There is no meal quite as excellent as breakfast. It’s the meal that sets you up for the day and be it toast, cereal or something a whole lot heartier, there is nothing quite like that first bite of something in the morning. Over the last few weeks, I’ve stayed in London a few times and so have had the good fortune to be rolling out of whatever sofa or hotel bed I’ve been sleeping on and heading out into the city to find something to eat and get me ready for a day exploring the city. Here are some of my favourite spots.
First up, there’s Bill’s. Originally a single branch in Lewes, a quaint and charming town sixty miles south of London, there are now twenty branches in London alone, and more scattered around the country. You can be in London locations as disparate as Hammersmith, Soho, Greenwich and Covent Garden and find yourself one of their restaurants. Although they serve food all day, it is the breakfast menu to which we turn our attention today.
There are some variations in the menus depending on where you are, but they are mostly the same. Bill’s serves breakfast until noon (1pm on the weekends) and has a great selection, particularly on the many and varied ways they serve up their eggs. If you want them on scrambled with salmon, on toast with avocado or even on a steak, they can provide that for you. Pancakes, porridge and toasted bacon or sausage buns are also on offer. But, of course, this is England, and there is little more fitting than a full English breakfast. The “Bill’s breakfast” provides all you’d expect from such a meal, with a vegetarian option available too at the same price. You can pay for extras as you wish.
Aside from the steak, the full breakfast is the most expensive but at £7.95, doesn’t seem unreasonable for what you get. A bacon roll will set you back £4.25, but is one of the most densely packed I’ve ever seen – the most densely packed is below – but if you’re on more of a budget, there’s toast and Bill’s own jams and marmalades for £2.55. And if you’re really taken with any of the preserves, you can buy them in store too.
Should you find yourself out in Ealing in the morning, there’s one place I wholly recommend over here – Limeyard. Billing itself as an “All Day American Kitchen”, the place is remarkably welcoming and filled with hipster trappings that make you feel that maybe you’re a bit too uncool to be eating here – but you aren’t, I promise.
Their full English is called the “Full Yard” and contains a couple of finer details. The eggs are poached rather than fried (though you can request an inversion), and other ingredients include spiced beans, chili tomatoes, and maple cured bacon. Their vegetarian option, the “Green Yard”, substitutes the meat for grilled halloumi and kale. Like Bill’s, pancakes and toasted bloomers are also on offer here, or an omelette if you so choose. While the toast and pancake options are only served until midday, you can get a Full Yard up until 4.30pm, priced the same as Bill’s, £7.95, although the vegetarian option is £1 cheaper.
Limeyard is actually very probably home to the best breakfast I’ve ever had in London, but if you want something really fancy, then I would suggest Tredwell’s, a Marcus Wareing restaurant.
Situated off Seven Dials somewhere between the theatre showing The Mousetrap and the statue dedicated to its author, Agatha Christie, this restaurant shares a name with a butler from one of her novels, although whether intentional or not, I couldn’t discern. Their full English was heartily stocked with sausage, bacon, fried eggs, toast, potato croquettes and chorizo jam. It’s the most expensive one in this list, coming in at around £12, but it is worth it and definitely feels very fancy.
Unfortunately, however, in researching for this blog post, the menu for Tredwell’s seems to have changed and, on the website at least, there appears to be no option for breakfast. I emailed them to check and, at present, they are not offering brunch. Perhaps they will do again after Easter – they appear to be focusing on Sunday roasts for this time to year at the moment, but all I know for certain is that right now, you’ll have to take my word for it that this was a magnificent breakfast.
But if you’re not in the mood for a sit-down breakfast and you need to hurry along, then Borough Market is your friend. Opposite Southwark Cathedral are a number of food stalls selling sandwiches and rolls with freshly cooked ingredients and more filling than you could imagine. I’ve on a couple of occasions bought myself a bacon roll from here, so stuffed with delicious rashers, that I’ve then walked around London for the rest of the day and not had to eat again until evening was well and truly settled.
So, once you’ve got hold of your breakfast, mop up the egg and ketchup spilt down your shirt, pay the bill, and head off into the city to see what new treats you can discover.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend Karen asked if I could help her and her husband plot a route around London to see the sights. I went one better and provided a fully illustrated guide to every major site in London that was completely walk-able. With no idea how long it would take to walk, or even if it was all that feasible, they set off with it. Fortunately, it worked, and they were able to see everything they wanted.
