When the new City branch of the Wolseley flings open its ornate King William Street doors later this year, the financial center will finally get a taste of what Mayfair and St James's denizens have been enjoying at the Piccadilly flagship for the past two decades: the over-the-top Wolseley breakfast.
Eggs, served Benedict, Florentine or Royale; waffles, French toast, stacks of pancakes and granola; grilled kippers, kedgeree and devilled kidneys: The early morning menu at the Wolseley is pitched somewhere between an American-style brunch and a shooting weekend at an Edwardian country house.
The City crowd has not been devoid of breakfast options, but they’re getting even more plentiful. The Italian minded Lina Stores' City branch (in the Bloomberg Arcade) is launching a morning meal in mid-August, that goes beyond a fast espresso fix. On the menu: Fried egg and roast porchetta breakfast sandwiches.
Former banking hall 1 Lombard Street is the doyen of City breakfast haunts. Head chef Herbert Berger launched its first breakfast menu in 2001. 'The idea,' recalls owner Soren Jessen, 'was to offer a five-star hotel breakfast, the only one outside a hotel.' It was slow to take off, 'but now there is a queue outside at 7.30 every morning. People may not be coming into the City every day, but when they do, they fill the day with meetings, starting at breakfast.'
Martin Williams, chief executive officer of M Threadneedle Street, has also seen breakfast sales double over the last year, 'especially Tuesday to Thursday. When people do come into the City, they want to fit in as many meetings and as much corporate entertaining as they can.” He also notes a demographic shift in the clientele. “I'd say less than half are in suits now, half are women, and more and more are tech guys.”
At Fallow, the much-lauded modern British restaurant in St James, co-owner James Robson notes a distinct uptick in breakfast business, 'especially on Mondays: Tuesday to Thursday was always busy, but we're serving more and more breakfasts early in the week.”
Robson says the peak time for the classic corporate breakfast is 8 a.m. “But we're busy through until 10.30. The average spend is around £25 ($32). That's around half the lunch spend, and a quarter of what we take at dinner, but it's good turnover.” He adds: “Given the costs of running a central London restaurant, you can't afford to be shut.'
The sentiment is echoed by Francis O'Neill, the proprietor of Maison François, where breakfast is lavish. 'A place like this shouldn't have its lights off. We have night chefs making bread and patisserie, then breakfast brings the room to life and sets a precedent for the day,” he says. From 7 a.m. until 9 a.m., the crowd is mostly business people: “Quick in, quick out, lots of regulars. We had to triple the number of staff making coffees.'
All agree that there's something hard-headed—sober, even—about early business meetings. Says Jessen: 'The great thing about a deal struck at breakfast is that you can go back to the office, nail down the details, then go out for lunch to celebrate.'
Whether you’re doing a morning deal or not, here are the 9 top places around London to eat well, early.
Best known for its fiercely local, seasonal and inventive modern British cooking, Fallow is now open for breakfast. The kitchen’s regional ethos applies to the morning menu: The No Avo on sourdough (£12) features crushed English peas, smoked cheese curds, coriander and walnut dukkah. Royales—the signature croissant rolls—are filled with baked egg, spinach, 'nduja and crème fraîche; sausage patty, cheese, bacon and egg; or grilled mushroom, cheese, crispy shallot and egg.
Another specialty: The £14 malted waffles with whipped whey caramel, praline and raspberries.
M Threadneedle Street
M Restaurant owner Williams credits the booming breakfast business at his handsome, high-ceilinged City dining room in part to the ability to have a clear-headed, alcohol-free meal—“although our clients don't always pick the healthiest menu items: Our 'firecracker' scrambled eggs with chorizo and coriander … is very popular.' The Wagyu Sausage and Egg M Muffin (pun very much intended) with smoked ketchup is a further bestseller; less-blowout options include avocado on sourdough with feta (£9.90) and almond granola with organic black sesame yogurt and fruit.
