Dean Street Townhouse
I love brunch. It is my favourite meal of the day. I wish I could have brunch every day, but sadly it just doesn’t fit in with the conventional office working day… meaning I have to reserve it as a frequent weekend treat! My brunch penchant had already sprouted in London – living in Hoxton, I frequented Bills on Hoxton Square and occasionally, when the queue wasn’t too long, dived into the Breakfast Club, as well as venturing further afield for the perfect poached eggs on toast. Of course, there was plenty more to be explored in that area, but I didn’t make the most of what was on offer in my brief six months residing there.
However, my brunch habit really blossomed when I moved to Sydney in April 2014. Sydney must be the brunch capital of the world. Brunch is a way of life there – you really are spoilt for choice. I sampled quite a few in my six month stint, but my personal favourites were Indigo in Double Bay (get there early though, you’ll have to wait for a table in any event), the Grounds in Alexandria (a really organic brunch experience and beyond amazing coffee), and, partly because of its convenience for where I was based, The Fine Food Store in the Rocks.
Walking through Leicester Square and the edges of Soho at 10.30 on a Sunday morning was a rather surreal experience. The neon lights were off, the majority of the restaurants and bars were closed and the telltale remnants of a good night out dotted and adorned the gritty roads. There was hardly anyone around – and for the first time, as I walked, I looked up. Usually you have to watch your feet and dodge the endless crowds in this area, but at this time in the morning you can really appreciate what’s around you. It had never really occurred to me before that people actually live in Soho. Of course I knew they did, but it took the sight of a woman leaning out of a top story window, smoking a cigarette to bring that home. Soho is eclectic, interesting, diverse and dynamic – why wouldn’t you want to live there? But it’s also busy and noisy and frantic and harsh… so why would you? I always get the sense that I’m entering in a secret little community when I go into Soho – it’s somewhere anyone can go, but only a few really know.
The Dean Street Townhouse is described as an institution among Londoners in the Evening Standard’s brief recommendation (if you’re ever looking for somewhere to brunch, this article is very useful). A slim little terrace borders its plot, where you can sit out, sipping on something and watch Soho pass you by. As you head inside, the change in light (it was a bright sunny morning) takes some adjusting – but this dim lighting makes this place perfect for anyone suffering a hangover. And, if you’re a subscriber to the hair of the dog philosophy, you will be pleased to be greeted by the bountiful Bloody Mary trolley, adorned with Grey Goose vodka, fresh tomatoes, celery and peppers, and flanked by freshly baked assorted pastries and gleaming green apples.
The combination of crisp white table cloths, tiles and hardwood flooring and the delicate clinking of glass give the Dean Street Townhouse a relaxed and classic ambience. I ordered a freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (no vodka martinis at this time in the morning!) which was so fresh that there were actually grapefruit seeds slipping about in the glass, and a coffee. The breakfast menu seems to be designed to read as if you’re having a 3 course meal, and the prices match the portions.
To start, then, my Aussie brunch buddy Stephanie and I shared some toasted crumpets, which were deliciously drowned in slightly salted butter. They bring you more butter too – absolute butter overload. Heaven.
For main course, I ordered the avocado with a poached egg, and a side of grilled tomatoes. As I said, the portion sizes are slightly smaller – both my main and the eggs benedict which Stephanie ordered came with only one egg, although you could double up if you wanted, and this would double the price of your dishes. The avocado was mashed but not to the point of it being a mushy pulp, and it was fantastically seasoned with zingy citrus juices, peppers and herbs. I’m not sure how they did it, but they also managed to prevent my toast from becoming too soggy due to the avocado.
To finish, we just had some jasmine tea – we were so full by this point that a final course of pastries or pancakes was just impossible, although, as I alluded to earlier, the pastries looked sumptuously fresh and flaky. At the weekend, table bookings are for 2 hours, but this is plenty of time and we didn’t feel rushed to finish or leave quickly. We also had no trouble getting a reservation relatively late in the week either – you need to plan your brunches two weeks in advance if you want to dine at some of the other buzzing brunch bistros of London. For a classy classic, the Dean Street Townhouse is just the ticket, and when you leave and step back it into the sharp sunlight onto the Soho streets, you feel like you’ve passed the morning somewhere altogether more refined and other-worldly.