Sunday, 8 December 2013

Ben's Canteen - St. John's Hill

Ben’s Canteen

Positioned about half way up St. Johns Hill in Wandsworth, not far from Clapham Junction, Ben’s Canteen certainly seems the place to be if you fancy a breakfast/brunch.  In fact they serve their brunch menu from 9 – 5, 7 days a week.  We popped down at about 12.30 on a Sunday afternoon and it was packed so much so we had about 15 minutes wait for a table. So we perched up at the bar, where my girlfriend had a smoothie (served in a milk bottle) and we watched the very skilled and serious barista as we waited, my flat white was fantastic. 

We were slightly peeved that there was a reserved sign on the table near the window, when on the website it says that brunch is on a first come first served basis.  This rule doesn’t apply to one of the world’s best chefs it appears, as to our surprise Gordon Ramsay and his family came in for a brunch.  I’d be interested to see if he agrees with this review!?

So onto the important stuff: the grub.  I ordered the Big Ben – sausage, bacon, beans, black pudding, mushroom, tomato, toast and two eggs done ‘your way’;   I  choose poached eggs.   All this sets you back a round £10.  My initial thoughts when it arrived were “oh the big ben isn’t all that big is it?” It was served on a fairly small plate, but it was stacked up high, and actually it was quite substantial.  

The star of the show was the black pudding; it tasted very fresh and was subtly spiced with cardamon.  The bacon also had a good flavour and I had three rashers loaded onto the plate.  The eggs were cooked well and the sausage was good, without being outstanding. 

I enjoy a breakfast where the individual items come together and are enjoyed together.  However, I know some people prefer to keep certain things apart (e.g. the beans) so if you fall into that camp this might not be the fry up for you.

On an aside from the fry-up, I saw the table next to ours had ordered some hash browns and so having seen them and getting massive food envy and I had to get some myself.  They were homemade and tasted great, not to mention MASSIVE!

One thing I didn’t try, but I think is worth a mention is the Bloody Mary’s served here.  They certainly look like the real deal and according to their menu, it you tweet a picture of yourself at the restaurant with the #benscanteen, they will give you one for free!

The Verdict
A really good fry-up,  with excellent black pudding in a buzzy atmosphere .  To score higher I think I would need a higher quality sausage and just a bigger plate (but not any more food!).

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Enjoy Cafe - Tottenham

Enjoy Cafe – Tottenham

Located on the high road, not far from Bruce grove rail station, the enjoy cafe is a traditional greasy spoon. It is a good half way house between Seven Sisters tube station and White Hart Lane, perfect for a pre or post game nosh up.

Serving 5 set breakfasts all day, along with the option to build your own, choice is not a problem here. Pay at the counter and take a green plastic covered seat, the service was polite and functional.

I opted for set 4 which was a large breakfast of sausage, bacon, hash brown, black pudding, fried slice, fried egg, beans, two rounds of toast and a cuppa tea, all for £4.50. As I said the portion was large, but this is a quantity over quality operation. The egg was fried in a ring to give the 'perfect circle', which tends to end in overcooking. The bacon was plentiful and the sausage was large, but not of great quality. The fried slice could have done with having been fried longer to justify its appearance on the plate, when toast was also served.

The Verdict
A good feed and was good value, but nothing to write home about.


Bumpkin - Chelsea

Bumpkin – Chelsea

Billed as a British restaurant, serving seasonal British cuisine, this seemed the perfect place to get a good fry up. Bumpkin is a small chain of four restaurants; the Chelsea branch is on Sydney Street, just off the Kings Road, they only served the breakfast / brunch from 10 – 1 on weekends and bank holidays. From the pavement the restaurant blends in and it would be quite easy to walk straight past as the exterior looks like a city cottage.

The first issue I encountered with the breakfast was the fact they had run out of brown sauce, a vital topping in my opinion! The other problem was the eggs, which were slightly over poached, meaning that instead of yolk running all over the toast and plate, the yellow was soft but held in place. This is easily done, it only it takes 30 seconds too long in the water for this to happen. I could have probably done with another slice of toast also, to balance the dish.

We arrived and our coats were taken by the waitress, we were seated on a table by the window with fresh flowers on the table. This certainly isn't a greasy spoon. I ordered the full English, which came with a sausage, bacon, beans, mushroom, grilled tomato, two poached eggs and toast at a price of £9.95. I also had a latte, which was served in a large glass and was delicious.

However there were good things on the plate; the bacon was grilled and had a great sweet cure flavour. The other star was the Portobello mushroom with was cooked to perfection and packed with flavour.

A little bugbear of mine is beans served in a pot rather than on the plate. I find it a bit pretentious and just unnecessary. That was the case here, where a mini saucepan was used but at least they it was easy to pour onto plate. Overall it was a nicely presented breakfast, with a little olive oil drizzled on the eggs and a few young basil leaves scattered on top; this enhanced the dish, without going overboard.

Everything is based on Britain here, even the music that was playing in the background was by the Smiths, Arctic monkeys and Coldplay; no American tunes in earshot.

The Verdict
A nice restaurant, with a well presented fry up. It had potential with delicious bacon, but overall it didn't wow me.