15 June 2011
Since moving to Norway, one of the quintessentially British things I've missed most is a proper fry-up. The full English breakfast done well is truly a thing a beauty on the plate; fried eggs quivering, sausages steaming, bacon glistening ... arteries hardening. It's certainly (and literally) not for the faint-hearted but, oh my, what a way to start the day! And it is a singular treat that I save only for those occasions when I am back in dear old Blighty.
The venue for my most recent indulgence was the Riding House Café, which opened in London's Fitzrovia in April 2011. The interior is really a rather fabulous space with, what the owners have accurately coined, a "homely industrial" feel. Split into two distinct spaces, there is a large bar area dominated by a neat row of blue bar seats and a long table surrounded by vintage fold-down seats reclaimed from a theatre in Connecticut. Also present are rattan swivel chairs from Florida that allegedly once featured in a porn flick, though I do hope they were thoroughly cleaned before being installed.
The other dining area comprises of a plusher lounge with violently orange seats, wood panelling and rather bizarre stuffed squirrel lamp fixtures. The banquettes are supremely comfortable and it feels like just the sort of place you never want to leave. It's an eclectic mix of styles, but the overall the look and feel of the restaurant is unquestionably British – not a million miles from the stately home interior of a slightly eccentric Marquess perhaps.
But first, some fresh juices as a token healthy gesture before our cardiac-arrest-on-a-plate arrived. An 'ABC Ginger' juice (£4) was deliciously vibrant, containing apple, beetroot, and carrot juices with a good whack of fresh ginger thrown in. Mrs. Nibbler's 'Vitalise' drink (£4) of orange, lemon, and lime was as zingy and citrusy as it sounds.
The 'Full & Proper Breakfast' (£9.40) arrived looking every bit as good as it does in my homesick, craving-induced dreams. Juicy free range pork sausages were nicely caramelised, streaky bacon was crisp, black pudding was rich and crumbly, and the fried eggs were perfectly cooked. I particularly liked the little touches, such as the way the field mushroom had been infused ever so slightly with garlic, and that the tomatoes had been slow-roasted with sprigs of rosemary. Baked beans were, thankfully, served on the side – in my opinion these have no place at the breakfast table! All in all it was as good an example of a full English breakfast as you'll find anywhere.
I really loved the Riding House Café and let's face it, with that interior it's hard not to. It certainly has the feel of a place that's been around for a while and I'm sure it will become a popular London breakfast fixture in much the same way that The Wolseley has (perhaps with a few less hedgies though). I had a quick look online at their lunch and dinner menu, which lists the sort of the dishes that make a return here imminent. But for a wonderful breakfast in glamorous but relaxed surroundings The Riding House Café is definitely worth a visit.
Food: 7 / 10
Service: 8 / 10
Ambiance: 8 / 10
The Riding House Café
43-51 Great Titchfield Street
London W1W 7PQ
Tel: +44 (0)20 7927 0840