthamstow Village and explore this quaint North London neighbourhood.
Buhler and Co., 8 Chingford Road, Walthamstow, London E17 4PJ
The Rochester Castle
The Rochester Castle on a summer’s day after doing a sleep-in shift is utterly perfect. You get that cheap-as-you-can-get Wetherspoons breakfast but in one of the best buildings they own. There are endless refills of coffee, a calorie count on the menu (if you are so inclined to worry), but best of all, if you fancy a pint with your eggs and hash browns, the array of beers on offer will keep you in the pub well past the point of no return.
The Rochester Castle, 145 Stoke Newington High St, Stoke Newington, London N16 0NY
Quite possibly the best breakfast atmosphere in London, only rivalled by E Pellici in Bethnal Green (see below). The Regency has a unique queueing system that takes the novice a while to understand. Word to the unwise – don’t take a seat before you’ve ordered your food!
But the food! Oh, the glorious Regency breakfast. It’s everything you’ve ever wanted from a British breakfast – perfectly cooked, great ingredients, on the right side of greasy, served with a shout and a wink. Great value for its central London position (you might also recognise it as a film location for Layer Cake), it’s tremendously popular for a reason. It is for all occasions always: bad news/good news/hangover/after exercise/in love/freshly dumped.
The Regency, 17-19 Regency St, Westminster, London SW1P 4BY, UK
You want the best bacon sandwich in London? The Shelter is your spot. Enough said.
Cabman’s Shelter, 23 Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1B
Vegans and vegetarians – this is your spot. The breakfast here is stonkingly good, and no animal has been harmed in the process. It’s no fry up, of course, but the bircher muesli is to die for (not literally, that wouldn’t be very vegan now, would it?), and their pastries (croissants etc.) are delicious. It’s a buffet, and you pay by the weight of your plate. What?! Yes, that’s right. Tuck in, veggies! The bonus of being on bankside means the Thames is but a hop skip and jump away – wonderful on a sunny London summer’s day.
Titbits, 124-128 Southwark Street, London SE1 0SW
Cafe Coco serves a decent breakfast, with the bonus that Magculture is next door. Worth it post-Fabric or pre-day out walking in Clerkenwell.
Cafe Coco, 266 St John Street, Clerkenwell, London EC1V 4PE
Hands down the best Turkish breakfast in London. The menemen might be amazing in Café Z, but Gökyüzü has got it all – the mixed mezze is incredible, the English fry-up is impeccable, and the halloumi is perfection. Just find a bus and get on it – you won’t regret it.
Gökyüzü, 26-27 Grand Parade, Harringay, London N4 1LG
West London often gets overlooked for East these days, but the gems are still there if you look hard enough or are rich/fortunate enough to know someone local. Egg Break is one of those gems. As you might expect, it’s heavy on the huevos. The menu has at least 10 different egg options, but the best are probably Levantine eggs (fried eggs, za’atar, and chickpea tabbouleh) or the Calabrian eggs – (scrambled eggs with nduja, onions, and topped with a herb and puffed chickpea salad). Major shout out to the Crab cake with poached eggs, sriracha 12 hollandaise, and spinach too. Delicious!
Egg Break, 30 Uxbridge St, London W8 7TA
What can be said about Pellicci’s that hasn’t been said before? Alongside The Regency, this east London institution is vying for the ‘best breakfast in London’ spot. Whilst the fry ups are top notch, it’s the atmosphere that gets you coming back, and back again. It’s been open since 1900 and is still in the same family. The interior is pure old school east London, and the staff have more banter than the Archbishop of Banterbury riding a Bantersaurus Rex to the Banterbus station. It truly is a joy to eat at Pellicis. You can’t chat about London breakfasts with authority of you haven’t been here.
E Pellicii, 332 Bethnal Green Rd, London E2 0AG
Hackney, glorious Hackney. Under pressure from gentrification left right and centre, communities getting divided, house prices killing the neighbourhood. Somehow, it’s still hanging on. Mess Café is perhaps Hackney in a microcosm. It is incredibly popular with all Hackney types – local kids, dads with daughters, hipsters on a hangover, girls gossiping over milkshakes, old boys reading the Mirror, families, young professionals, musicians, artists, cabbies, builders, teachers – people from all walks of life. Stepping into Mess is like stepping off the street and bringing all the people on the street with you. A true egalitarian space. The fry-ups are strong and the omelettes banging, but whatever you eat, make sure you order the malt milkshake. It’s heaven.
Mess Cafe, 38 Amhurst Road, London E8 1JN
Everything about Jesse’s is amazing – but the décor is one of its strongest features: all the specials, such as STANDARD BREAKFAST, BREAKFAST SPECIAL, SPOTTED DICK are dotted around the place, installed into the wall. It’s just a brilliant greasy, not fussy, the best kind of naughty sausages you can buy, scolding tea, and conversations with strangers.
Jesse’s Café, 68 High Street, Walthamstow, London E17 7LD
Riding House Café
Posh with a capital P.O.S.H, posh! The Riding House Café is a pricey place, but boy, if you’ve got the cash, you’ve got to splash. Set near Regent Street, it’s an elegant destination that’s great for a date the night before or a post-ahem-you-know-what in the morning. The food is superb, and the décor is just as delicious, but with a full English at £14.50, you’ve got to be sure the overdraft is ready. For a cheaper life, have a muesli and a cup of tea and soak up the well to do atmosphere instead.
Riding House Café, 43-51 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia, London W1W 7PQ
With thanks to:
Saskia Wickins, Susannah Otter, Tim Burrows, Natalie Hardwick, Meghna Gupta, Ben Dawes, Farah Chowdhury, Rosh, Dino, Gayle Lazda, Marie Maurer, Shayamal Vallabhji, Paul Case, Ben Southwood, Eli Davies.