Brunch, it seems, has become a quintessential feature of modern, urban life. Charming though it undoubtedly is, I can’t help but feel a certain sense of surprise in both it’s popularity and it’s sheer staying power; I think we all expected it to be a trend of the late nineties that would firmly be left behind along with the girls of Sex and the City and centre-parting bowl cuts. It’s not only that fact that brunch is just about the only meal that can get away will being hideously overpriced (everyone is either too hungover or in such a Sunday morning zen that they don’t care) but also that it seems rather inconvenient on a practical level; does brunch mean we only two meals in that day? Is the consumption of a pre-brunch breakfast socially unacceptable? What do we eat to fill the culinary void between brunch and dinner? The questions that have been unanswered for over a decade seem never-ending.
Despite all this, I do remain very much partial to the occasional brunch. One place that is doing brunch right is The Riding House Café found in West Fitzrovia. Restaurants like this one can either seem suffocatingly tired and heavy on a Sunday morning or else awkwardly over-smart, but the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, and it was incredibly refreshing that a London restaurant wasn’t trying to cram as many punters into the space as possible. The meal was subsequently more peaceful, more private, and we felt decidedly less like cattle. Elegant and light, the dining room was styled around a classic bistro and featured beautiful ochre leather booths and potentially the most kitsch light fittings I’ve ever seen, featuring taxidermy squirrels climbing up the wood-panelled walls to the bulb.
The brunch menu itself was the best I’ve seen in terms of both variety and balancing the traditional and the novel; the conventional eggs benedict was in good company with both a modern twist on the classic, starring the achingly fashionable avocado, along with a shmancy lobster edition. Both of my dining partners were lured by the brioche French toast, a dish that achieved outstanding levels of decadence with its accompaniments of clotted cream and lashings of maple syrup.
Having slaked my thirst with Riding House’s freshly squeezed orange juice – the ambrosia of Sunday mornings – I opted for the chorizo hash brown, which I gleefully remarked was served in the crockery du jour; the skillet, inside of which was a divine amalgamation of charred peppers with fluffy, buttery potatoes, soft caramelised onions, all studded with morsels of salty, smoky chorizo. At the bottom of the pan was just enough crispy kale for me to kid myself that I was dutifully consuming a portion of greens and one of my five a day before noon. My only grumble is that, disappointingly, the egg yolks weren’t runny, which was fairly upsetting on a personal level.
Warning – make sure to book here in advance for weekends to avoid scrabbling for antisocial meal times and/or queuing all the way down the street .