Brunch Club London Awards 2019

Sharing the 'Full Elvis' waffle at Duck & Waffle

As we’re always getting asked which are our favourite brunch spots, to celebrate our first three years of brunching together we decided to go back through all our old reviews and select the ones we enjoyed the most. After much discussion, we decided that the best way to do this was to come up with some categories and then each Brunch Clubber would make their selection for each. The first four categories were created specifically for one of the gang, but the rest were voted for by all of us. So, without further ado, welcome to the Brunch Club London Awards 2019!

BEST FOR WAFFLES

ELEANOR: Brunch Club started because of waffles but it’s grown to so much more than that with a wide variety of incredible dishes across the food spectrum. I have to give the runner-up to Duck & Waffle for their delicious Elvis waffle – an indulgent dessert treat with peanut, banana and cream. But this award has to go to the original – Village East for its waffles with caramelised bananas and ice-cream. Crisp waffles, crunchy banana and creamy vanilla ice cream. Yum.

BEST FOR TEA

LOU: Let’s face it, you don’t go to brunch for a cup of tea, but if that’s your beverage it can make a huge difference to your meal. There’s an ‘honourable mention’ here for the Chai at Dishoom, but, the Chiltern Firehouse breakfast blend takes the glory with Yuatcha a very very close second, based only on the fact we only ate desert there.

BEST FOR VEGGIES

ED: Of all the places we’ve been to, most have been at least acceptable for vegetarians, but only Mildreds had an all Vegetarian/Vegan menu, meaning that leaving my choice up to random chance, I would still get something delicious and meat free. This is a wonderful luxury for me!

BEST FOR GLUTEN FREE

LORI: We’ve only been to a couple of specifically gluten free places, so inevitably one of them was going to snatch this prize. The runaway winner for me was Leadbelly’s Bar & Kitchen, which offers a menu so tasty that no one in your group will feel like they’ve had to compromise on taste to accommodate your desire for gluten free waffles. I’ve been back since Brunch Club’s visit and the food did not disappoint.

The tostada at Mildreds (Lori had a fried egg on top, but they do a vegan version too).

The tostada at Mildreds (Lori had a fried egg on top, but they do a vegan version too).

BEST AMBIANCE

ELEANOR: Ambiance is a tough one, so many places nearly get it right but industrial vibes mean the sound level is just unbearable. The Breakfast Club was the most fun brunch with its incredible playlist and friendly staff. However, as this is brunch, I’m giving it to Caravan for its chilled out vibe that made me feel like we could stay forever, and a gorgeous industrial interior that managed sound.
LOU: There’s so many places that get ambience right – the relaxed buzz of Ottolenghi or Breakfast Club, the intimacy of Sketch, the surprising cosiness of Dishoom but the ambience of Fischer’s stole my heart – light and luxurious and they transported me from central London to Vienna the moment I stepped through the door.
ED: So many of the places we’ve visited had been wonderful to spend time in, I mean, the view from Duck & Waffle was a real stand out experience, as well as for me, the cosy and convenient pleasure of brunch not far from home at The Haberdashery in Crouch End. I think the winner overall would be Dishoom because of the amazing interior design and the fact that though the restaurant was busy, we had a booth and could still hear each other talking.
LORI: It could have been the epic views at Duck & Waffle, the stunning interior design at Dishoom King’s Cross, or the early-twentieth-century-Vienna décor of Fischer’s. But I think my favourite for ambience has to be The Table Café, because it’s more about the people than the place. Very informal, with an open kitchen, the vibe at this cafe behind Tate Modern is friendly and chatty. Good for people watching and catching up with friends, it’s a place that lends itself to conversations… which are often about the excellent food!

Lou's baked eggs with Mezcal sausage and flatbread at Caravan

Lou’s baked eggs with Mezcal sausage and flatbread at Caravan

BEST SERVICE

ELEANOR: We have had the pleasure of incredible service at so many places, that it usually the bad service that stands out. The incredible defunct Finsbury Circus Modern Pantry would be top, shout out to Alzbeta at CW Breakfast Club, but this goes to Topper for Brunch Club at Home because where else gives you a bag of hollandaise to take home‽ (Special mention to Lori too!)
LOU: If the Finsbury Circus branch of The Modern Pantry had not closed, the amazing waitresses there would have stolen this award for their warmth and efficient service… But as it has closed, the admirable team at Mildreds Kings Cross take this award for being so fun and accommodating lots of requests, and joining in our Drag Race chat.
ED: Our varied and wide-ranging experiences at brunches have been mostly on the positive side when it comes to service, which goes to show how hard people working in the service industry work in London and the standards they have. I remember Caravan being particularly warm and accommodating for us all and a little chatty too. We tend to get chatting with staff more than most people would I think and we can usually tell when staff enjoy their job and have a passion for brunch. Above all I hope that we’re good customers!
LORI: We have been lucky enough to experience some great service in many of our brunch adventures, but there are a few stand outs for me. The staff at Mildreds King’s Cross are wonderfully friendly and efficient, making a big echoey space feel warm and cosy. The lovely Alzbeta at The Breakfast Club in Canary Wharf was so good that she deserved a name check in our review. However, I think that Jan who served us at Christopher’s was the absolute best. The restaurant was extremely loud and busy when we arrived – something that usually spoils our enjoyment – but he really looked after us and made the overall experience so much better than it could otherwise have been on an uncomfortably hot day.

