It's not fancy, it's not big and it's not clever, but the scrag end is delicious. For simple, honest opinions on restaurants, recipes, supper clubs and what not, you've come to the right place.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Riding House Cafe, 43-51 Great Titchfield Street, Fitzrovia

Celebrity chefs, nutritionists, the government and even ‘doctors’ agree: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. They’re wrong, of course, having confused ‘waking up early’ with virtue and ‘lack of coffee’ with fatigue. The most important meal of the day is, quite obviously, brunch, even more so if the day is Sunday. With all the benefits of breakfast and none of the puritanical insanity, it is both the most leisurely and the most fully enjoyable of meals. If you eat a huge brunch, you have most of a day to work it off; try that size of meal for dinner, and you’ll be fat and sleepless.

The Riding House Cafe understands this, which is why it confines ‘small plates’ to the lunch and dinner menus, when people can more easily be persuaded to overspend on bite-sized eating. It offers proper, full-bodied breakfast-type dishes from 9 until 12 on Sundays (starting at 8 during the week), and it’s all the better for that.

The ‘full & proper breakfast’ was far too big for an early morning repast, but hit the spot perfectly at 11 o’clock. With plenty of superb Orkney bacon, excellent black pudding and a fantastic pork sausage, alongside the other standard trappings of a full English, it was worth the hefty £9.40 price tag.

Cured sea trout with crème fraiche and toast was delicate and subtle, a lighter, more refreshing alternative to the brunchy big guns, and at £7.50, decent value. For the same price, an Orkney bacon sandwich ought to have been excellent. It was, if only because it contained about 10 rashers of bacon, rather than the usual couple. The bacon at the Riding House Cafe is a wonder, thick, sweet, and far more porky than normal.

All this was good, and avocado on toast reached a similar standard, but perhaps surprisingly, the best things about brunch at the Riding House Cafe were the drinks. Served in an old-style milk bottle, an oat, natural yoghurt, orange juice, honey, cinnamon, banana and spirulina smoothie revitalised and lubricated, while apple, ginger, beetroot and carrot juice felt easily healthy enough to counterbalance the less wholesome elements of the meal. Even the coffee was excellent.

Immediately after this meal, I went shopping in Selfridges. It’s a testament to the quality of brunch at the Riding House Cafe that it saw me through this most unappetising of experiences. Indeed, I managed two hours of West End shopping and a whole wedding reception without screaming at anyone. I’d say that makes it worth a visit.

Phil Letts’ take: 8/10 

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