Brunch options just get more and more plentiful. I'm now well and truly spoiled for choice in my neck of the woods, as the joy of breakfast food spreads deeper and deeper. In recent weeks, still in my post Masters joy, it's been a steady stream of brunch dates.
So what's new?
Well, Barden's Cafe is fairly new. It's on the main drag in Dalston, formerly a grotty but charming basement venue, now forced overground by the clubbier club The Nest (always looks a bit dancey for an indie boy like me). A big old space, all high ceilings and sleek lines. But rolling up at an unfashionably early 10.30am we were able to get one of the best spots, a whole sofa area all for two. Sorry.
My brunch default is eggs benedict, because I'm rubbish at poaching eggs neatly and can't be arsed making hollandaise. But I was sorely tempted by the idea of french toast, bacon and maple syrup. Happily, Barden's had just the dish - french toast, bacon, poached eggs, maple syrup and cream. It sounded fishy - poached eggs with cream and maple syrup? Bacon and maple syrup and cream? HMM. I pondered for a good 10 minutes and then plumped for it. It arrived, a little pot of cream and a little pot of maple syrup sat separately. I didn't hold back in pouring it all over, and tucked in.
Wow. It actually really worked, just a great combination of flavours. Bits of saltiness here, sweet there. Oi oi. And only £6 too, so you can't complain.
From one side of Hackney to the other: my next brunch was at Bistroteque, from scruffy hipster to coiffured fashion set. Bistroteque is in a warehouse-y space in the badlands south of London Fields and north of Behtnal Green, just off Cambridge Heath Road amid strips of strip clubs. It's an ugly area, but achingly hip. In contrast with its bleak surroundings, Bistroteque is an amazing, stylish space, all white, high ceilings big windows and smart, trendy, efficient staff. A pianist does tinkly cabaret style piano covers of cheesy 80s and 90s pop - our finely tuned ears pick out Steps, Tiffany and S Club 7. Nice.
The brunch menu was fairly trim, but with some tasty sounding options: potato rosti with smoked trout and poached egg was tempting, but I ended up going for eggs benedict, just because I love 'em. But I was a bit disappointed with Bistroteque's offering - for one, one of my yolks was firm. That's not what you expect for £8. And the portions for the trout/rosti dish were very small. The ingredients were unmistakeably good, and the dishes nicely presented, but the disappointment of the yolk and portion size may have left us a little bitter.
From mega chi-chi to down at heel, our most recent brunch was at Acoustic Cafe 'round the corner on Newington Green. It always makes me happy when I walk past, seeing all the nice young couples of Newington Green sitting outside with their broadsheets and big plates of breakfast. It had a bit of an eastern Mediterranean vibe, a sign of its time in the first wave of brunchification, and a few twists on the brunch norms - turkish sausage, feta, olives, etc.
I ordered the Eggs Romano, which was scrambled eggs (my fave way of having eggs) mixed with feta, peppers, basil, onions, in a crisp pancake, served with CHIPS and salad. Petite and on trend it isn't, but it sure does the trick when you're a bit hungover and sleep deprived.