London’s best breakfasts are on an evolving brunch. Not only has breakfast gone beyond the fry up — and then some — breakfast is, increasingly, an enterprising way for the city’s essential, hottest, and just straightforwardly good restaurants to extend their ideas to morning eating. Between the seasonal, fermentation-forward brilliance on show at Esters, the steadying classics at St. John Bread and Wine, and an iconic omelette at The Wolseley, here are London’s best breakfasts, some to be taken seated, and others on the move.Read More
Where to Eat Breakfast in London
It’s the most important meal of the day. Make it good
Tetote might not offer the fine patisserie of its near neighbour Wa Cafe — also worth a visit, especially for prawn katsu sandos — but its anpan and kare pan (an articulately spiced curry variant) are worth traversing Ealing for, especially if the breakfast walk goes through picturesque Walpole Park. Hot dog buns, generously filled with ketchup and mustard, are always a treat. Its other two specialities might be less expected: matchless French baguettes to satisfy the area’s French community, and featherlight Japanese buns bursting with crème anglaise. Open Wednesday — Saturday, it’s best to call ahead to preorder, even for same day collection.
Yasmina Restaurant and Bakery
Little better to start the day than what might be London’s best man’oushe. This little T-junction corner spot off the asphalt roar of the Westway bills itself as a Lebanese restaurant and bakery, but perhaps it should be other way around. Yasmina — with head baker and chef Ramadan at the helm — is peerless. A long-running “battle” with Zeit and Za’atar — still excellent — one thoroughfare south on the Uxbridge road can be surrendered with a single bite, burnished crust giving way to a bread so light it might have been secretly inflated with a bike pump. It’s not: it’s all in the bake, best hot from the oven with za’atar, spiced mince lamb, or garlic sauce whose pop belies its beige. Little has changed here, despite so much having changed.
The clink of crockery echoes against high ceilings and black, gold, and cream grandeur at this London institution. Here the fashion set linger in meetings with media types over traditionally British breakfasts like curried kedgeree, Scottish haggis with fried eggs, or grilled kipper with mustard butter. There are also caramelised pink grapefruits, Bircher muesli, and baskets piled with croissants. Afterwards, take a stroll down Piccadilly or through Green Park to Buckingham Palace.
This Fitzrovia cafe’s impact cannot be underestimated — even in the context of its second site on Eastcastle Street. Another Square Mile stalwart, the initially short-lived (but now happily revived) guest espresso program brought global roasters to the very centre of London, and in being weekends only to begin with, emphasised the rarity and uniqueness of the coffees served. Incredible consistency and a willingness to innovate: it is, refreshingly, as simple as that. It takes its breakfast food as seriously as the coffee, with a bacon brioche for the ravenous and an espresso cookie sandwich for those who heard they like espresso with their espresso.
This is the iconic place to experience the "full English" or "fry-up," a spread on par with fish and chips as perhaps the most famous British food custom. Regency gets very busy on Saturdays, especially among tourists who may know it as the English caf’, which featured in the films Layer Cake and Brighton Rock. (It is closed on Sundays)
Honey & Co. Bloomsbury
Itamar Srulovich and Sarit Packer’s new Bloomsbury space still delivers with the likes of an overspilling sabich; a cheese and za’atar boureka; and myriad sweet things including its famed kadaïf cheesecake. Or, just a bun to take away; or, some ramson leaf labneh with pita. Options for all sorts.
Japanese breakfast is a wondrous thing; hearty and heartwarming yet delicate and light, there’s nary a better way to begin a day than with aromatic rice, a piece of grilled fish, and a bowl of miso soup. Koya delivers exactly that, alongside a range of other riffs on breakfast as true to their roots as to their location. The English breakfast udon is a London salaryman’s dream — a warming broth of fat udon noodles topped with a fried egg, bacon and shiitake mushroom. While kippers, egg, and “butter rice” is an umami-fest with miso soup on the side, sure to see anyone through to lunch.
This Bombay-style chain’s bacon naan roll with chilli tomato jam and cream cheese is justly famous. The bacon is sourced from award-winning producer Ramsay of Carluke, and the naan are served still-warm and sprinkled with fresh herbs. For something a little more substantial, the Big Bombay features spicy, award-winning sausages from Maynard’s Farm, north of Ludlow (a mecca for tube meat) and masala-spiced baked beans. It’s worth topping it off with a banana and mango lassi, too.
