Breakfast

Gospel Brunch – Altitude 360

I think church is just about the last place you’ll find me on a Sunday, so imagine my surprise when a few weeks ago, instead of watching movies in bed, I was at the top of Millbank Tower joining in with the London Community Gospel Choir.

Yes, I have now been fully immersified into the wonder that is London’s only Gospel Brunch at Altitude 360. Hand to god, it’s probably the most fun I’ve had over prosecco in quite some time – and that’s saying a lot.

To give you an idea of the scale of awesome we were in for, here was the view from our table:

As you can imagine, a view like that needs to be matched by equally punchy food and entertainment in order not to be outshone (especially on one of London’s first sunny warm days). This bread plate was the first attempt:

Have I ever said how much I’ve missed cornbread? I mean, seriously… bouncy, rich, sweet, savoury cornbread is just amazing, and Altitude’s (thank god) didn’t disappoint. The brioche with caramelised onions deserves a hearty shout out as well.

Once the bread plate was demolished and  I stopped oggling out the window, I started oggling the menu. BBQ ribs, chorizo omelette, tuna steak, BBQ chicken. Lots of delicious choices, but in the end I decided to go to with a good old fashioned BBQ chicken.

The bird itself was fine and the BBQ actually a really good sticky effort. The rice and black beans (so difficult to find in the UK!) , however, were actually quite dry. The extra BBQ sauce helped and the Cajun potato wedges I ordered on the side were ace, but when 2/3 of your main is a no-go, you can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.

DQ went for a breakfast option: the chorizo and red pepper omelette served ‘on a roll’.


I have to admit, I was really confused about this one. It wasn’t so much served on a roll as it was ‘as a roll’, but lately I’ve found that restaurants try to be as cagey as possible with their menu descriptions. No longer are we allowed to visualise what will be on our plate when we order it. It always has to be a surprise now. (Like the time where I ordered a steak pie, and it came out looking like a tartare terrine)

Missing roll or not, the omelette was bursting full of red pepper goodness. It was slightly on the greasy side, but mostly because it was chock full of chorizo – and chorizo grease is probably the best grease of them all.

Desserts were absolutely heavenly. Mississippi Mud Pie was sinfully rich and Key Lime Pie – another American classic I’ve not seen over here – was as fresh and tart as if purchased from Florida earlier in the morning.

The only real downside at this point is that DQ and I were both physically hurting from having so much food. I blame the bread. The delicious, delicious bread.

As you can imagine though, the food is only a small reason you come to the gospel brunch. Our Southern feast would not have been complete with the soulful serenading from the sassy Gospel Choir. I could go on about their talent or the vibe in the restaurant, but it’s probably just easier if you watch the video.

Turns out, even though I’m not religious in the slightest, I actually know quite a few gospel songs. You probably do too. ‘Oh, Happy Day’, ‘I Go to the Rock’, ‘Your Love is My Love’ and a few others. No less than three songs were dedicated to Whitney too, rest her soul. This was the big finale. This lady had some pipes on her…

The whole thing is £49 per person (including juices and water, but not alcoholic drinks) and this time DQ and I were guests of Altitude. It might seem a little steep for brunch, but when you consider the entertainment value, the view and the fact that we were there for about 3 hours, it’s a steal.

Advertisements

The Big Chill House – King’s Cross

The Big Chill House is a very large, trendy pub not too far from Kings Cross station. Really, one might call it a part of an empire. There’s the Big Chill festival, of course, the Big Chill record label and The Big Chill Bar (London and Bristol). Together, they form the embodiment of, well, what it means to be cool, but not too cool. Perhaps that why they went for the ‘chill’ theme.

DQ and I went for an admittedly rushed breakfast before having to pick our friends up from the train station. Huge windows mean that on a bright and sunny day, the atmosphere is really quite pleasant and light, despite the heavy fabrics and dark colours used for decoration.

