Us Brits have never really been very good at 'doing brunch'. Maybe its because our climate makes al fresco dining seem more like a punishment for ten months of the year, maybe it's because a late breakfast clashes with the traditional Sunday lunch, or maybe it's just down to our deep distrust of combing two meals into a solitary one (as a small child I was known to be reduced to tears on occasion at the thought of 'missing out' on one of my three meals a day).
What ever our reservations to this mid-morning meal mash up we seem to be slowly coming round to the idea that breakfast isn't just for, well, breakfast. Many cafes, restaurants and pubs now offer full, extended all day menus that run the whole gamut from the traditional fry up and egg dishes via bucks fizz, granola, french toast and flat whites. And lucky for me that the tide is turning, as I had somehow agreed to brave Oxford Street's mad weekend rush with the Ewing and I needed some proper sustenance to help me on the way.
A pleasant Sunday morning stroll through the streets of Marylebone bought us to Fitzrovia's Riding House Cafe, an all day brasserie serving a selection of grills, sharing plates, salads and roasts on a Sunday as well as a breakfast/brunch selection that features as one of Time Out's top choices. It was pretty lively when we arrived at midday, and I was glad we had reservations that bought us straight in from the cold into the cosy dining area.
I kicked things off with a well made, and very welcome, flat white, while the Ewing enjoyed a cappuccino, while we perused the rest of the breakfast menu. Really, I didn't actually need to look at the menu, having spent Saturday browsing at it online. It pretty much had me a 'buttermilk pancakes' but I read it several more times just to make sure I wasn't missing out on anything else...
The pancakes were good, if slightly too thick, which made them a bit doughy in the middle. The accompanying maple syrup was warm and delicious and you can't really improve upon fresh raspberries and vanilla clotted cream. Actually, I lie, a side of smoked streaky bacon would improve almost anything, and here was no exception; the salty smoky pork (although, again a little underdone for my tastes) complementing every bite of syrup drenched and cream laden pancake. A delightful combination.
Despite my 'gentle' attempts to persuade the Ewing to pick the chorizo hash browns with poached eggs (the hash browns are, unfortunately, not listed as available the side) she stood firm with her choice of the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs on toasted sourdough. Despite there only being half a slice of the, very good, bread she described it as excellent; light and refined with just the right amount of richness from the smoked fish and soft eggs.
We finished proceedings with two of their smoothies, served in old fashioned milk bottles. Initially I was tempted by the rather healthy sounding 'rickshaw' featuring strawberry, pineapple and lime, but in the end went for the more substantial 'sunshine'; a shake of orange, yogurt, oats banana and cinnamon. Quite lovely, both refreshing and creamy with a little jolt from the spice. The Ewing gave up any pretence of health with the 'racer', a decadent and delightful chocolate, espresso and banana number.
The place continued to fill up as we enjoyed our brunch, and despite the roast beef crowd moving in as we slowly sipped our smoothies there was never any pressure to slurp up and ship out. Feeling just on the right side of too full we paid our (very reasonable) bill and made our way through the refined streets of Fitzrovia, feeling fully sated and ready to deal with the chaos of Selfridges on a Sunday afternoon.