A few years ago a veggie breakfast in central London meant picking the bacon off your fry up at a greasy spoon on Chapel Market. Don’t deny you’ve never had it: fried bread, eggs, tinned beans. All served cheerlessly on a sticky plastic table.
Well, kiss those days goodbye. There’s been a proliferation of more modern forms of brunch, east of Greys’ Inn Road, that get the Foodstinct seal of approval.
Why? because their coffee is good, their breakfasts’ are mood-lifting. And, perhaps most of all, because when you eat at these places you can tell that some heart’s been put into it.
Although I’m not a vegetarian, some people very close to me are, and I try to minimise my meat intake. So these places are selected as, although they’re not pure veggie, they cater well to non-meat options.
Movers and Shakers
In my book, these are the cream of breakfast and brunch in this part of London.
Caravan Exmouth Market
I’m a big fan of going back to a place which is good, or taking friends who’ve never been. Caravan is one place I love being a regular and quite often, it’s for breakfast. The casual yet sharp, friendly yet professional service also helps. They roast their own coffee and craft it with skill. But most of all I go for the food.
Caravan’s breakfast menu is similar to its lunch and dinner selection, in that it has a focus on vibrant dishes with internationally influence. What I like most about Caravan is their celebration of veg. As well as breakfast cornerstones of bacon and salmon there’s usually one or two meat free options. Baked eggs with tomato ragout and Greek yoghurt, or an aubergine and butternut squash plate. Then there’s eggs with a number of sides (choose from thyme roast tomatoes, creamy soya mushrooms, for example), on great sourdough or granary, as you like. And don’t get me started on their sweet options, the coconut bread with lemon curd, quite heavenly.
Caravan Exmouth Market is open 7 days, brunch menu till 4pm on weekends. 11-13 Exmouth Market, EC1R 4QD. Phone 020 7833 8115. http://www.caravanonexmouth.co.uk See also: Caravan Exmouth vs Caravan Kings Cross
The Modern Pantry is a restaurant, café and deli situated in the heart of ultra urbane Clerkenwell, St Johns Square. The restaurant is quite excellent, with MBE awarded restaurateur Anna Hansen at the helm. As well as lunch, dinner and afternoon tea, they serve brunch and breakfast, every day of the week in a bustling, bright and very comfortable space.
The Modern Pantry brings it’s restaurants’ exotic and refreshingly innovative approach to food to their excellent café brunch menu. Although meaty, the rendang mince on toast with lime dressing, or the Tea smoked salmon give you an idea of how they combine local classics with international influences. Very good coffee and refined service.
The Modern Pantry does breakfast on weekdays 8-11 and a leisurely brunch from 8 on Saturday and 9 on Sunday. 47-48 St John’s Square, EC1V 4JJ. Phone 020 7553 9210. http://www.themodernpantry.co.uk
Occupying two floors of a characterful red brick building on Clerkenwell Road, Workshop won Observers’ Best Vegetarian Breakfast in 2012 when it was called St Ali, and frankly, I’m not surprised. I’ve gone gaga over the corn fritters with haloumi and poached eggs. And then there’s the mushroom and asparagus number (pictured below), so strikingly verdant and, delicious.
Workshop is a bit of an institution in the London independent coffee scene, and a selection of beans are roasted on premises and available espresso or aeropressed. Have a sticky beak out back if you get the chance, the coffee roasting machine is there, alongside a living garden wall, all dabbled in light from the skylight above.
Workshop Coffee opens 7.30 on Weekdays and 8 on Weekends. 27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN. Phone 0207 253 5754. http://www.workshopcoffee.com
Relatively recent east-end breakfast additions
Heading further to the East, a few new(ish) brunch spots have sprung up around the Old Street area. My favourites are both Aussie run and both do a good veggie breakfast spread.
OK, so the first of my new arrivals, isn’t that new. Another full blown roastery with a short order kitchen on the side, Ozone’s breakfast menu is great. Quick, hot, tasty dishes. The eggs selection is extensive, including the Ozone omelette complete with peppers, fried onions and spinach. They do a great homemade baked bean too, plus a good selection of baked breakfast treats, yoghurts, granola and the like. Sit upstairs, around the back if you like to watch the kitchen in action.
Ozone Roastery is open weekdays 7.30am through 5pm and 9am – 4pm on weekdays. Phone 020 7490 1039. 1 Leonard Street, EC2A 4AQ. http://www.ozonecoffee.co.uk
Salvation Jane is the latest offering from the team behind Lantana in Fitzrovia. It’s a modern, concrete floor, exposed services in the ceiling typed affair. I have to admit being sceptical when I first walked in, weary they might have sold out to market force and lost the quaint deliciousness of their original offering. But, thankfully, they haven’t. Despite the maxi capacity of this EC2 diner, the food, service and coffee means Salvation Jane maintains a sense of quality and finesse.
The menu is packed with breakfast choices. Only one of the hot dishes (the above polenta cakes, which were very good) is veg friendly, unless you get eggs or start subbing. But there’s also a wide range of smaller breakfast treats, like muesli, yogurt, coconut bread with ricotta and pistachio. You get the drift? Oh and if you’re Australian feeling a little nostalgic. Vegemite on white sourdough. Sniff sniff.
Salvation Jane opens for brunch 8 to 11.30am on weekdays and from 9am to 3.30pm on weekends. 55 City Road, EC1Y 1HQ. Phone: 020 7253 5273. http://www.salvationjanecafe.co.uk/
Off the beaten track…
If you’re really keen to avoid the high street crowds and, in so doing, don’t mind a little extra walk, then consider venturing to these smaller but still very good breakfast spots.
The Clerkenwell Kitchen
I love that this place has food served with passion. They partner with UK based suppliers so food is seasonal, as well as being well prepared and presented. I’m not a huge fan of their coffee and sadly they were a bit light on hot veggie options when I went a few months ago, but their breakfast options include eggs many ways as well as classics like fruit and granola.
The Clerkenwell Kitchen serves breakfast 8-11am every weekday. They’re also open Saturdays (despite what their website says, but to be sure, call them). 27-31 Clerkenwell Close, EC1R 0AT. Phone: 0207 101 9959. http://www.theclerkenwellkitchen.co.uk/www/