Martini time for Lori and Eleanor at Christopher's

Martini time for Lori and Eleanor at Christopher’s

BEST FOOD

ELEANOR: This is the hardest award. So many incredible dishes, such a variety of cuisines. I’m going purely on taste and flavour so special mentions to Chiltern Firehouse, Duck & Waffle. The award would’ve gone to Modern Pantry, but as it’s closed this goes to Lantana and Dishoom for their amazing takes on brunch.
LOU: There are so many places we have eaten that have had excellent food that I approached this category with three things in mind – value for money, portion size, and menu choice. In a close second was The Breakfast Club, but storming away up front is Christopher’s for the variety, price point and the build-your-own pancakes.
ED: As I tend to have savoury courses which are a little less varied due to my vegetarianism, the brunch pudding is often the thing I remember the most. Amongst many standouts for me, was Ottolenghi where we were presented with a huge display of cakes to choose from.
LORI: Much as I enjoy classic brunch dishes served without fuss in a friendly local cafe, I also love a perfectly crafted menu modern which uses excellent ingredients to produce twists on those classics. So, without a doubt, the winner of this for me is Chiltern Firehouse. Everything on the menu was interesting (not gimmicky), with a great balance of flavours and textures, and the dishes I chose on my visit left me perfectly satisfied. Absolutely worth every penny.

Lori’s Lobster & Crab Omelette, with shiso & coral mayo, and Lou’s Rib Eye Shawarma at Chiltern Firehouse.

FAVOURITE DISH

ELEANOR: *drools* Reading back through all the reviews has made me hungry! The food that I loved the most includes the mushroom in my fry-up at Berners Tavern, bacon and egg naan at Dishoom, those waffles at Village East, all the waffles at Duck & Waffle but my winner is the cinnamon french toast with saffron poached pears, blackberries, orange and honey labne and pecan brittle at Lantana.
LOU: When I think of the Brunches I have most enjoyed, occasionally there’s a memory of a dish or two that makes my mouth water. If Berner’s Tavern hadn’t stopped their weekend brunch, I would *still* be talking about their baked eggs. Other stand-outs include the Tres Leche at Arepa, the Cornbread at Lantana and the ribeye Schwarma at Chiltern Firehouse, but my runaway fave was the sausage and egg naan at Dishoom Kings Cross – I literally cannot tell you how often I think about that sandwich. I have always loved a twist on a classic and for me, this ticks every box.
ED: Oh if there’s one classic dish that I still think of often, it’s the pancakes from Chiltern Firehouse. My god, incredibly, thick, pillowy pancakes with a little tray with creme fraiche, blueberries, a fruit compote, and a small jug of maple syrup to customise each pancake. There was miraculously enough of the toppings to last for all three pancakes. It was an amazing experience.
LORI: My favourite dish in the three years of Brunch Club was a pretty tough one to pin down, and my mouth was watering while re-reading our reviews in order to come to my decision, but the winner has to be the Crushed Potato Mung Dahl I had at the City branch of Caravan. It comes with spring greens, poached eggs, coconut yoghurt relish, nigella seeds and curry leaves, plus I added some smoked haddock too. Just thinking about it makes me hungry again!

Eleanor's cinnamon French toast (in lieu of waffles!) at Lantana, Shoreditch

Eleanor’s cinnamon French toast (in lieu of waffles!) at Lantana, Shoreditch

BEST FOR CASUAL BRUNCH

ELEANOR: The Table was a great option for a casual brunch and special mentions to Breakfast Club for its vibe though I don’t rate the food, but my vote goes to Caravan for being genuinely chilled and casual and Dishoom for incredible food.
LOU: If Cornerstone was still open, I would have voted for this local eatery, but alas it isn’t. But I think Bill’s provide excellent restaurants for a casual brunch.
ED: I agree with everyone else’s choices here, I would say Bill’s and Caravan were the two stand outs for a casual, relaxing, and delicious brunch experience for catching up with friends or getting some food before going out somewhere else, both are fast reliable and have good quality food.
LORI: Following a thoroughly enjoyable visit to their Canary Wharf location, The Breakfast Club almost clinched this for me. However, the British-working-class-nostalgia vibes might not be to everyone’s taste, and the need to get up early to avoid queueing is definitely not my favourite thing. Therefore, my top spot for this award goes to… Bill’s. Effortless and reliable on all counts, the food and service at all the branches of Bill’s we visited (and the Holborn one, which I’ve been to more recently), means it’s a sure fire winner for casual brunch plans.

Lou’s pancake stack and pot of tea at Bill’s in Greenwich

BEST FOR SPECIAL OCCASIONS

ELEANOR: As a fan of spectacular views, Duck & Waffle takes the title! As well as being unbrunchable, my partner has vertigo so I’m grateful for Brunch Club for getting me there.
LOU: it feels almost obvious, but the sheer theatre of Duck & Waffle makes this a run away winner. Having been back twice since Brunch Club, this place strikes the balance of great grub, good ambience and excellent service, all whilst feeling on top of the world (or, at least, London).
ED: Duck & Waffle really cannot be bested in terms of a great experience for a special occasion. I can say now I’ve been there for the evening meal (in dark rainy October) it was better at Brunch for that bright and sunny morning view. The food, ambience, service and the quite terrifyingly fast lift journey make it perfect for a special birthday, anniversary or other celebration brunch.
LORI: We’ve been for plenty of ‘fancy’ brunch spots in our first three years, but I think that Duck & Waffle would be my top recommendation for a special occasion. The extensive brunch menu – with vegan, vegetarian and gluten conscious options available – is undeniably satisfying, the views are spectacular, and the overall atmosphere is one of pure enjoyment. Next time you have something to celebrate, do yourself a favour and book a daytime rather than evening meal here.

A close up of that legendary Duck & Waffle dish

A close up of that legendary Duck & Waffle dish