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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Breakfast at Royal Quarter Café, London

The sleek and stylish Royal Quarter Café near Victoria in London was chosen for a mid-week breakfast meeting by my colleague.

Early on a Tuesday morning it was quiet, apart from a couple of suited city-types who were already tucking into their enormous full English breakfasts.

On entering there were rows of tempting cakes under the counter, as well as a circular buffet table of pastries, bowls of fruit and - strangely - giant meringues. A miniature orange tree sat on the table, and apples and oranges were placed in wicker baskets in an attempt to capture the on-trend farmers’ market appeal.

What I liked most about this café was how open and airy it felt. The space felt a lot larger than it was, thanks to the floor to ceiling windows that looked onto the street. Inside it was homely with low lighting, sofas and pictures hanging on the wall. But other bits of the café were more clean cut and a bit “Ikea” with the pine furniture and geometric feature walls, and I must admit I found this juxtaposition a little odd.

But when my eye caught the bright red illuminated letters spelling out ‘ROYAL QUARTER CAFÉ’ above the counter, I definitely felt the design of the place was a little clinical and confused thanks to the muddle of homely and modern.

The Royal Quarter Cafe in Victoria

Trying to push across the Borough-market feel
Sleek and modern

Picture perfect

I ordered the French toast, which was described as ‘home-made brioche, poached pears, crème fraîche and mixed berry compote’. To accompany that, I also ordered the apple, carrot and ginger freshly squeezed juice.

The French toast arrived and, as always, I happily tucked into this deliciously indulgent morning treat. I was also having an in-depth conversation at the time, and it wasn’t until I returned to the Royal Quarter Café menu online a day later to check prices (£7.50 for the French toast and £4.95 for the juice) that I realised I was shortchanged my pears, as you can see in the photo.


It's always got to be the French toast

That said, at the time I didn’t miss them, or I would have said something. The bread was cut into thick doorstops which were a rich yellow from the fried eggy mixture which was clinging to the crust. And the choice of brioche made the dish slightly sweeter, while the texture was as light as a feather.


But where were my pears?

No pears – but the strawberries, raspberries and a dark berry compote were a nice, yet average addition. And the dish was rounded off with icing sugar - less delicately sprinkled and more of a dusty avalanche - along with crème fraîche.


Two delicately poached eggs on toast for my colleague

And the ginger bought a kick to the freshly squeezed apple and carrot juice, which was very refreshing on a hot summer morning, but at £4.95, way over half the price of the actual breakfast, I thought was a little extreme.


Royal Quarter Café
Wellington House, 72-73 Buckingham Gate, London

Friday, 25 July 2014

One for the weekend - baked eggs for brunch

Baked eggs are my secret weapon. This is such an easy-peasy recipe to whip up an impressive brunch the night after you’ve had friends to stay, and they look very kitsch in dainty teacups.

Spinach, cheese and ham baked eggs

Play around with different flavours

These baked eggs need a splash of double cream, so I tend to make this the morning after I’ve served a creamy dessert for dinner.

You can be really flexible with baked eggs, as long as you have the eggs and cream you’re half way there. 

Once you've mastered the basic baked egg, try and play around with flavours - how about bacon and stilton - or just rummage in your fridge because this recipe is perfect for left-over ingredients.

You need a ramekin for each person, in this recipe I used teacups as I thought the saucers looked quaint and you could serve toasted ciabatta soldiers on the side if you like.

What you’ll need – serves two
  • 2 x ramekins or tea cups
  • a deep roasting tray
  • 1 x slice of ham or scraps from a joint
  • 1 x handful of spinach
  • 30g mature cheddar cheese
  • 2 x large fresh organic eggs
  • splash of double cream
  • salt and pepper

  1. Boil a kettle full of water and preheat the oven to 150 degrees.
  2. Tear up the ham and divide into the ramekins.
  3. Grate half of the cheese into the bottom of the ramekin ontop of the ham, and then crack in one egg per ramekin. Add a little more cheese.
  4. Then tear up a handful of spinach and divide into each ramekin.
  5. Pour in a splash of double cream - I don’t measure, but a little bit more than the amount you'd pour into your coffee.
  6. Add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper.
  7. Place the ramekins into the roasting tray, and then fill the tray up with boiling water, until the water reaches half way up the sides of the ramekins – this is called a bain-marie.
  8. Bake for 12mins, and check to see if they’re firm to touch. They may need a little longer if they were massive farm-fresh eggs like mine.

