The weekend brunch. Giving us carte blanche to booze before midday and eat a billion, béchamel-laden calories. I'm sure there are some that think this mid-way meal a waste of time and money, but they are deranged. The very beauty of a bruncheon is that it can go well into an afternoon. And, as you're generally only having one dish, swapping extra 'lunch courses' for cocktails it seems positively bargainous (especially as you're likely to be in bed by 5pm thus artfully avoiding the cost of dinner).
Let me be clear, when I say 'boozy brunch' I do not mean 'bottomless prosecco with a two-hour window to get smashed'. Which might have been a hot concept in 2014, but now attracts the same people that go out in Shoreditch on a Saturday night (read: shouty non-London people from the surrounding counties). What us Londoners like to do now is take advantage of the many brilliant restaurants realising that brunch is very much a 'thing' and finding ways to do it fabulously. From a Soho legend to a (relative) newbie in Islington, these are three of this spring's best...
Galley has only been occupying a mid-way spot on Upper Street for a wee while, but has rightly decided that brunch is big business around these parts. This not only gives those that read Fay Maschler's belter of a review another time window in which to nab a table; but allows the extremely capable kitchen another chance to show off their skills.
Brunch technically only runs from 11am-1pm on the weekends, but staff are far too charming to chuck you out and the cocktail list far too accomplished to not amble at least half way down it. Think fluffy chocolate pancakes on blueberry-rippled mascarpone and buttery brioche bursting with red mullet and soft shell crab, all washed down with a Grey Goose Blackberry Mary.
Be warned, the room is beautiful and the temperature kept at womb-like levels, so it's hard to tear oneself away. Meaning you may find yourself still there... five hours later... ordering their saffron-laced fish stew alongside a stack of golden ham hock croquettes and a bottle of Picpoul.
Bottomless brunching may be a tacky trick of the brunching world, but if any restaurant can make it okay it's Soho-stalwart, L'Escargot. For £25 from 11-4pm on Sundays, guests can gorge themselves to the gills: starting with an 80's-tastic buffet of pastries, fruit and juices (not to mention a crepe station) - before moving on to more substantial hot dishes.
The latter swings eccentrically from six plump Gallic snails to British roast beef with Yorkshire pudding to fry ups representing both countries. As if that wasn't enough there's also Croque Monsieur, smoked salmon, French toast and anything else you might want for breakfast or otherwise.
Drinks are extra which keeps things from getting too out of hand. Though this is L'Escargot, darling of the 90's-eat-and-drink-to-fabulous-excess dining scene, so it's a shame not to indulge in a champagne cocktail or two...
Located on Seymour Street where the edge of Mayfair meets Edgware Road, Bernardi's is an Italian restaurant from Melbourne-born owners that opened quietly but confidently last September. Like the area in which it sits (and crowd is largely caters to) the space is all immaculate elegance with brushed leather banquettes, flower arrangements in perfect spheres and marble on every available surface.
Before you think 'cold and stuffy' be assured that staff are warm and the food so good, that even if your handbag hails from Primark and you forgot to put a comb through your hair, you'll be instantly at ease.
Though they do a breakfast menu in the week too, it's the Saturday brunch menu (served from 9.30am-4pm) that gets my vote. Unless you're on a health kick (in which case stay at home, your smug glow is ruining my weekend) ignore the 'Cereals, Grains & Fruits' section. Instead, head straight for the marvellously indulgent dishes below which all sound so brilliant, repeat visits are a must.
Favourite dishes: a pretty plate of wild mushrooms, gold-edged cubes of pancetta topped with bright-yolked fried eggs and crunchy focaccia croutons; a bright tangle of scrambled eggs, Cornish crab and parsley; and zesty French toast dripping in mascarpone. Cocktails excellent too.