I’ve always longed to belong somewhere, but it’s never happened. I don’t mean having friends and family – I have those, I’m not a freak. But I’ve never really had that feeling that you can walk in somewhere – a bar or restaurant – and the staff will wave to you and know what you want. In my fictionalised version of my own Central Perk, friends (I have friends, remember? I protest too much, right?) will come along and stay. We’ll laugh, we’ll chat. We’ll stay all day and drink cocktails.
That dream has never happened. I’ve never found anywhere that I feel like I’d want to do that. I mean, there is one pub near me where my friends and I are basically ‘regulars’. As in we drink their regularly and the landlady knows our order (because we only ever drink bottle after bottle of red wine). But it’s not the same somehow. I can’t commit to it being my local for some reason.
But now I think I’ve found somewhere I’d happily call my local, if they’d have me as their regular. It ticks all the boxes: gently humming without the noise being obtrusive (I am a bit deaf, and all my friends will tell you I have trouble hearing conversations if there is even low-level music playing), open fire, light and airy, excellent food, comfy seats. YES! This place is the B&H Buildings.
I went to the B&H Buildings for it’s opening party back in the summer sometime, and I loved it then. It’s basically a sort of bar/restaurant hybrid (read: if you’re too lazy to go to the bar, a lovely waitress will bring you your drinks). But when I heard about their new bottomless brunch menu I was very excited and decided to pop along to see what was what.
We were sat in the lovely and airy conservatory at the back of the restaurant on cute little armchairs. I went with my friend Vinay and his wife. Vinay and I went to uni together, and I lived with him in squalor for three years. I like seeing him now to remind him of the time he got corn rows.
Anyway, enough of my friends and their dubious fashion choices… We settled down and ordered quite a lot of food and a few cocktails too. Andrew got a Salty Sea Dog cocktail, whereas I got one with coffee in it that made me feel totally wired. I am a bit of a coffee weed.
Foodwise we went for French toast with streaky bacon and maple syrup:
You can’t even see the French toast for all the excellent crispy bacon. But the French toast was so incredibly good. It was crunchy on the outside, but when I cut into it it was like a fluffy pillow inside. The taste was sensational – custardy, rich and vanilla-butter flavours. I can generally take or leave French toast because I’m normally like “Stale bread dipped in egg then fried? And what?” But this dish had me ready to eat nothing else but this for the rest of my days. It was my standout dish.
This wonderful mash up is an English breakfast muffin topped with hearty slices of grilled chorizo, layered with a massive dollop of guacamole and a poached egg, all of which is smothered in hollandaise sauce. Disclaimer: I find that more often that not, hollandaise is really badly done – it’s either too buttery or eggy and it rarely has enough sharpness (lacks the chef’s bravery with the vinegar). This hollandaise was spot on though. The whole thing combined was deliciously heady. Well done whoever came up with this dish, you’re a Prince among men.
This was fried chunks of potato and onion topped with an HP sauce-spiked hollandaise and finished with poached eggs. I really enjoyed this. I like a potato with breakfast. Must be the Irish in me. I also liked the picante HP sauce twist with the hollandaise. Andrew was less keen on it, but what does he know? (Clue: nothing)
I really, really enjoyed the B&H Buildings. You can book a table and settle in for the whole day, no questions asked. There are bottomless cocktails for £16 and the place is fully stocked with all the weekend papers if your companions grow tiresome. There’s even an open fire guys! Seriously, it’s awesome.
One bum note was that I would say the service was slooow. But we were in no rush and it just gave me more time to remind Vinay about that time he bought hair straighteners…
B & H Buildings, 42 Northampton Road, London EC1R 0HU
Nearest tube: Angel (10-minute walk)