Since our London office moved to Fetter Lane and I have been working in London significantly more, I have been intrigued by the breakfasts on offer at the local eateries around the office.
One thing that I see a lot of is poached egg pots, this kind of breakfast dish is starting to take off in Bristol too. These pots usually consist of a poached egg and then some stuff.
I have to say that by the time I get to London I am not usually looking for breakfast and generally just go with a coffee.
The other day though I was somewhat peckish. I was tempted to visit Yolk, but there was a bit of a queue, so decided to try the poached egg pots from Coco di Mama. I went with the mushrooms and power beans.
The pot contains a big portion of mixed beans in a smokey tomato sauce topped with spinach, cooked mushrooms, lightly roasted cherry tomatoes, a poached egg and some greens which could be micro herbs.
It was certainly an interesting experience, the beans were tasty and had a kick to them, so much nicer than regular baked beans. The egg was nicely cooked. I did think the mushrooms were overcooked and be careful as the tomatoes were very hot (and I nearly burnt my mouth on them).
For a hot breakfast dish, I thought it was really nice, I thought the portion size was ideal, though the proportions were slightly out for me, too many beans. I think next time I might add an extra egg for a pound.
Arriving early for a meeting after an early start, I decided to get a morning snack and coffee. I don’t do this very often, but my usual haunt would be Caffe Nero, with a Flat White and probably an almond croissant. This time though I chose Leon after having a nice lunch there the other week.
There was quite a wide choice for breakfast, as well as yoghurt and porridge, there were a range of poached egg pots, muffins and a breakfast box.
I went with a mushroom and egg muffin and a flat white.
The coffee was actually rather good, but I would have preferred to have it in a proper cup rather than a cardboard one.
The muffin contained roasted Portobello mushrooms, egg, spinach and the spicy Leon tomato ketchup. The mushrooms were rather nice, I think I would have preferred a soft poached egg over the one in the muffin, but that would have made it much messier to eat. I wasn’t a fan of the ketchup, but it was interesting.
It was a nice morning breakfast after an early start and a long journey.
I occasionally have to stay away as part of my job, and I find it surprising that I have become something of a breakfast snob when it comes to hotel breakfasts. I know that it is nice to have someone else make you breakfast.
This is a unique hotel experience and nothing like the bland chains that I usually find myself in. The quirky decor and furniture makes fort a very different hotel experience.
Last time the breakfast was very quirky in its presentation.
This time I was expecting something different, as I had noticed that the dinner menu was radically different to what I had seen on my last visit. Last time I had a really nice pork done three ways. Looking back through the blog I realised I hadn’t blogged about that dish or the breakfast.
That pork dish was very clever and delicious, but as you can see it had quite a quirky presentation. I think I remember seeing a similar sounding lamb dish back then, so was looking forward to having that this time on my return visit. However looking over the menu it was apparent that they had changed chef and were going for “safe” options such as steak and chips, steak and ale pie, fish and chips, etc…
The new menu didn’t inspire mess so was expecting a more “traditional” breakfast. However this time the breakfast was similar, it was served on a plate, though the beans were still in a miniature saucepan.
The mushroom was full of flavour and well cooked, not broiled for ages as you find at a breakfast buffet. Likewise as it was cooked to order the bacon was very tasty and not dried out, the eggs were also similarly freshly cooked and still had runny yolks. I liked the beef tomato that came with the breakfast. The sausage was meaty and tasty. The breakfast came with some nice toasted bloomer bread and a cafetière of freshly brewed coffee.
These were high quality ingredients and were cooked well and tasted delicious.
One of the things I find continually disappointing about the bakery at my local Waitrose is how little freshly baked bread they have in stock. I initially thought this was because I went at the end of the day, but despite going at different times of day I find the shelves empty of bread. It’s not like that all the time, but I would say 90% of the time I visit, there is virtually no fresh bread.
On my most recent visit I wasn’t expecting to find any fresh bread, I hoped I would, but no there was only a few rolls. Well ni surprise there then. However I needed some bread for breakfast so off to the pre-packed stuff.
Looking over the selection I found Farina Pugliese toasting bread.
This Italian bread is made from durum wheat, giving it thick crust and a golden crumb.
The packaging says that the bread is for toasting and it does need toasting, otherwise it can be a bit dry.
Without looking where do you think it costs more to buy a single croissant, Tesco or Marks and Spencers?
You know that by asking that very question that the answer has to be Marks and Spencers don’t you.
The other morning I was on my way into work when I stopped off to buy some skimmed milk for my coffee at work. I popped into the local Tesco Express (or are they called Tesco Metro) and picked up a two pint bottle. I looked at the date, it looked familiar and realised that the date was that day’s date. A quick check across the shelf, and all the other bottles had the same short date on them. So leaving the milk I decided to go somewhere else, I had been considering buying a croissant at 80 pence but thought not as I was in a bit of a hurry.
I walked down to Marks and Spencers to get my milk and was pleasantly surprised to see that their loose croissants were only 69 pence. They also looked a lot nicer and fresher than the ones from Tesco.
I was surprised as I wasn’t expecting Marks and Spencers to be cheaper, but was pleased that they were. Oh and before you ask the milk was the same price.
The last time I went to Betty’s Tearooms in York was in 1990, though since then I did visit their tearoom in Harrogate a couple of years ago and had a lovely pot of tea and cream scone.
Visiting York we decided to visit Betty’s in the blizzarding snow for a second breakfast. I was surprised by how busy it was at 10am in the morning, we had to queue!
We were given a lovely table next to the window from which we could watch people struggling in the wind and the snow.