45 Jermyn Street
Hedge funders book 45 Jermyn Street's trademark orange banquettes each weekday morning, lured by well-spaced tables and a wide-ranging—and calorie-counted—breakfast menu. Baked hen's eggs with spinach and ricotta weighs in at 255 kcal (£15.50); the Full English blowout contains sausage, bacon, black pudding, tomatoes, beans and eggs any style (1594 kcal, £19.50). If you want a 7.30 a.m. celebratory bottle of Champagne or an orange marmalade-spiked breakfast martini, the bar is one of London's best.
1 Lombard Street
A favorite with the City finance crowd for a couple of decades, 1 Lombard is now bringing in a wider range of breakfast diners, according to owner Jessen. 'Oil traders, insurance brokers, head hunters … not all suits and ties anymore.” The spacious tables in the high-domed former banking hall lend themselves to meetings: “Some of them use [the restaurant] as an office.' The 1 Lombard breakfast menu is a roll call of classics, from eggs Benedict (£15) to grilled kipper served with wholegrain mustard butter (£17), plus less conventional options like burrata with beets and vegan and vegetarian takes on English breakfasts.
Once a luxury car showroom, the soaring art deco space is one of London's higher-profile hangouts. While celebrities are thin on the ground at breakfast, the room still has an über-glamorous feel, with checkerboard floors, marble counters, glinting gilt and acres of starched, white linen, and plenty of private wealth managers on hand. Eggs are cooked a dozen ways: small and large plates of eggs Benedict, Florentine or royale from £14 to £20, but traditionalists will choose the smoked haddock and cheese-filled omelette Arnold Bennett (£18.75).
The City branch, on the ground floor of the old House of Fraser building on King William Street, will open in the fall.
Duck and Waffle
Among the things that commend Duck and Waffle for breakfast: It’s set on the 40th floor of 110 Bishopsgate (aka the Heron Tower), so the view is unbeatable. The place is famously open 24 hours a day so the breakfast menu kicks in at 6 a.m., earlier than most places. Not surprisingly, both duck and waffles feature prominently on the menu: A fried duck egg sits on a crispy confit duck leg atop a waffle, with mustard-maple syrup in a jug alongside it (£24).
Duck Benedict (£18) features smoked breast, poached egg, hollandaise, sriracha … and yes, a waffle. Diners with acrophobia should book a central café-au-lait-colored banquette, not a window table.
Mount St. Restaurant
Set on the first floor of Mayfair’s Audley Public House and lavishly refurbished by wealthy art mavens Hauser & Wirth, Mount St. is a calm, art-filled dining place to start the work day. The restaurant's morning menu specializes in quintessentially British dishes: devilled kidneys on toast (£16.50); 'Stepney kipper' (a herring smoked in East London for £18); and bacon chop with the classic mashed potato and cabbage bubble and squeak and a fried duck egg for £26.
The Game Bird
The restaurant at the Stafford Hotel, now in the capable hands of chef Lisa Goodwin-Allen, has become a destination spot for a working breakfast. It’s calm, smart and clubby, with good service and discreetly spaced tables. There’s a buffet of fruits, grains and yogurt; boiled egg with toast fingers (aka 'soldiers'); and smashed avocado and smoked salmon on toasted sourdough, with eggs any style, for £21.
To go whole hog, almost literally, the £24 Stafford Full English is a plate groaning under the weight of two eggs, smoked bacon, Cumberland sausage, black pudding, grilled tomato, field mushroom and baked beans.
An unlikely modern UK classic is Dishoom's Bacon Naan Roll, the go-to breakfast order at the Indian brasserie chain's six London restaurants. The £8.70 breakfast sandwich features freshly baked naan wrapped around smoked streaky Ayrshire bacon, a dab of cream cheese, chili jam and coriander. The Shoreditch outpost closest to the City is a quirky, industrial space with a patio for sunny days and whitewashed brick walls hung with old portraits—an homage to the clutter of old Bombay cafés.
The naan rolls come in several varieties, including a vegan sausage version. The Parsi Power Breakfast is keema per eedu (£14.90), featuring spiced chicken keema, chopped chicken livers, two fried eggs, chips and home-baked rolls.