In the olden days, if one wanted a hearty breakfast in London one would usually have to choose between hotels catering for those staying overnight (often quite expensive), transport type caffs serving early starting blue collar workers for the most part, or – for the most substantial breakfasts – head to the Smithfield Market area where a number of restaurants and pubs catered for hungry meat deliverers and porters coming off shift after a hard day’s night! But now a substantial number of much more upmarket restaurants are climbing on the breakfast bandwagon – the staff are often there early so why not monetise this – and perhaps also following a trend towards business and social breakfasts becoming more and more in vogue after the American pattern in more upmarket surroundings.
Indeed breakfast at many of these restaurants is often the best value meal available, coming in way below the cost of a main course at luncheon or dinner, but often the chefs use them to show off some of their culinary skills too.
We recently sampled the breakfast offering at Bird Of Smithfield – facing the south side of the market on Smithfield Street and were suitably impressed with both food and value for money. Breakfast is served in the ground floor bar area and this was quite busy when we arrived at 9.15 – which might be considered rather late for those who might be going on to work. But Bird serves its breakfasts up until round 12 noon – when the bar menu takes over and, of course the lunch menu in the first floor dining room.
Full English breakfast at Bird – sans baked beans
The Bird bar area is a decent space with relatively well-spaced tables although can only seat around 40 diners. The menu is a mixture of traditional breakfasts, standard more upmarket offerings and some unusual specials which make it perhaps more of a treat – although it is always hard to turn down a full English made with good quality ingredients. Here the full English comprises egg (to order), bacon, sausage, black pudding, grilled tomato and field mushroom, plus what I personally consider a modern anomaly on the traditional fare of baked beans. Well I did order the full English (£9.25) – but without the beans!
I have to say it was very good. I had fried eggs and it came with crispy dry cured bacon and great tasting sausage and black pudding – it’s actually difficult to go wrong here provided the bacon and sausage are of good quality. This has to be one of the best combinations of flavours out there – again in my opinion.
But moving beyond the more traditional dishes on the breakfast menu we also sampled a couple of the chef’s creations of less standard fare. Personally I am partial to smoked haddock for breakfast – not to everyone’s taste – and while this wasn’t on offer, the menu did include smoked haddock hash (£8)–served with two eggs on top. Plenty of fish in with the potato making for a good way to start the day.
Smoked Haddock hash with fried eggs.
Other less usual breakfast specials included two baked eggs dishes – served in skillets – where eggs are baked with additional tasty ingredients as a single dish. The first of these was with tomato, avocado and Berkswell cheese (£6) and the second, which was the one we sampled, with spicy nduja sausage, bacon, avocado and spinach (also £6). What a great combination.
Baked eggs with nduja sausage, bacon, avocado and spinach
There is a range of eggs benedict type dishes benedict, Royale and Florentine, smoked salmon with scrambled eggs – and vegetarian options. For the quick meal there are bacon and sausage butties or baps- and standard porridge and granola and various pastries on offer. Good coffee and tea, of course, and juices are available. All in all a good place for what many nutritionists reckon to be the most important meal of the day.
Bird of Smithfield is at 26 Smithfield St London EC1A 9LB Phone 020 7559 5100. Breakfast is served from 8 am to 12 noon.