It was early so alas the cake trolley wasn’t available and to be honest I don’t think I actually wanted a cake at that time of the morning, so went with the second breakfast.
We ordered the Breakfast Tea, and this is very nicely served with loose leaves, and so you have a tea strainer. I will say that I wasn’t a fan of the tea, though I finished the pot. I think the last time I had tea at Betty’s I had a different, much nicer tea. Personally it was a little too strong for me.
Alongside my tea I went with toasted pikelets, I don’t recall having them before, but the best way I can think of to describe them is they reminded me of a squashed crumpet, and they certainly tasted more of crumpet than pancake. In some areas of the world pikelets are more like pancakes, the ones from Yorkshire are more like crumpets.
Alongside the pikelets we had toast and crumpets. This was all served very posh like on cake stands.
It was a lovely second breakfast and with wonderful friendly service we all felt we had been really spoilt. Even though the place was really busy, we weren’t rushed and the whole affair was very relaxed. By the time we finished, the snow had gone and we were ready to continue with our day.
I recently wrote about my dinner at the Holiday Inn Expressx and I wasn’t that impressed. You can imagine that my expectations about breakfast weren’t that high, but how badly can you cook a hotel breakfast. As it happens quite badly!
Even though I certainly don’t travel that much, I think you can tell a lot about the way a hotel cares about it’s guests by how it prepares and serves breakfast. When attending events and conferences I like to have a good breakfast so that I am set up for the day and it won’t matter so much if I miss lunch or dinner. To be honest it is also really quite nice when someone else cooks you breakfast.
Most hotels I have stayed at have the breakfast buffet model, you come down, queue, hand over your room number and help yourself. There are variations, in some places you get toast served to you at the table, at other hotels you can burn your own toast!
Once I was staying at the St David’s Hotel in Cardiff and having breakfast in your room didn’t cost anything extra! There was (at the time) no tray charge, usually hotels charge another £5 to bring you your breakfast. So I took advantage and it was a really nice breakfast, still warm too!
Attending meetings in London, I stayed at the Ambassadors hotel in Bloomsbury London a few times I was always impressed with their service and food. The first time I had breakfast, though there was an element of help yourself, if you wanted hot food, you placed your order with the waiting staff and they served you at your table. The breakfast was also very different to your typical full English breakfast.
Not so sure about the lettuce, but the rest of the breakfast was cooked to perfection and tasted delicious. They used “proper” sausages that had been grilled and not deep fried. Too often when eating breakfast the sausages have been cooked in a deep fat fryer! The breakfast I had at Bloomsbury was so very different and was delicious. This was so much more civilised than trying to fight with others around the buffet table.
One piece of advice I would give is don’t leave it too late in going to breakfast, there are two key reasons. Firstly the food is not only fresher and hasn’t spent ages under the heat lamp or in an oven. Secondly, there are usually a lot less people. The other piece of advice I would give about what time to go to breakfast is that people usually go on the hour or half-hour. Most people will say let’s have breakfast at 8:00 or 7:30, no one every says 7:48. Of course what this means is that there are large crowds, and so long queues, just after 8:00. Arriving twelve minutes before means that the 7:30 rush is over and you get not only much better service from the staff, but the experience doesn’t feel rushed and hectic.
One disappointment about the breakfast buffet are the eggs, they have usually been under a heat lamp or on a hot plate. As a result they can be dry and overcooked. I personally prefer my eggs to be freshly cooked, so nine times out of ten I ask for poached eggs, these are cooked to order, so though I have to wait, I get freshly cooked eggs.
As you might expect I am virtually always disappointed with the coffee at breakfast, so much so, that more often than not I will have tea instead!
So what about the breakfast at Holiday Inn Express in Burnley? When I arrived for breakfast, I could just walk in, no checking by staff. Probably because they were dealing with the smoke from the burning toast… I wasn’t that enamoured with the breakfast, the hot buffet was very limited, sausages, scrambled egg and baked beans; that was it, no other choices and certainly no possibility of a freshly cooked poached egg! You could also have fruit and yoghurt, as well as cereal. There were croissants and you could make your own toast. The coffee was from a machine (using instant) so I had tea.
However this isn’t the worse cooked breakfast I have had (it came close though), the worst was at a Travel Lodge in central London. So bad that on the second morning, I went out to get breakfast.
We often have blueberries in the house, but eating them raw I have never been that impressed, much prefer blackberries, raspberries and strawberries.
I make pancakes for breakfast on a regular basis, both the traditional flat ones and the American style small ones. This time I decided that I would have a go at making some blueberry pancakes and see if this would change my mind about blueberries.
I took my usual pancake mix, in a bowl add:
A cup of self-raising flour
½ tsp of baking powder
½ tsp of vanilla extract
A cup of milk
1 tbsp of caster sugar
This I whisked into a batter. I then added a handful of blueberries (50g).
Using my non-stick pancake frying pan, which as is getting older, I brushed it with some sunflower oil, after heating it up on the hob. I then poured in a spoonful of pancake mixture. You don’t want it too hot, otherwise the inside of the slightly thicker pancakes won’t be cooked.
I left the pancakes to cook until air bubbles started to appear on the top, then turn them over.
I obviously didn’t use enough blueberries as not all the pancakes by the time I cooked the batter had blueberries in them, this in the end wasn’t so bad as the little people in the house didn’t want blueberries in their pancakes.
I served mine with some maple syrup and if you wanted to you could have added some uncooked blueberries too.
I was really pleased with the results, really tasty and I will certainly be cooking them again. I may even now have a go at cooking blueberry muffins.