The Best Brunches in London (For People Who Hate Brunch)
I’m not a massive brunch fan. The idea of waking up early on a Sunday and paying good money to eat pancakes and avo toast is not my cup of tea. I’m more of a long lunch that leads into an equally long dinner kind of fella. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older it’s that sometimes you need to put your preconceptions aside and be able to view something from an objective perspective. Because, apparently, that’s “mature”.
The painful truth is that lots of people like brunch. Obviously, lots of people liking something doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily good (see: Brexit, Trump, Boris) but when it comes to food, it’s hard to argue that’s something is inherently bad if it’s feeding so many people and making them happy. And I don’t want to end up becoming a Grinch who grumbles about over-priced granola for the rest of his life.
With that in mind, I decided to put myself out of my culinary comfort zone some of the myriad brunch offerings in London. A good deal of them were painfully mediocre and I did feel somewhat vindicated in that sense. But, to be honest, there are also more than a handful of spots in London serving some really good brunch. Brunch that’s actually had some thought put into it and brunch that’s worth setting an alarm on the weekend for.
Those are the places I’ve intended to highlight in this guide to the best brunches in London (for people who hate brunch). If you’re as apprehensive about brunch as much as I am, it’s worth giving some of these ace restaurants, cafés, and bakeries a whirl next weekend. If you’re already a fan of brunch then, well, these are the cream of the crop.
If every restaurant and café in the world did brunch as good as Esters, I’d be brunch’s number one fan. I’d text you every weekend asking if you wanted to “go for brunch or something lol?” and I’m pretty sure you’d text “yeh that sounds good” back each and every time. The brunch at Esters is based on seasonal produce, which means the menu is always shifting, but expect classics like the bircher muesli and breakfast sandwich to be present, correct, and unfathomably delicious. Esters brings their A-game from 8am until 3.30pm and it’s that singular focus on making breakfast as special as possible that makes them a standout outfit. Order the French toast if it’s on. It’s mega.
55 Kynaston Road, N16 0EB
Towpath is the sort of place you can (and should) settle down to a lovely plate of fried eggs with caramelised sage before a day of doing similarly lovely things. Starting your weekend off on the right foot is important to ensure you make the most of your time away from your email inbox and a brunch at the Towpath is the rightest foot around. The slow trickle of the canal and the surfeit of east London puppies round Towpath off as one of the most idyllic dining spots in the city.
42 De Beauvoir Crescent, N1 5SB
Sunday in Brooklyn
Notting Hill and Williamsburg don’t have a huge amount in common. In fact, Sunday in Brooklyn might just be the only thing that the two vastly different neighbourhoods share with one another. Having already dominated the brunch scene in NYC, Sunday in Brooklyn opened up on this side of the pond to introduce Londoners to their famous malted pancakes with hazelnut praline and brown butter. Those fat pancakes regularly cause mammoth queues in Brooklyn and, having tucked into a stack on Westbourne Grove while suffering from a massive hangover, I can kind of see why. As well as those pancakes, Sunday in Brooklyn also does a bang-up job at other brunch-y dishes including a mean cauliflower patty melt, a cheesy Reuben omelette, and a hefty plate of biscuits and gravy that comes jazzed up with sambal. Sure, it’s brunch – but not as you know it.
98 Westbourne Grove, W2 5RU
One of my biggest gripes with brunch menus is that they typically consist of the sort of food you could quite easily make for yourself at home. That’s not the case at Snackbar. Whether it’s a breakfast burrito loaded with chorizo, scrambled egg, and avocado or a portion of fried chicken and waffles drizzled in hot sauce, pretty much every plate at Snackbar is designed to deliver maximal flavour – providing the sort of “holy shit, that’s good” impact you can’t get from your own cooking. Like, sure, you’ve had a cheese croissant before. But have you ever had a kimchi and stilton croissant? If you haven’t been to Snackbar, I’d hazard a bet that you haven’t. So go to Snackbar. ASAP.
20 Dalston Lane, E8 3AZ
Norman’s Cafe is a neat spot to pick up an affordable cup of quality coffee but it’s also so much more than that. I’ll admit that eating a set breakfast here feels a bit like you’re taking part in an art exhibition – as if you’re unknowingly contributing to a Turner Prize-nominated work on the gentrification of the classic English caff by scoffing an £8 plate of sausage, egg, bacon, bread, and beans after your morning Bikram. But there’s nothing ironic or knowing about Norman’s. The aim is to celebrate the greasy spoon in all its glory, offering a reasonably priced breakfast menu that uses top quality produce. That’s my kind of brunch.
167 Junction Road, Archway, N19 5PZ
Pastries are my kryptonite. I’m powerless when faced with a selection of freshly baked goods and the viennoiserie at Pophams is particularly capable of making me forget all about the people of Metropolis. In fact, the pastries at Pophams are so good I’m pretty sure they’d inspire me to dump Lois Lane via text so I could devote my life to eating my way through their chalkboard menu instead. Both the bacon and maple swirl and the marmite schlossberger are Instagram icons that you shouldn’t ignore; ordering one of each with an almond croissant for dessert is the one of the best brunch moves in the book.
197 Richmond Road, E8 3NJ
The Barbary Next Door
Neal's Yard is a lovely patch of London to breakfast in and the loveliest place to breakfast in that area is The Barbary Next Door. Serving a menu of Middle Eastern and North African-inspired cooking, this is the only restaurant in the city where you can start your day with a four-cheese bourekas and a Moroccan tortilla. The offering is unique and the plates are just the right size to satisfy you without making you feel sluggish for the rest of the day. One of the best brunches in town.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to pull off a good brunch. The Laundry in Brixton is a wine bar and restaurant that understands that. Sit in their al fresco terrace with some combination of toast + egg + Bloody Mary and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much fault with the world. The difference between mediocre and magic eggs is all about the execution. The Laundry’s Turkish eggs (a nod to chef Peter Gordon that involves two poached eggs being coddled by whipped yoghurt, hot chilli butter, and sourdough) are executed perfectly.
