It was a hazy Saturday morning in Old Street, London. There was a bit of chill in the air but not too wet. The kind of typical weather that we experience over here in late February.
45 minutes ago, I had just rolled out of bed myself and quickly put on my weekend go-to-attire in cold windy weather, a fluffy blue knitted jumper and jeans. Oh so comfy!
I was on my way to a secret brunch with The Worktop hosted by the lovely Tina. This was an event we had put together with WhatWeAte, the social dining platform I co-founded with several friends. Despite a severe lack of sleep from the previous night out at Lucky Voice, I was ready to take on a 7-course brunch marathon (a healthy version to boot!).
Brunch is an institution to me and many other New Yorkers. It’s one of those things that you took for granted in the Big Apple. Unlimited flowing champagne bellinis and top notch bloody marys were what you would expect on a lazy Sunday afternoon as I topped up on oozing and golden egg Benedict slopped on with hollandaise sauce. Meanwhile, on his visits, Mr. New Yorker would have feasted on his skyscraper stacks of buttermilk pancakes drenched in maple syrup with a heart-attack inducing side of bacon.
However, it’s time for a healthier take on things. Let’s be honest, I can’t be feasting like my old American ways all the time. Even though I really..really love bacon.
As I stepped into Tina’s beautiful and airy kitchen, she was just in the middle of demonstrating the delicate art of pour-over coffee. It’s a technique not for the faint-hearted so one must appreciate the amount of work going into this.
Some key takeaways: pour over coffee must be achieved with the water at 91-93 degrees, not one degree over as the coffee will retain a burnt after taste. The water must be reheated every time it was poured over the coffee to the same temperature.
I certainly learned a lot about this art, especially drawing on Tina’s barista expertise! More importantly, I was impressed with Tina’s eccentric collection of kitchen gadgets. The coffee, served in these rainbow like miniature coffee mugs were lighter on the tongue. Yep, this was pour-over coffee presented with love, and definitely one for the professionals.
My eyes then glazed over as soon as I spotted these fluffy homemade blueberry muffins as our second course. They were calling out to me. I started with a small muffin to conserve my appetite knowing that there will be 7 courses to come. But who am I kidding, these were so good I had another large one as well. 🙂
After we took our seats, I was presented with the yoghurt parfait with berry compote and granola. Thumbs up for the beautiful table setting and the rustic presentation. Not only was it delicious, it was also a lighter way to begin our Saturday feast.
It wasn’t complete until I topped it up with some crunchy homemade granola. The breakfast of champions!
The granola was a great complement to the yogurt parfait and the berry compote just topped it all off with a tangy sweet finish. Did I mention it was very generously portioned? This was only the third course!
No brunch is complete without a healthy dose of vitamin injection. What’s better than a carrot and ginger elixir served in a milk bottle?
Aside from the pour-over coffee, I think this little bottle was also responsible for keeping me “wired” for the rest of the day afterwards. Cheers! And bottoms up.
Then came the all important egg. After all, what is brunch without egg? Lunch!
I like egg in almost every form, scrambled, fried, soft boiled etc. But dippy egg soldiers was definitely a new British tradition for me. It is a very soft boiled egg served with strips toasts used to dip into the small opening on top of the broken egg shell.
Apparently the term “soldiers” had several explanations, one source said it came from the reference to Beefeaters, when you placed a strip of toast in the egg it looked like a beefeater with fuzzy hats. Others had claimed that the toasts were cut into strips to line up, like soldiers. Logically..fair enough.
Our dippy soldiers were home made day-old bread coated with grilled cheese. Oozing with its soft yellow yolk, my little loyal soldiers scraped every last bit of the egg clean with its crusty goodness. Incredibly morish.
Oh, did I mention I love bacon? The kale salad soaked for 4 hours in lemon & olive oil vinaigrette dressing have been softened to an almost cooked consistency. For all of you raw food fans out there, this is the dish to try. Mine was topped with cubes of pancetta bacon. Hmm…bacon
Sadly, we came to our last course of the brunch. Although, perhaps deep down I was relieved as by this point I could only fit in a waffle or two.
Tina whipped up a batter of honey oats and created these within minutes! These were served beautifully with fresh whip cream drizzled in maple syrup and berries.
Just look at this spread!
Through conversation, I found out that our table crossed over 4 out of the 5 continents. There was a student from California, a German from Malaysia who also lived in Indonesia, an Italian in London, a freelancer who grew up up in Kenya, a South African, and of course one of those rare breed these days, a native Londoner. 🙂 Wow. A native Londoner, where did they all go these days?
Food has such a powerful capacity to connect all of us. As I sat amongst 7 new friends who were strangers just a few hours ago, what we had in common was the memories and stories that were tied to the meals we shared. If you want to get involved in some of these events, why not check out what’s on in the new few weeks here?
What exciting things did you get up to this weekend? 🙂