Into the oven in a bain-marie
Once out of the oven, slurp from a teaspoon, or dunk in crusts of toasted ciabatta. Or for a more sophisticated treat, gently steam asparagus spears wrapped in Parma ham.

Tea cup baked eggs

And if you have truffle oil in the house, add a dash to the creamy egg mixture before you bake for a very indulgent breakfast.  

Enjoy x

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

An Indian Bombay brunch in Dishoom, London

Looking for something a little bit different my brunch chums and I chose London’s Dishoom to try out its Bombay Breakfast Club.

With only two restaurants, one in Covent Garden and another in Shoreditch you can’t really call it a chain. That said, this ‘Bombay Café’ had a definite corporate chain feel about it. We headed to the Covent Garden branch which is squeezed next to a Jamie's Italian, a couple of doors down from the Mexican Cantina Laredo, with a Bill’s just around the corner.

I’d fancied trying Dishoom for a few years now, but annoyingly they don’t take bookings for dinner and the queue has always been around the block when I've tried to go. But they do allow you to book for brunch – I’m not sure I understand that logic, but let’s not complain.

The waiting area to take you to Bombay

This is definitely not your traditional Indian restaurant, but a smart London café you might find anywhere in the city, with a bar set in the corner and a view of the open kitchen. But the brass fixtures, chequered floor tiles and wooden panels gave it a colonial feel – which is what I presume it was going for. There was a giant clock and pictures on the wall and low lights hung from the high ceiling over marble-topped tables with mismatched chairs.

A busy Sunday morning in Dishoom - make sure you book

Bombay Breakfast Club

Drinks

I chose a Chocolate Chai (A charming couplet of dark chocolate and spicy chai. 2.70) while I waited for my friends and read the paperI was a little apprehensive of the hot drink because it was such a warm and humid day. But the chai spice was welcomed and it was less a wintery hot chocolate and more of an exotic treat.

I wish they did these to take away -
I'd be here every morning before work!

Tea for two at Dishoom

What gorgeous china

Once we had all arrived we had a couple of coffees and a pot of English Breakfast Assam Tea, while one friend ventured out and tried the Breakfast Lassi (A concoction of yoghurt, banana, mango and oats. Keep regular. 3.70). This was gorgeous, but almost a meal of its own – if I was trying this at home, coconut yoghurt would have taken this to another level of deliciousness.

They also had a short-but-sweet cocktail list on the menu, and the Dhoble did catch our eyes, but being a Sunday we decided against alcohol because some of us were still a little fragile from the night before.  

Dhoble: A refreshing breakfast cocktail, named for the notorious party-pooping Assistant Commissioner of the Police of Bombay, Vasant Dhoble. Fresh orange juice. Opihr spiced gin, araschino liqueur and a squeexe of lemon, served over cubed ice. 7.50

Maybe next time.

Food

Two of us ordered the Keema Per Eedu: A Parsi power breakfast: spicy chicken keema studded with delicate morsels of chicken liver, topped with two runny-yolked fried eggs and sali crisp-chips. Served with pau. 7.90

While the remaining two went for the Bombay Omlette with Fire Toast (6.90) and Dishoom’s signature Bacon Naan Roll (5.20).

Verdict

The food arrived quickly, and even though one friend arrived a little late because of train delays, the staff were happy to let us chat and catch up without rushing through our orders.

