As far as I’m concerned, brunch is one of the best things on this planet and one of life’s greatest simple pleasures. It’s common knowledge that New Yorkers are the kings and queens of brunching: come the weekend, the city is abundant with places serving Eggs Benedict, Huevos Rancheros and Club Sandwiches, washed down with perfected Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas. Dozens of places offer an ‘all you can drink brunch’, which is frankly one of the most genius God damned things I’ve ever heard of. I have been near on desperate for London to embrace this long standing American trend.
Sadly, I am not reporting from New York City about my brunching escapades, although one day I sincerely hope to be writing about the best brunch spots in the Big Apple from my local Brooklyn coffee shop with some serious Joe in hand getting me through the post brunch haziness (let’s face it, as much as I’d love to say my West Village local, I’m never going to have Manhattan money. I suspect I’ll barely have Brooklyn money). No, I am in my city, London, wrapped up in multiple layers during April – a month that once meant impromptu picnics in sunny London parks, catered by M&S and some cheap Cava.
London does seem to be embracing brunch more these days; presumably not only due to a fresh wave of common sense, but also due to a combination of the need to maximise profits as much as possible in the wake of the recession, and a demand from Londoners who are spending more time actually venturing out of their homes on a Saturday and Sunday morning due to the lack of disposable income to see them through Friday and Saturday night seven hour drink binges, like the Good Old Days. Nights that no longer start with £10 cocktails, finish with £6 shots of tequila and laced with an irresponsible amount of £7 Jagerbombs in between generally help to get one out of bed the next day before noon. Brunch is an excellently civilized activity to engage in now that we can no longer afford to stay out until 5am every weekend.
So, it’s a good job that London restaurants are enticing us with fancy daytime fare. A brunch menu has recently been introduced at the ‘I hear nothing but good things’ Barbecoa in the city (an area notoriously devoid of humans on the weekend), and the stunning views from Duck and Waffle in the Heron Tower would be wasted by a menu that didn’t include that wondrous combination of breakfast and lunch. No doubt the influx of New York favourites Balthazar and La Esquina (the former now gracing Covent Garden and the latter hopefully arriving later this year) will only push London to better its offering. Yet still, in a city with three pubs on every corner and where drinking is unarguably central to the culture, the All You Can Drink brunch is a rare commodity. Some (probably the Department of Health) may deem this a good thing. Sod that, I want my eggs served with endless refills of Prosecco and I don’t want to be rushed over it. Enter One Aldwych.
One of my best friends frequents the AYCD brunch at Indigo restaurant in One Aldwych every few months or so it seems, and via her proclamations of love, I’ve been meaning to check it out for the past year. Roping in three of my closest friends – Emma, Emma and Emma (really), I sold them the dream a couple of months ago and miraculously found a date we could all do that was close enough to pay day to not feel the burn as keenly. At 2 courses for £21 and 3 for £24, there’s safety in economies of scale, and an extra £14 for unlimited prosecco for approximately three hours, is a fantastic investment, and frankly, why we were there in the first place. I can buy my drinks separately anywhere.
The menu is typical brunch – a classic combination of breakfast versus lunch dishes. Obviously, but this still threw us. Should we go breakfast, breakfast; breakfast, lunch? Was it crazy to go lunch, breakfast? Was that allowed? I’ll have a top up of prosecco whilst I mull it over, thank you. After much deliberation and at least two, maybe three, glasses of prosecco (too hard to tell, as the waiter never let the glass empty), I decided to go all out on breakfast and go for the Eggs Royale to start, followed by Brioche French Toast with Bacon and Maple Syrup. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all.
As the Eggs Royale was listed as a starter, I expected a lone English Muffin and poached egg, but two appeared in front of me, which was clearly brilliant. The more the merrier I say. More prosecco too? Of course, and merrier I shall be. The eggs were poached to perfection, the balance between salmon and hollandaise just right. I’m told the Truffled Egg Brioche with Mushrooms and the Scrambled Eggs were excellent too – no complaints from the Emmas. Mains impressed too: massive Asian burgers made with pork, prawns, beef and chilli; Caramelised Onion and Goats Cheese Tart with a decent salad and delicious French Toast. The bacon could have been a little crispier, but other than that I have no fault with it and it was the perfect size after the unexpectedly large starter.
The service was excellent; attentive and helpful without being intrusive. Although I have absolutely no shame in asking for a refill of unlimited booze, it was a far more pleasant experience to carry on exchanging stories and life problems with a glass that was constantly being refilled in front of you without you ever having to ask. Any issues with jobs and men were promoted to the highest level of First World Problems with the free flowing prosecco. As our mains were cleared we were informed that their ‘rules’ had recently changed to booze only being served whilst you were dining and that our last glass would be served with dessert, should we have one. Naturally we ordered two desserts to share after a well timed pause (read: we took awhile to pick in order to down more prosecco, because we’re cheap). The Chocolate Marquise with Salted Caramel was lovely, the Sticky Toffee Pudding a bit dry and in need of more toffee sauce. I’m still in search of London’s best Sticky Toffee Pudding, so pray tell should you have any recommendations.
I’m definitely going for brunch at One Aldwych again. You should go too. I’d recommend booking in advance, as previous experience has taught me they can book up quickly, and there is no table turn around as everyone clearly milks the three hours or so in which the prosecco is served. Obviously. Wouldn’t you?