The nation's breakfast has moved on from just a bowl of Kellogg's cereal, rashers of bacon topped with HP Sauce and a mug of Yorkshire tea, to something a little more colourful. The first meal of the day has turned into an art form, but does this mean the end of the traditional greasy spoon?
At around 10am every weekend, queues of candy-coloured jeans, paisley pyjamas, and Ray Bans, wind out of every chic coffee house, rustic greasy spoon, and latest pop up, all thirsty for a piccolo coffee or roiboos tea and giving a flurry of orders for organic pancakes with a dollop of bio yoghurt and locally sourced honey, smoked omeletttes, and 'high end' yet hearty full English breakfasts. Everyone, it seems, wants to be in the breakfast club.
But it wasn't always the case. I remember, as a child, staring into the compulsory bowl of soggy Shredded Wheat and tasteless porridge every school day morning, and the occasional Bank Holiday beans on toast, with my father reminding us, "food is fuel, don't get fussy about what you put in the tank."
A far cry from the Victorians, who refused to start their day without grazing on fish, cold meats, pies, kedgeree and toast, with a host of dedicated breakfast recipe books and stoves installed at the end of tables just to freshly fry bacon and eggs. And Isabella Beeton's Book of Household Management, which introduced a whole new range of breakfast dishes into the mix, such as mutton chops, potted fish, and sheep's kidneys. But it wasn't until the 60s, with the rise of tourism in Britain, that the fried breakfast was popularised, becoming the standard offering at every B&B.
But what was once a hearty meal designed to set you up for the day, has become more of a fashion trend, going far beyond the greasy spoon.
Take New York's Regency Hotel. Every weekday morning at 7.30am and then again at 8.30am, its restaurant fills with a sprinkle of celebrities, at least one flashily dressed politician, and a dash of the city's most powerful publishers, writers and Wall Street tycoons. It's the place to be seen and more importantly, to see.
London office meetings have been replaced with breakfast at the fashionable Riding House Café or The Wolseley. And, somehow, despite years of Weetabix, Rice Crispies, and buttered toast, breakfast has caught up with its internationally influenced counterparts (lunch and dinner) to become the creative's meal du jour - that's if you can get a table.
The food offered on breakfasts menus is definitely getting better, but unlike the traditional (and reliable) greasy spoon, the hype can often outdo the product. A recent trip to a popular Shoreditch haunt, and a branded cup of herbal tea tipped the price scale over the three pound mark - more than a freshly ground cup of coffee at Monmouth Coffee House or a polenta cake from the delicious, yet expensive, Ottolenghi.
As the breakfast trend continues to boom, I'll continue to enjoy my creamy soy mushrooms on sourdough at Caravan, St Ali's corn fritters, and the succulent croque monsieur stuffed full of vibrant spinach leaves from the delightfully retro Pitfield café, and hope that the emphasis stays on the food and not the hype of the queues.
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