The menu, mostly a combination of British and American items, was fairly basic. DQ went for the Full English (£7.50), which with its light and fluffy scrambled eggs and streaky bacon was a hit.

I was less enthused with my French Toast (£3.75), however. Even though I ordered it with all of the syrup and butter on the side, it came out of the kitchen clearly having been drenched with the stuff and sitting under a heat lamp for quite some time, making it an overly sweet, soggy mess.

Luckily the edges  – the only part not swimming in syrup  – were delicious and crispy, which makes me think if they had got the order right, it would have been fantastic.

I get the impression breakfast is a new thing for The Big Chill House. It’s quite competitively priced and the staff were very friendly (although our meals took AGES to come out). But that said, I think they’re doing some good things on the whole.

Give them a bit of time to work out the kinks, and The Big Chill House’s breakfast could be a great start to the morning.

Big Chill House on Urbanspoon

Full disclosure: I was given a voucher from The Big Chill House to come in and try their breakfasts at my leisure. My experience was ‘off the street’ and thus, anonymous. This review reflects my true opinions on the food and service provided

Balan’s – Westfield

Balan’s – all seven locations in London – is known for their breakfasts. Nice fluffy American-style pancakes, equally fluffy scrambled eggs and streaky bacon. In short: any American in London’s dream brunch. Why then, oh why, do I insist on deviating from the norm and order something not breakfast-y?

In this instance, it was because I wanted to be ‘healthy’. I opted for a salad. BIG mistake.

My salad was made up of exactly two prawns, about 10 corns kernals, a sprinkle of black beans and three slices of avocado – all for the bargain price of £8.95. Luckily (sarcasm alert) they did not skimp on the lettuce as the bowl was overflowing with it. I reckon their overheads for this salad was probably in the region of 75p at the end of the day, which really just makes me a chump for assuming £9 would net me more than two prawns. Silly me.

On the other side of the health scale were the aforementioned pancakes DQ ordered, which were delicious and everything one could hope for in an American breakfast. Fluffy buttermilk goodness with fresh maple syrup and crispy, salty proper bacon. Well, proper for me anyway. At £6.95, they were slightly overpriced, but certainly didn’t break the bank.

You know, I really like the restaurant choices at Westfield, but I’m steering clear of  Balan’s for next time. Sorry kids, but even nice pancakes did not erase my hatred of paying £9 for romaine lettuce.

Balans on Urbanspoon

Michigan Roundup – Part 1

One of my favourite parts of visiting home for Christmas are the restaurants – specifically in Ann Arbor. I’ve posted a few of my ‘must-go’ places before, so I won’t bore you with the many details. Instead, perhaps a pictorial food journey of ‘Tree Town’ is in order…

Aut Bar – Eggs Benedetto:

My favourite brunch place doubles as Ann Arbor’s only gay bar at night. Their slightly twisted weekly takes on Eggs Benedict (this one with a yummy spicy ham) is always a winner. The potatoes are especially tasty.

Aut Bar on Urbanspoon

 

Pacific Rim – Big Eye Tuna:

For mains at Pacific Rim (my favourite restaurant and former place of employment before I joined the big bad world of PR), my dilemma is always ‘Do I go for my favourite, my other favourite, or my other other favourite?’ This particular time I went with my ‘other’: the Big Eye Tuna. Seared tuna with a wasabi cream, ginger-miso and sweet soy sauce, served over crispy rice with a daikon salad. It is superb.

Pacific Rim By Kana on Urbanspoon

 

National Coney Island – Original Coney Dog with Fries

And of course, what trip to Michigan would be complete without a trip to a Coney Island? Whether Kerby’s, National or one of the many ‘off brands’, the consistency of the chili that goes on that lovely dense meaty pipe, is just something that can not be replicated in the UK.