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It would be easy to talk about Italo’s charmingly ramshackle, genuine interior, its secluded Vauxhall location, and its raft of much-better-than-above-average deli staples in the context of its breakfast menu, but it would be even easier to just list off the following dishes. Saffron leeks, fried shallots, and crisp toast; wild mushroom kitchari with the spiced hum-crunch of sev and tart apple raita; a baked vacherin with potatoes, cornichons, and quince jelly. At breakfast. Get among it.
Halwa Poori House
It is dawn on an autumn Saturday on London Road, but Halwa Poori House is already filling up. The single digit hours are mainly for solo diners — nighthawks, early risers, and weekend workers — getting a quick fill before families arrive to share steaming bowls of nihaari and scooping up glutinous haleem with bread. But really, everyone is here for halwa poori, that prince’s breakfast served here a la mode on a plastic tray divided into three parts to hold soothing channa (chickpeas), bitter potato, and sweet, carrot orange halwa.
Sunday Cafe & Restaurant
Go early. That’s pretty much the only useful piece of advice for those bent on avoiding what can be one of the city’s fiercest queues, and a particularly brutal one for those yet to get their daily fix of caffeine. Once through the door, any further advice is moot — there really aren’t that many ways to go far wrong with a breakfast and brunch menu so long on inventive-but-still-comforting dishes like buttermilk pancakes and corn fritters. Anything involving smoked haddock, whether a chowder, or a ludicrously restorative riff on Welsh rarebit, may well be the best possible course of action; a side of banana bread should also be mandatory. Do not plan any strenuous activity for the afternoon.
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Catalyst, helmed by Vasilis Chamam and Alex Gkikas, might be the archetypal London breakfast cafe of the 2020s. It roasts its own coffee and does it very well; it serves a recognisable litany of British cafe foods — bacon sandwiches, scrambled eggs, hopefully soon, a sandwich with black pudding — but inflects all of these with the tastes and ideas of its owners’ heritage. There’s a coffee sriracha with heat that blooms like water hitting its filter coffees; a halloumi katsu sando; that “black pudding sandwich” features hispi cabbage and XO sauce. With so many of London’s best greasy spoons run by Greeks and Greek-Cypriots, it feels like both an inheritance and an evolution.
The Electric Cafe
he real make or break for a greasy spoon connoisseur is the choice of carb to form a buffer between the solids (bacon, sausage, black pudding) and the gloops (egg yolk, beans). Toast is compulsory so it doesn’t count, therefore the standard options are chips (for lunch and for children), hash browns (for Americans and for children) and bubble (correct). Bubble is the aficionado’s choice, and those who subscribe would travel a long way for a breakfast based around it — to Tulse Hill perhaps. Electric has been going since 1932 and like the other great London caffs — Pellicci, Regency, and Alpinos — is run by a proprietor with origins outside the U.K., in this case Stavros Tsoukkas whose Greek-Cypriot family has owned it since 1978. The bubble here shows a little bit of that Mediterranean touch, intensely herby with big enough chunks of Savoy cabbage to stave off scurvy for a day or two, all moulded into a big soft patty fried to a char on both sides that cuts through the oil and fat like a strong cup of tea.
Flor’s baking, now spearheaded by Emma Tillyer and Helen Evans after the departure of Anna Higham, puts a London accent on the exacting tradition and relentless experimentalism that make Paris and Copenhagen two of Europe’s most formidable cities for pastry. On the fringe of the city’s oldest food market, croissants and pain aux chocolats shatter into perfect layers, but carry the austere depth of fresh wheat and a deeply caramelised, savoury sheen; blackcurrant danishes — with blackcurrant leaf custard — and fig danishes — with fig leaf custard — possess seriousness of flavour and imagination to match their beauty.
Nandine - Vestry Road
What marks Nandine apart is the level of soul, skill, and care put into the food on an almost microscopic level: it’s one thing to make hummus well, but it’s another to nail each of the eleven components of their vegetarian mezze, from the vine leaves to the qawarma. Even simple rice or cabbage dishes are elevated through judicious use of fresh herbs like dill, mint, and parsley. Boreks, both triangular and spiral, can be bought from the counter, and a Kurdish breakfast comprising in-house yoghurt, white cheese, fig jam, honey, bread, and salad is somehow simultaneously frugal and completely luxurious.