374 Coldharbour Lane, SW9 8PL
The Good Egg
“All-day brunch” is, nine times out of ten, a phrase that sends shivers down my spine. There’s no bleaker dining experience in my eyes than trying to have a romantic dinner date over a portion of rubbery scrambled eggs and a tepid mimosa. That being said, The Good Egg offers an all-day brunch and, before you get your pitchforks out, you should probably know that it’s actually very good. Dishes like the shakshuka, sabih, babka French toast, and salt beef Reuben pita have all been created with such a playful balance of ingredients and flavours that it’s hard not to be charmed by them at all times of the day. The babka French toast, in particular, is a riot of spiced custard that’s stacked with seasonal toppings which definitely, absolutely, 100% make it count as one of your five-a-day.
Unit G9 Kingly Court, Kingly Street, Carnaby, W1B 5PW
I once ran into a food writer who told me that their most shameful restaurant-related confession was that they’d never had breakfast at Dishoom. Reader: I gasped. The bacon naan roll at Dishoom is one of the city’s most legendary breakfast items and should be an essential part of any self-respecting eater’s rotation of quick morning fixes. The rest of the breakfast is, arguably, even better. The keema per eedu (a spicy chicken keema studded with bits of chicken liver, fried eggs, and crisps) is the perfect hangover antidote – a salty, spicy, filling platter of flavour that’ll eradicate any hangxiety you had about the previous night’s antics and gently lull you into a new day. Dishoom has probably got the most well-rounded brunch menu in town.
All right, no, this neighbourhood bakery in Notting Hill doesn’t technically have a brunch menu. But what Layla does technically have is a range of flaky pastries and sourdough toasties that you can technically eat at the sort of time that brunch is usually consumed. I’d technically recommend doing just that. Layla places a big emphasis on using wild grains, working with ancient traditions wherever possible, and it’s a comfort to know that every glossy goodie you can see resting on the counter has had the same amount of thought and love put into it. The viennoiserie is sublime and the Wildfarmed peanut chocolate cookies especially so.
332 Portobello Road, W10 5SA
After a moreish Moorish brunch? Morito on Hackney Road will sort you right out. With a host of dishes that draw on Spanish and Middle Eastern flavours, the breakfast menu here is rarely the same twice but you can always expect classics like Morrocan msemen, seasonal jams, and homemade granola among a crop of ever-changing plates. Wash a few of those down with an Allpress coffee and you’ll have the makings of one of the best brunches in London on your hands.
195 Hackney Road, E2 8JL
Not only does Milk Cafe absolutely nail what brunch food is all about but they also pretty deftly nail the brunch aesthetic too. Far too many places miss the mark with their eggs and brekky offering and teeter into a world of TikTok twee but Milk Cafe – with its laid back Aussie vibes and gorgeous tahini-topped banana bread – hits the brunch bulls-eye every time. No bookings helps to preserve the cool factor. Come with an appetite and you’ll leave with a stomach full of good food and a phone full of sexy food shots.
18-20 Bedford Hill, SW12 9RG
Granger and Co.
Granger and Co. make ricotta pancakes that taste like you're biting into a sugary cloud. Enough said.
Big Jo is one of the best bakeries in London and also, as it happens, one of the best places to eat brunch. There’s no danger of getting avo toast here – all that Big Jo offers in the morning is a selection of classy baked goods – but I’m classifying it as brunch because of just how good those seasonal tarts, croissants, and danishes are. Pull up a seat here with one of their heritage grain-packed pastries and you’ll quickly forget about all your worries.
318, 326 Hornsey Road, Finsbury Park, N7 7HE
The Pavilion cafe opened in Victoria Park in 2004, becoming an instant staple for couples and dog walkers in the area from the moment it served its first latte. Pavilion is open seven days a week for breakfast, brunch, lunch and also offers a selection of bread, pastries, cakes, coffee and fresh juices for takeaway throughout the day. The egg muffin with grilled cheese and green chilli jam is everything that an Egg McMuffin from Maccie’s wishes it could be while the Sri Lankan breakfast staple of dhal, roti, and sambol is a punchy and pleasant surprise. It’s impossible to come here without immediately planning a return visit.
Victoria Park, Old Ford Road, E9 7DE
If you’re not into eggs, it’s probably best you stay away from a restaurant that’s literally got the word “egg” in its name. At least, that’s what I thought until I accidentally took someone who doesn’t like eggs to Eggbreak and they had a really nice time. Go figure. Egg-based dishes like the ‘Breakybab’ and sabich egg benedict are the indisputable heroes of the menu but the egg-less plates of pancakes and Nutella French toast are dark horses that are just as worth ordering.
30 Uxbridge Street, W8 7TA
Specialising in the Western-style Yōshoku cuisine you’ll find served at cafes all across Asia, Cafe BAO is a fun and fresh concept from the Bao restaurant group. The baked goods counter (always well-stocked with cute and delicious buns) is perfect for a quick bite to takeaway with your morning coffee, but it's the hot dishes served at the cafe that are worth settling down and getting comfortable for. Sweet potato cheese hotcakes; shia song prawn and trout roe toast; and the bacon and egg, black garlic-glazed spring onion pancake are all unmatched ways to start your day. Cafe BAO's breakfast runs from 9:00am until 11:45am on Saturday and Sunday, the restaurant then opens for day service at 12.00pm.
Unit 2, Building, 4 Pancras Square, N1C 4AG