In this new series of reviews, Rebecca Anne Milford explores some of the best places to get brunch in London town. Whether meeting friends for a Bloody Mary to kick-start the party again after a heavy night before, quaffing bubbles with a pal and catching up on gossip, or deciding on something a little healthier to begin your weekend in saintly fashion, she’ll be recommending her favourite spots to indulge in this genius meal where breakfast gets into bed with lunch.
The Place: The Happenstance is one of Drake and Morgan’s quirky sites, bringing their sunny spirit and eclectic decor to the iconic doorstep of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Serving: Until 11am weekdays, and every weekend until 2pm.
Decor & Ambience: Kitsch and kooky meets sophisticated style at Happenstance, where an air of whimsy abounds in the alchemists bar and the mixology table. The floor to ceiling windows allow floods of light, while the designer-esque seating options add colour and chic eccentricity. There are complimentary newspapers to read, and the whole place feels like an Alice-in-Wonderland chance to lose yourself over tantalising brunch options.
The Classics: Their Full English is in fact a ‘Proper London Fully Loaded’, including Grilled Londoner sausage, bacon, field mushroom, beans, eggs and black pudding. Pretty much ticks all the brunch boxes then.
Meaty Moments: Had a heavy one the night before? Generally need something to feel a very large rumble in the stomach? The Breakfast Steak and Eggs can help you there, while the London Market Breakfast features the best cuts from renowned butcher Allens of Mayfair and includes steak, bacon chop and bone marrow. We’re getting the meat-sweats just thinking about it…
Eggs-ceptional: All the gang make an appearance – there’s Benedict, Florentine and Royale, served on an English Muffin. For those watching the waistline you can also choose a skinny egg white omelette for only 50 calories.
Healthy options: Organic Greek yogurt with fresh berries, muesli and honey is sure to keep gym-bunnies happy, while the Californian Kickstarter is also a great option (see below).
Give it a twist: Those with a sweet tooth will love the sound of the American-Style waffles with maple syrup, and the Corn Fritters are also an unusual and tempting choice.
Bloody Mary Basics: Brunch is not brunch without a good Bloody Mary, and The Happenstance deliver superbly with a Build-Your-Own option. Their Bloody Decisive is a deliciously-spiced secret recipe, while the Bloody Caesar offers a great twist by using Clamato juice and garnishing with a juicy king prawn.
Caffiene Kick: Drake and Morgan have an expert team of baristas beavering away to make bespoke blends – we imagine them almost like Santa’s elves, but carting beans instead of gifts. Go for a flat white, a sharp espresso, or treat yourself to a Vanilla spice chai latte.
Cocktail Craving: We knew we were in for a treat when we scanned the menu and saw their definition of ‘Anti-Fogmatic’ – a drink of liqueur intended to counteract the fog caused by the night before. Sip on a Breakfast Martini that combines Snow Queen Vodka and marmalade, or go for a liquid brunch in the form of their Build Your Own Mimosa.
Staying Sober: The Happenstance have a superb juiceology-bar, where one can choose from a selection of fruits and vegetables, and have something freshly squeezed to order.
So, go on then – Brunch me up:
I visited Happenstance with a large group of girlfriends on New Year’s Eve, so there was already a glorious fizz in the air before the first cork had even been popped. The Happenstance is a great place to visit as a group – our large, comfortable area in this bright and modern setting was perfectly conducive to catch-ups, while the smaller, more intimate tables near the front were occupied by pairs and couples.
A round of Bloody Marys started things off nicely. They arrived in huge, gorgeous cut-glass tumblers, vibrant red, and with that essential stick of celery poking from the top – everyone was very impressed with the punch of flavour. After that the prosecco flowed, with well-priced bottles of fruity and zesty Don Gallo Blue Label Brut for under £25.
On to the food, and there was a general call for Eggs Royale. Two perky free-range specimens arrived atop pillows of fluffy muffin, with a very generous helping of glistening pink salmon. Hollandaise sauce was creamy, thick and oozing in all the right ways – perfect with the saltiness of the fish. The portions were impressive, and more than one of the girls struggled to finish. Still, it was so delicious – the soft bread dipped into golden yolk and topped with a morsel of oh-so-fishy salmon – that they persevered to completion.
One friend went for the Corn Fritters – a vibrant dish of halloumi served with baby spinach and a poached egg. The accompanying, jewel-bright tomato kasundi was just piquant enough to balance the salty, savoury slabs of grilled cheese, while the spinach added a much needed hint of freshness. Combine this with the sweet, burst-in-the-mouth corn fritters and it was one of my favourite new discoveries.
As for me, I chose the Californian Kickstarter, and would certainly do so again. Just filling enough, the morsels of creamy avocado and hummus spread across my rye toast in velvety fashion, topped with a cheeky dash of sweet chilli sauce and a gorgeously runny poached egg. I could have been at any beach-side cafe in Santa Monica.
Overall, the brunch standard at The Happenstance is superb. For a meal that many overlook, they really do put the effort in and offer dishes that are inventive, exciting, and, most of all, deliver on flavour. The space is just what you want for early in the day – bright, light, and with decor to make you smile. And the cocktails – oh, the cocktails. Even if you hadn’t been considering a boozy start then you’d be hard pressed to decline. What’s more, they offer the menu on weekdays too. So there we go – an ideal brunch spot to put on your must-visit list.
No.1a Ludgate Hill, London, EC4M 7AA