No doubt forever smarting from that Giles Coren review – Coren found the food ‘filthy’, and not in a good way – Ella Canta has gamely dusted itself off. Coren also had difficulty in ordering, and found the staff frosty. Happily, our waitress was a total charmer, and the weekend brunch was a constant flow of both wonderful dishes and quirky margaritas – hibiscus, pistachio, and lavender and sea salt. It would be doing the margaritas a disservice to say the best thing about them is that they’re unlimited. They are delicious, as well as bountiful. Apparently most customers keep the margarita loop going in menu-order, rather than taking the trouble to choose. We did the same. I’m not sure how many times, but it was deja vu of the best kind. For three courses, with an hour-and-a-half of unlimited margaritas or sparkling wine, it’s £45.
Ella Canta, InterContinental hotel, Hamilton Place, W1
With a view like this, the food does not really need to pull its weight. Fortunately it does anyway. It’s expensive, of course, and as a place to eat in itself it’s pretty short on warmth, but that would be a tall order given the 31st floor surroundings. It’s difficult to make anywhere that is dominated by acres of glass, with big gaps between tables feel cosy. From seeing London in the very cold light of day at brunch time, I suspect it looks a bit jollier in the evening: a grey, damp morning was not flattering to the city. Having enjoyed an embarrassing, artery-clogging number of lobster thermidors in my time, I can confirm that the one at Aqua Shard, with cauliflower cheese gratin, does stand out. Also any of the eggs benedicts/floretines/royales come with zingy, perfect hollandaise. The three-course set brunch is £44.
Aqua Shard, The Shard, 31 St. Thomas Street, SE1 9RY
Whichever one of five Caravans you head to on a weekend morning, they are always buzzing with millennials having brunch. Millennials might not be connoisseurs of drinking, smoking or taking drugs, but they do know their brunch. The offering here is extremely elaborate. The drinks alone run to pages of milks and milk alternatives, ‘immuno booster’ shots, ferments, sodas, cocktails, and coffee brews with tasting notes. The seasonal bellini (kiwi, apple, nettle and prosecco) and salted caramel hot chocolate come highly recommended.
The braised ham hock hash with cavolo nero is hearty and tasty, and there are lots of other carby, meaty options, like the pork belly with kimchi pancake, or jalapeño cornbread with chipotle mayonnaise. The healthy items are hits as well though, particularly the spiced yoghurt with blood orange and moreish maple sesame oat granola.
Caravan Fitzrovia, 152 Great Portland Street, W1
Bryn Williams at Somerset House
In a building as pretty as Somerset House it’s impossible to go wrong with the setting. Just walking through the door is uplifting, before the serious business of eating gets underway. Having kept the discerning residents of Primrose Hill happy for decades with Odette’s, chef Bryn Williams has opened up restaurants on his home turf of North Wales, and now in central London. Hats off to the pancakes and waffles in particular. The buttermilk waffle with vanilla and cinnamon is instantly comforting and warming, just as a waffle should be, with a little tartness from fresh blackberries to balance it out. The pumpkin pancake with candied walnuts and forest fruit compote is another winner.
Bryn Williams, Somerset House, WC2
Formerly a hairdresser, Salon is just the right side of cool without being uncomfortable. The one bugbear is that getting in on the weekend requires perseverance. The usual dilemma is whether or not to skulk off to look for a quieter place in Brixton Market. No, don’t! It’s worth it. Even if you do have to raise your voice over the hubbub more than your hangover croak can easily cope with. London-sourced treats on the menu include ‘nduja from Borough, bread from Peckham, pancetta from Hackney, and Salon’s homemade chutneys, syrups and curds. Don’t miss out on the Sriracha Royale (house smoked salmon, rye soda bread, duck egg, greens and Sriracha chilli hollandaise).
Salon Brixton, 18 Market Row, SW9
South Kensington is oddly short on brunch options. Happily, Apero, a chirpy Mediterranean restaurant in the vaulted cellars of pretty boutique hotel, the Ampersand, is here to fill the gap. It’s calm and relaxed, and surprisingly reasonably priced. There are plenty of sharing and meat-free items on the menu to keep everyone happy and that formula extends to their weekend brunch, ‘pranzo della nonna’, which is ‘grandmother’s lunch’ in Italian. It’s £22.50 per person, or £37.50 with bottomless prosecco, Aperol spritzes or mimosas. It’s a feast including creamy burrata with red pepper jam, baked sausage, tomato and eggs and pappardelle with black truffle.
Apero, The Ampersand Hotel, 2 Harrington Rd, SW7