It is well-documented that an environment will enhance a given eating experience, and Towpath’s canalside surrounds do its dishes, scratched up on a blackboard, every favour. The fried eggs with mojo verde are a justifiable classic of the morning offer, but there might also be porridge with brown sugar and walnuts, or, if arriving at just the right moment, snow-white goat’s curd propping up heads of confit garlic, again on toast.
Esters is a London gem. Jack and Nia took over what used to be Fred and Fran a handful of years ago and have gone about creating what is in all senses the perfect neighbourhood cafe. Menus change constantly, but expect creative approaches to the classics. Recent hits include poached eggs on sourdough with roasted peppers, miso-hazelnut cream and a cobnut-caper salsa, and pork belly braised in shaoxing wine with sichuan green beans. The miso-white chocolate is, perhaps, London’s best cookie. Possibly the best of London’s best breakfasts.
St John Bread and Wine
While the original St. John is rightly regarded as the most important British restaurant in a generation, Bread & Wine, the sister site on the edge of Shoreditch, is a more interesting place to eat today. Not least because this site opens at 9am, at which time one of the city’s great bacon sandwiches is served. There’s devilled kidneys on toast, grilled kippers, and St. John’s signature doughnuts, too. Pressed to recommend one place to go for breakfast in London, the answer, nine times out 10, would be here.
Chaudhary Zafar Iqbal’s trade is in Pakistani naan, predominantly wholesaled plain or pockmarked with sesame to those in the know (ie. an increasing number of popular street food wrap joints). But the best version is still in person, on the spot, smeared with a coarse mince that pops with coriander seeds, spun at 33rpm on a rotating oven and folded back on itself in a swirl that resembles a cinnamon bun made of lamb — crisp and piping hot with the meat just at the point of caramelisation, and a small whisper of heat that blooms in the mouth. At £2, there is nothing more purely pleasurable available at this price point in any category in London, especially early in the morning.
Bake Street’s real flexes might arrive come 11 a.m. on weekends, when the specials — birria tacos; a makhani fried chicken burger — steal the show, but don’t sleep on the weekday staples (Thursdays and Fridays) or the baked goods for earlier risers and the rest of the week. Stalwarts include a Bajan-style fish cutter bun; an halloumi bun with za’atar and barbecue sauce; and a Yangyeom Korean-fried chicken number, while new arrivals from baker Chloe-Rose Crabtree — pastelitos de guayaba on weekends; crème brûlée cookies Friday to Sunday — join weekday stalwarts like chocolate chip cookies, salted caramel brownies, and Crabtree’s baci whoopie pies.
E Pellicci is an East End icon; established in 1900, it remains in the same family today, and feels largely unchanged, too. Now Grade-II listed, with ornate timber panelling and Art Deco features Pellicci’s is the caff resplendent. Maria Pellicci has been matriarch since 1966, and still runs the kitchen today, while her younger generations run the front of house. A full English might now be £8.60, not £5.50, but the more devoted can level up with classic additions like liver, black pudding, bubble ‘n’ squeak or hand cut chips. With a steadfast regular clientele, Pellicci’s is a real community institution, and well worth a visit.
Maggies Cafe & Restaurant
The family caff is a magnificent thing, and few can match Maggie’s for sheer hospitality. An Irish gaff established by its late matriarch Maggie Khondoker — Lewisham’s very own Peggy Mitchell — now run by her sons Anthony and Oliver, locals are drawn to this beloved institution for ample breakfasts during the day, and home-cooked dinners like slow-cooked lamb shank and roasts in the evening. Cups of coffee and tea are replenished within seconds; bubble and squeak is appropriately coarse; and the ever-scarcer option of tinned tomatoes is offered over fresh. Maybe don’t order an oat milk latte.
Homies On Donkeys
Knock on the counter or ask Eric — “Smokey” — Sanchez, the chef, for brekkie tacos with “everything.” Alternatively, a quintet of quesadillas with beans is a fine and restorative breakfast.
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Roti King’s roti king may no longer be central London’s standard bearer for roti prata, or canai. The best version of the rich, flaky bread used to mop up good dal or even better sour fish curries might now be found in this newish Malaysian spot by King’s Cross on Caledonian Road, which puts it to use in one of the most pleasurable breakfasts in the area.
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