I realise it may just be me, but I don’t really do “brunch.” It’s all a bit “too”: too early/late, much/little, rich/light, quiet/noisy – tea/wine. But even so, a little the worse for Friday, I found myself at noon on a recent Saturday in that slightly “in-between” mood in the ground floor restaurant at the South Place Hotel, a stone’s throw from Moorgate and Liverpool Street. The building was once known for its undercover assignations and now as an 80 room luxury hotel… (Speaking of luxury the hotel also boasts the excellent Angler fish restaurant on the top floor (not open for breakfast though), which has just been awarded a Michelin star. We covered this here at the beginning of the year before it achieved its Michelin accolade and were very impressed.)
I have to say, this place seems to have got it just right. A well-mannered hostess leads us through a well-appointed room to a bright and quiet corner table in the bar/restaurant. The hotel’s owners (D&D London) describe it as “an all-day British diner that’s open from breakfast until late at night.” I only saw it for a fraction of that time and most fit for purpose it was indeed.
The menu is very well conceived – you really could have breakfast or lunch here – and very well considered. For £20 you can have two courses, for £25 three. And – pay attention if you’re this way inclined – for an extra tenner you can have as many prosecco cocktails as you like. Now, call me old fashioned, but I found the idea of a £35 “lunch” with “refreshments” in a 5 star hotel a very interesting proposition.
And I was not alone. By the time we left, the room had filled with a broad mix of quiet couples, residents, groups of friends, even a hen night starting early. And all seemed happy to be there. Pleasantly so.
A waiter, charming in the way that only Italians can be, indulges our hungover indecision while informing us that the bread is, in his view, the best in London. He was fiendishly close. With a couple of salt flakes on the butter. It was delicious. We finally settled on a mix of “breakfast” and less so. A redcurrant compote and yoghurt granola at first deceived with a “thinness” that was perhaps prompted by sleepy taste buds but in fact developed into a delightful, light, fresh “starter.” Sweet, delicious and properly lightly-scattered granola and a pure yoghurt with tart redcurrants. The Girl followed it with smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. I couldn’t resist the salt beef sandwich.
By this stage, the fact that the drink in front of me bubbled rather than steamed seemed less strange. And the ever-attentive staff ensured that the table never wanted for anything. The sandwich was excellent. The beef perfect, the (mildly rye) bread once again gorgeous, the accompaniments just right. My tiny criticism was the butter in the sandwich, which had been overdone to the point of ooze. The salmon was generously served, as were the eggs, and would have been perfect but for (I would wager) more butter in their cooking, making them too rich to finish off. Oh, and the (different again) bread once again excellent. We had some spinach on the side but – blame it on my parentage – I prefer mine with a drop of olive oil or lemon, not a spoon of butter. Service was throughout attentive and warm.
It’s a strange corner of the City, this. Inside were a mix of people, but a rounded atmosphere. Passing by outside were builders, dressed clusters on their way to a wedding, even a phalanx in bizarre fancy dress. Or perhaps it was the mimosas. The hotel’s website claims the hotel “brings together the City and the East End, and much thought has gone into its design.” I have to say, I rather liked it. It happily merges clean lines with friendliness, artifartiness with accessibility and practicality. I shall certainly be going back – and the first floor bar is looking like the first contender. The lovely 7th floor terrace will have to wait till next year. And definitely for brunch again – once I’ve had a small breakfast.
I wish – we wish – we had felt like tasting more from the balanced menu. I’m sure it was the same: excellent ingredients, very well prepared, sympathetically put together, and perfectly served. Oh, and with lots of bubbles. And did I mention the bread? My only criticism is the tad too much butter. But I realise that could just be me.
3 South Place Bar and Grill is located, as the name suggests, on South Place, about midway between Moorgate and Liverpool Street stations. For reservations telephone 020 3215 1270, or visit the hotel website – www.southplacehotel.com for more information, menu details, etc. for 3 South Place and Angler and for online hotel and restaurant reservations.