Whittling down a list of London’s best breakfasts is a tough task. For every artery-furring fry-up, there’s a city-best eatery catering to bleary-eyed commuters, early morning meetings and wide-awake, workshy gadabouts.
It’s not just eggs, avocado and bacon, either; whether you’re after fiery Far Eastern fare, sweet-spicy Nordic comfort food or muscular British grub, all tastes are catered for.
Breakfast isn’t just the most important meal of the day – with restaurants like the nine below serving up a plethora of near-perfect dishes, it might just be the best. Set your alarm an hour early and get to it.
London is crammed with greasy spoon cafés, but few of them come as classic as the Regency. This out of time, out of place Pimlico prince, with its iconic sans-serif signage, dowdy cream tiling and sea of formica table tops, attracts everyone from cinephiles (it featured in 2004’s Layer Cake) and art buffs visiting the nearby Tate to local labourers and itinerant foodies, all piqued by the sizeable fried breakfast. At an insanely affordable £5.50, it might be London’s best bargain.
What To Order: The fry-up, duh. One egg, two rashers of bacon, a sausage, beans or tomatoes and toast, washed down with tea or coffee. Extra black pudding and hash browns are 90p; pre-lunch food comas are free.
17-19 Regency Street, SW1P 4BY
It’s hardly a secret that the breakfasts at this stylised homage to the Irani Bombay cafés of yore are better than anything dished up later in the day. But just how good they are is often understated. Yes, the kick-ass bacon naan is lauded; but almost everything else – from the ‘Parsi power breakfasts’ of fried eggs on chilli cheese toast or the South Asian take on a fry-up, to simple buttered pav buns, lassis and bottomless chai – is perfect, too.
What To Order: The keema per eedu – a fiery bowl of chicken keema curry, topped with liver, two fried eggs and crisp chips, with two pav buns on the side – is London’s most underrated dish, Indian or otherwise.
12 Upper Saint Martin’s Lane, WC2H 9FB
It’s South London gospel that Brick House does the best bread in town. Ergo, by using its startling bakes in most dishes, the breakfast menu is a no-brainer. Of the two branches, the smaller Peckham Rye café is more-grab-and-go, while the airy East Dulwich flagship makes for a better sit-in, even if it’s brimful of babies on the weekend. Anything on sourdough toast is great, though the gluten averse are well catered for with the house shakshuka (basically eggs poached in a spiced tomato and green pepper stew), which can be had with or without merguez sausages.
What To Order: Swerve the inevitable avocado on toast and order the double boiled eggs with sourdough soldiers: an ascetic, unadulterated, dippy delight.
1 Zenoria Street, SE22 8HP
The ‘traditional’ Japanese breakfast is a clean, cleansing thing, erring towards stark flavours of fish, soy, salty pickles and warming miso. So it goes at Koya Bar, a wood-clad counter restaurant considered one of Soho’s most restorative breakfast spots. Of course, we’re in thrall to the thick, chewy udon noodles, but the short menu also incorporates soothing rice porridge bowls and pickle-heavy small plates. Too mild? Nip across the road for a weapons-grade espresso at Bar Italia afterwards. Win win.
What To Order: Go simple with the kitsune udon, with sweet tofu and spring onion – an Osakan classic. Add wakame seaweed and a pickled umeboshi plum on the side for an extra salty-sharp hit.
50 Frith Street, W1D 4SQ
Apres Food Co.
Modern Pantry is a go-to for gastronauts seeking early morning sustenance before hitting up some of the city’s coolest menswear stores. And rightly so, but the lesser-known Apres Food Co has been fashioning a fine rep around the corner on St John Street. This verdant spot does an equally superb line in wholesome and vaguely healthy dishes that run the gamut from porridge with oat milk and organic blossom honey, through to smoked salmon and poached egg pots, picture-perfect pancakes and a full English that factors a whopping 30 ingredients.
What To Order: The Apres Hash – a teeny tower of rosti’d sweet potato, cavolo nero, red onion and spinach, topped with a poached egg. Wash down with a shot of organic cold-pressed apple, celery, cucumber and ginger and feel the smugness sweep over you.
72 Saint John Street, EC1M 4DT
Bankers have all the fun, don’t they? That Hawskmoor’s subterranean City palace is most conveniently situated for Square Mile suits is reflected in its pricey – and borderline boorish – breakfast menu. But god is it good. Aficionados err towards the sausage and egg HkMuffin (Hawksmoor’s take on the McDonald’s staple), but who could resist the near-legendary full English for two (with roast bone marrow and short-rib bubble ‘n’ squeak) or, better still, a full-blown rib-eye steak and eggs? This is Hawksmoor, after all.
What To Order: Screw it, go big. The full lobster Benedict, washed down with a Corpse Reviver No. 2 (that’s gin, triple sec, Cocchi americano, lemon and absinthe), will get you out of bed – then put you straight back in it.
10 Basinghall Street City, EC2V 5BQ
Keen to escape the bustle of Seven Dials and traffic-choked Shaftesbury Avenue? Make quick to this serene little spot in the equally dreamy bolthole that is Neal’s Yard. 26 Grains is a Scandi-leaning eatery that specialises in porridge, which makes it perfect for breakfast. The minds behind it are inventive, too: expect your oats laced with anything from toasted buckwheat and plum compote to tomato rum jam and pink peppercorns. It may not be hygge, per se, but it certainly is comforting.
What To Order: The sweetly soothing Nordic Pear porridge, with almond milk spiced oats, pear, crumbled cacao, seeds, greek yoghurt and maple.
1 Neal’s Yard, WC2H 9DP
Only the most absent-minded London gourmand could have missed the ascent of Smoking Goat, the regional Thai BBQ grill-bar famous for its face-smashing flavours and vibey atmosphere. But did you know it also does breakfast? Now you do. The weekend 10am menu (just pipping ‘brunch’ hours) is almost as punchy as the evening offering, and sees smoked morsels – aubergine, pork jowl, beef sausage – paired up with chilli roti and fried eggs. The super-sweet, condensed milk-laced Vietnamese drip coffee is a must, too.
What To Order: Curried saffron eggs sound good, right? Right. How about with added lardo pig fat? What are you still reading this for?
64 Shoreditch High Street, E1 6JJ
St John Bread And Wine
Fergus Henderson and Trevor Gulliver’s clattery, canteeny restaurant in Smithfield is rightly considered one of the OGs of gutsy British cooking. But the breakfast offering at St John’s Spitalfields outpost is its secret weapon. The short menu includes muesli, roasted fruits, juices and other lighter titbits, but Henderson’s culinary ethos can be found in the small selection of offally and archaic items (scotch woodcock, kippers, blood cake et al.). Oh, and they do London’s best bacon sarnie – bar none.
What To Order: The devilled kidneys on toast. A cayenne-flecked, earthy and deeply delicious plate that could convert even the most offal-averse (if only they’d be brave).
94-96 Commercial Street, E1 6LZ