For me, brunch has always been that lovely thing that comes of waking up so late that you can’t really call it breakfast anymore, and you can’t be bothered to wait for lunch, and so eat a lot of food that falls into the shady area in between. You also get to feel virtuous by doing this, because it means you will have had one less meal that day (unless of course you’re a hobbit). Brunch food, in my mind, is all about eggs, and nice things that surround them. If I were a meat eater, I suppose it might be all about the bacon. Brunch is a full English brekkie, composed of fried everything. Or maybe a full Scottish brekkie, which is the same but with some veg haggis – yum! Or maybe it can go American, with eggs Florentine, or a stack of pancakes. Endless coffee, and maybe a Bloody Mary, and nothing that happens next could possibly make that day bad.
Brunch locations are also a matter of careful selection. Home, of course, would be the most common variant, and this really fits the woke-up-embarrassingly-late theme. If the weather is nice and you’re lucky enough to have a garden or balcony, then this is brunch heaven. Alternatively, for those who don’t mind delayed gratification and the need for clothing, small cafes with outdoor seating work for the civilised brunch. Gratifyingly grotty greasy spoon cafs are there for the simpler pleasure.
Of course, I have always been aware that somewhere out there are some awfully posh people who ‘do’ brunches, probably in the restaurants of many starred hotels, whilst wearing large hats and wielding cigarette holders. I’ve also seen my fair share of Sex and City episodes, to know that brunch is a broadly accepted way for the trendy to divulge tales of their previous night’s sexcapades. But what I wasn’t aware of was just how ‘in’ this meal had become, with just about every layer of society.
Walk with me through the streets of London for a moment. It is a rarely nice day, around 11:30am, the pigeons are cooing, the sound of the traffic hums by like waves. We can begin in the east of East London, and stroll along a dilapidated high street, where a few mobile phones shops are open, and plastic bags drift like tumble weed. Here the pubs which open early have attracted a boisterous crowd of big guys and their missuses, having an early pint and plate of chips. A few doors down, a caf is packed with locals forking floppy eggs and charred sausages off of grease-patterned plates, the Daily Mail and Mirror held up like shields to the outside.
But let’s continue on, and soon we will reach the East London the guide books have promised you. Here there are cafes with amusing pun-based names, or deliberate misspellings, with their fronts painted bright colours. Boys with floppy hair wearing their little sister’s trousers sit outside, listening to music through their oversized headphones while eating some raw, organic, macrobiotic, living food. Perhaps a trio sits nearby, sipping green juice which probably has kale in it, the guy speaking of how stale the gay scene is, and the girls agreeing. Between them they wear a rainbow and beyond. Their fixie-bikes are chained to a nearby post.
We leave these behind, and continue our pre-noon journey. Soon we will be passing through the heart of the city, where Starbuckses dominate, and Pret a Mangers are mushrooming up in competition. Business clad people are grabbing some sunlight. These range from women with department store badges stating names such as ‘Sharon’ and ‘Camile’ sitting by the small metal tables drinking coffee from paper cups and eating bagels, to salt-and-pepper haired men talking on their mobiles with one hand, while eating sandwiches with the other, while they sit together on benches. Here you can also see clients being wooed with organic grass-fed sausages arranged into artforms on plates at ‘traditional’ eateries by weary-eyed and big grinned heads of accounts.
Now we progress west. We will be passing through Chelsea, where the nip-tucked are tucked away behind tinted glass, sipping champagne and taking a dainty nibble from a small single poached egg sat silently in the centre of a white plate. Onwards from there we come to Kensington, and the fashionably rich, fashionable baby-laden, fashionably eco-friendly eat outside ‘homey’ and ‘down to earth’ places with menus full of locally sourced meals with French names, accompanied by tropical fruit chutneys and salads of a myriad plants. Public breast feeding will take place on matter of principle, and smokers will firmly be asked to leave.
The city’s breadth is spanned by brunches.
Somewhere between Audrey Hepburn and HBO, brunch became the meal to be at. No longer just driven to it by hunger and a prior night’s heavy drinking, we now seem to plan brunches, pen them into date books, and worry about what to wear to them. But really it does make a lot of sense. Brunch still has the feel of the spontaneous to it (even when it is not), and it doesn’t carry the high effort connotations of dinner. It’s also got the element of the cool and quirky by virtue of not being a meal one eats every day.
But what to do now that brunch has become ubiquitous, and is participated in by just about everybody? Pick a new meal to add to your social calendar, and be a real trend setter. I mentioned hobbits earlier, well if you take a leaf from their book then you have 7 meals to be social over:
1st Breakfast – 2nd Breakfast – Elevenses – Luncheon – Tea – Dinner – Supper
Just wait, soon brunch will be yesterday’s news, and elevenses will be where everyone’s at.