As such, I provide the same route here for anyone who wants to see as much of London as possible in one day. I’ve posted a walk before, but this one has more of a goal. All you have to do is start at London Bridge station…
Head up above ground and under the Shard, and go down St Thomas Street or London Bridge Street. Go towards Borough Market, which looks like a strange sort of greenhouse. Pass through the market, heading towards the Thames. You will pass Southwark Cathedral and then arrive at the Golden Hinde. Go down Clink Street and you’ll emerge on the side of the Thames again, between a Nando’s and a pub called The Anchor.
Walk under Southwark Bridge, and opposite Bankside Pier is Shakespeare’s Globe, the only thatched building that’s been allowed in London since the Great Fire in 1666. Next is the Millennium Bridge, famously destroyed by Death Eaters but now back in one piece. This is in front of the Tate Modern. On the other side of the bridge you will see St Paul’s Cathedral, but don’t go there yet, I’m factoring it in for later.
Go under Blackfriars Bridge and you’ll pass The Coat and Badge pub. Keep on walking past the National Theatre and then past the next two bridges (the Thames has over two hundred bridges, as well as twenty-seven tunnels, six ferries and a cable car) and you’ll come to the London Eye. The Jubilee Gardens are nice here. At Westminster Bridge, cross over the Thames at last! This should have taken about an hour so far, not counting time to stop for photos.
Here you will pass Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster where the government are busy messing up the country. Just past this, you’ll see Parliamentary Square which is full of statues of famous politicians. On your left is Westminster Abbey.
This next bit has been a bit trickier to try and fit in without going back on yourself, so I think this works as the most sensible method. Turn right before Parliamentary Square and you should be on Whitehall. Up here on the left is the entrance to Downing Street. There’s also usually some guardsmen up here too looking very severe. Walk the length of Whitehall and then you’ll reach Trafalgar Square at the end. Don’t cross over to it yet, you’ll be coming back.
Turn into the next street on the left, under Admiralty Arch, and go down The Mall – it’s the street painted red. Follow this right down and (you’ll have seen what’s at the end) you will be outside Buckingham Palace. Alternatively, you can walk through St James’s Park on your left to the same destination once through the arch.
With Buckingham Palace behind you, on the left is Green Park. Walk through here until you reach Piccadilly, and then turn right. You should pass Green Park Station. On this road you will pass The Ritz, Fortnum & Mason (grocers to the Royal family), my favourite bookshops; Hatchard’s and the flagship Waterstone’s store, and you will emerge into Piccadilly Circus. Keep going through Coventry Street and you’ll find yourself in Leicester Square, home to cinemas, restaurants and M&M’s World.
Carry on through Leicester Square and then turn right into Charing Cross Road. Keep on down this road and you will come out at Trafalgar Square. When you’re done here, your next stop is St Paul’s, but there are two options.
ONE: Go to Charing Cross tube station, get the Bakerloo line to Oxford Circus and change to the Central line to St Paul’s. This will take about ten minutes.
TWO: Walk along Duncannon Street and then into the Strand, the curve of Aldwych, down Fleet Street, and Ludgate Hill. This will take about half an hour, but takes in the Royal Courts of Justice, as well as Ye Olde Chesire Cheese, one of London’s oldest pubs.
Either method you choose, you’ll arrive at St Paul’s Cathedral. Opposite this is the geometrically angular new shopping centre One New Change, which is fairly unremarkable but there are gorgeous views from the cocktail bar on the roof, which you can get into without having to buy anything.
I promise, you’re nearly done, just a few more things to show you.
If now facing towards the river (you should be able to see Millennium Bridge and the Tate Modern on the other side of the river), turn left into Cannon Street. At the end, turn riverwards down into King William Street then into Monument Street to see Monument, built to acknowledge the Great Fire of London. You can climb it, but it’s narrow and tough on the legs. Out of Monument Street, you’ll come to Lower Thames Street and keep going left. After another fifteen minutes or so, you reach the Tower of London.
Go down to the riverside, then cross Tower Bridge. Turn right off the end here and you’ll pass City Hall (Boris’s office) and now you’re on the home stretch back to London Bridge! Walk along this side of the river and you’ll pass HMS Belfast, and at the end of this run, you’re back at London Bridge station.
Once you’ve gone full circle, you should have seen every major tourist spot in central London. There’s still some debate about how long this takes – Karen veered off at one point, and I’ve not added up the different sections (writers, infamously, cannot do maths) – but my only advice would be to wear comfortable shoes. This is a long walk but hopefully it’s worth it.
If you feel inspired to try this walk for yourself, please let me know by commenting and tell me how it worked for you and what you particularly liked along the route. I hope this will provide a crash course in London for many of you.