I’m glad I ordered the Keema Per Eedu as it was a very unusual breakfast and arrived on a wooden board in an earthenware dish. It had a slight spice which stayed pleasantly on your tongue, and a sweetness from the liver and the pau buns - which were similar to a brioche. But this dish was very rich, and I was glad I was eating it closer to midday than 8am, so my stomach had woken up and was ready for it.

Keema per Eedu with pau buns

Spiced chicken and livers with two fried eggs

I tried some of the Bombay Omeltte with tomatoes, coriander and green chilli, but after the spice from the Keema it was a little bland. But the side of Fire Toast was very unusual, I was expecting toast with maybe some chilli on the side, but when it turned up and was… well… burnt toast. It was actually 'charred' and this smokeyness really helped to create a depth to the omelette.

The Bombay Omlette

Dishoom's breakfast specialty - the bacon naan roll

The only thing I can say was the portions of butter and milk were a little stingy, with hardly enough to spread onto one pau bun, never mind two. We had to ask for more a couple of times, and in the end I felt like saying “Just bring me the cow”!

Reasonably priced, and something a little different from your average bacon and eggs or French toast, we really enjoyed ourselves. But it was a novelty, and probably won’t be a place I would go again and again for my Sunday brunch, but if I pass on an evening when there isn’t a queue, I’d definitely go back and try dinner.

Next up for our Monthly Brunch Club, it’s the Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell. I’m already drooling over the menu – review coming soon.


Dishoom
12 Upper St Martin’s Lane, London WC2H 9FB
TEL: 020 7420 9320

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Raspberry, chia and white chocolate morning muffins

The reason I haven’t labelled these raspberry, chia and white chocolate muffins as either a ‘breakfast at your desk’ or a ‘weekend brunch’ is because they satisfy both titles. I made these on a Sunday, but took the batch into work on the Monday morning, where the editorial team proceeded to scoff them down with glee – it’s been a while since anyone has bought baked goods into the office.

I made these before returning to work following my week’s holiday in Cornwall, taking them with me on the tube, safely tucked in my cake tin, and they were the perfect sweet antidote to those post-holidayMonday morning blues.

I took the basic recipe from a great new breakfast cookbook, B&B The Book of Breakfast and Brunch by Hugo Woolley I found (which I will be reviewing properly soon, so keep reading). 

Hugo beats together 110g of soft butter with a ½ a teaspoon of vanilla extract, 170g of caster sugar and a pinch of salt until creamy and pale.

Ingredients for the muffins - but don't forget the milk like I nearly did!

Then he folds 340g of self-raising flour, two teaspoons of baking powder and 10g of ground almonds into the butter mix. Then adding 200-250ml of milk to the mixture until the “consistency of wet bread dough”. 

I also added chia seeds into the wet mix. I seem to add chia into everything these days as it doesn’t really taste of anything but provides mountains of health benefits. Also, that way you can kid yourself into thinking the chia cancels out the sugar and all is well with the world.

After following Hugo’s steps I put 12 muffin cases into a muffin tray and dolloped half the mixture into the cases, and dotted with raspberries. But then my hand "slipped" and I added pieces of milkybar white chocolate buttons.

Raspberry and white chocolate scattered in the dough
 - try breaking up the buttons into tiny pieces

I then covered the raspberries and chocolate with the remaining mixture, added a sprinkling of porridge oats to convince myself they were actually a breakfast muffin, and baked at 180 degrees for around 20 minutes.

Raspberry and white chocolate muffins hot out of the oven

Don't eat the whole batch of muffins at once!

Perfect with a mug of breakfast tea

Definitely give Hugo’s book a whirl if you are like me and crazy about breakfast – this guy believes brunch should be a three-course affair, and I wholeheartedly agree.


Enjoy x 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Cornish travels - the best from Instagram

Here are a selection of photos taken on my recent foodie trip toCornwall. For more foodie pics and an insight into a London breakfast-fiend with a passion for French toast, follow me on Instagram @breakfastatcarolines or on Twitter @cl_baldwin


Monday, 14 July 2014

Brunch at The Shed, Wadebridge, Cornwall

On a recent holiday to Cornwall, the urge to discover new brunch spots remained strong, and I hunted out The Shed Cafe and Brunch Bar in nearby Wadebridge to spend a sunny morning lining my stomach before exploring the Cornish coastline.