National Coney Island on Urbanspoon


Five Guys – Cheeseburger with hot sauce, bacon and ketchup with Fries

And to balance the hot dog, we must mention the glorious burger. Five Guys is a national chain famous for the accolades of President Obama, their anything-you-want-on-it-for-free toppings and the all you can eat peanuts. They made it to Michigan shortly after I moved away, but I’ve tried almost every time to make it back when I’m home. It’s melt in your mouth goodness.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries on Urbanspoon

Part 2 including fried chicken, more BIG American breakfasts and the Cuban street food place du jour coming up soon!

Aut Bar – Ann Arbor, Michigan

I never thought I’d say this, but there is such a thing as too much chorizo.

I had this breakfast burrito with chorizo, avocado and cheese at Aut Bar when I was home over Christmas. Normally I love Aut Bar – they have one of the best brunches in the history of boozey breakfasts. (I have very fond memories of an Eggs Benedict with crabcakes topped with a curry-infused hollandaise sauce.)

But this? It was honestly too much to take. Such a pity.

Aut Bar on Urbanspoon

Club Bart – Ferndale, Michigan

Brunch – proper brunch – is one of my favourite meals in the world. It’s something I haven’t really been able to find an American equivalent of in London. If I want Huevos Rancheros or a fatty Denny’s-style om nom skillet, I’m pretty much forced to either A) make it myself or B) go back to America. So when I was in Michigan for Christmas, I took advantage of everything breakfast with booze has to offer.

One of my first stops was Club Bart in Fashionable Ferndale.

As my friend and I sat down, I realised just how hungry I was. Only problem was I couldn’t decide to go for sweet or savoury. Normal people would just flip a coin or get over themselves and choose one. Me? I just ordered both.

My savoury was Stuffed Breakfast Biscuits:

(American biscuits, if it’s not clear)

Club Bart Brunch Ferndale

Light, fluffy and buttery biscuits – one stuffed with spinach and feta, and the other with bacon and brie. It also came with two poached eggs and hash browns. Besides being an absolute heartattack on a plate, this was great. It’s everything a fatty American breakfast should be. I think even Paula Deen would be shocked at how much delicious butter was used in this dish.

I also ordered a Blueberry Pancake:

Club Bart Brunch Ferndale

I love that you can get a single pancake add-on for $2 at almost any brunch place in the States. Even if you only take a couple bites, it’s worth it. The pancake wasn’t particularly memorable, but it definitely hit the spot.

Now… if anyone knows where I can get a good American style brunch in London complete with mimosas/Buck’s Fizz and a sizable Mexican section (I’m desperate for a decent breakfast burrito), I’m all ears.

Club Bart on Urbanspoon

Selma – Ann Arbor, Michigan

Not to be outdone by all the pop-up private supper clubs around, a family in Ann Arbor has started ‘Selma’, a Friday morning breakfast club from 6am-10am*.

Like most of these outfits, Selma doesn’t do any traditional advertising or marketing and  is thriving by word-of-mouth, but that doesn’t stop it from being very very busy.

My friend and I got there about 9, a triumphant feat considering I had drunkenly collapsed into bed about 3:30 that same morning. The place was hopping.  We were given nametags and were asked to wait a few minutes while they cleared off a place for us to sit.

In the laundry room, the cupboards were covered with nametags of past visitors. Really cool.

About 10 minutes later we were sat at the kitchen island in full view of the cooks furiously labouring over the savoury-sweet goodness.

We had a choice of four entrees, but at least two of them ran out during the course of our meal.  I went for the frittata, my friend, the waffles.

The waffles were pretty good. Freshly made and with nice blueberries.  My frittata on the other hand had been sitting around quite some time.  One piece of cold bacon and even colder way-too-oily potatoes did not make up for it at all.  It was like eating the last piece of everything at a buffet.

I paid the lower end of the suggested donation of $10-$15.  I paid it happily because I love the idea and I want to see it survive, but if I was in any normal restaurant, I might have scoffed a tad bit.

*I can’t remember the exact address, but the house is at the Eberwhite on the right before you get to the school. There’s a sign out front and chickens in the back.