Tucked away on a side street in Wadebridge, The Shed's bright red door welcomed customers from the main road. The minuscule little cafe has room for around ten people inside, as well as several tables outside. It was a weekday morning when we visited so it was quiet and we were served quickly and with a smile while sat outside in the glorious morning sunshine.

The Shed Cafe and Brunch Bar

The minuscule coffee bar 

Decisions, decisions...

Very reasonably priced, I choose the French toast with caramelised bananas off the specials board, while my companions decided on the bacon and Brie croissant, sausage bap and the full Kernow breakfast. Two pots of tea, a macchiato and an apple juice bought the total bill for four to around £25.

I love this brightly coloured china
The drinks arrived on brightly coloured china, and our breakfasts soon followed. While the bap and croissant were tasty, yet nothing particularly special, the big breakfast and French toast were definitely worth the visit.

Kernow is Cornish for Cornwall, and it's big breakfast boasted all local produce. While I've admitted I'm not a fan of full Englishbreakfasts, this was not at all greasy, and was hoovered up by my friend. I managed to steal a piece of the huge sausage, which was slightly spiced and very juicy, while the egg was delicately steamed-fried and the fried bread sat buttery and golden on the side of beans, a slice of bacon and half a grilled tomato.

Full Kernow breakfast

But I was in the mood for something sweet, and my French toast with caramelised banana hit the spot. The eggy bread was gooey with sticky sweet banana on top, all dusted with a light layer of icing sugar. Definitely one I'll be trying at home.

This is a mighty breakfast

Enjoying The Shed in the sunshine

If you're ever in the area, don't miss this tiny little gem on Trevanson Street in Wadebridge.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Mug of the month - Padstow, Rick and his best friend Chalky

As I've been on holiday in Cornwall this last week, it only seemed fair to dedicate my Mug of the Month to my recent travels. One of my favourite little seaside towns in Cornwall is Padstow - also known as Padstein due to the monopoly chef Rick Stein has with 14 establishments, including restaurants, hotels a deli and a seafood school.


This beautiful little harbour town was buzzing with hundreds of tourists on a sunny Sunday afternoon, with every other family accompanied by their treasured canine companion. All shapes and sizes milled through the town, watching their owners slurp on Cornish ice creams and hoping for the chance of being fed a leftover bit of pasty.

Fellow dog lover Rick Stein was known for his terrier Chalky, who's little face appeared regularly on his TV cooking shows. Sadly Chalky passed away in 2007, but this whiskery face still graces many gifts in Stein's shop. And I couldn't resist this Chalky mug as Mug of the Month for July.

Mug of the Month - Chalky goes fishing

Mug of the Month - Chalky has lunch

Perfect for a beachcomber's morning cuppa, or even tea time with fish a chips. And Chalky isn't the only one to devour some of Stein's fish and chips, we queued a good 40 minutes for some of the best fish and chips I've ever tasted. 


Rick Stein's Fish & Chips 

Stein's fish and chips restaurant

Stein's fish and chips come in a box even if you eat inside

Golden beauties
Deep fried scallops

The star of the show were the deep fried scallops - succulent and piping hot encased in batter made from beef dripping - they were to die for.But I'm already a big scallop fan. The day before we went to St Petroc's, Stein's second priced restaurant in Padstow (sorry but averaging £30 for a fish curry, his top priced Seafood Restaurant was a no-go). But the St Petroc's bistro was fairly reasonable, and after a rhubarb and prosecco cocktail, I had the baked scallops which were cooked in a rich decadent golden juice of truffle butter.

Scallops at St Petrocs

More from Padstow


Padstow

The view of Rock from Padstow Harbour

The shell shop

"She sells sea shells..."

Cornish ice cream