London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch Guide

You can never have too many brunch spots.

Luckily, London has platefuls of EGGcellent brunch. The weekend sees our streets JAMmed packed with hungry brunchers. Sundays are for satisfying our cravings for fresh juice, avocado-on-something and my awful runny egg yolks (jokes).

A few people have asked for recommendations because it looks as if I live in brunch venues on my Instagram.

BTW, I’m splitting my London brunch guide into two sections. This guide is ‘London’s Most Instagrammable Brunch’. My next guide will be ‘the best Brunch spots in London’, dedicated to foodies (which will also have a vegan section). Stay tuned for that one if you favour quality of food above interiors.

Let’s start with the places where you won’t be able to resist being snap happy.

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Bronte

Welcome to a Tom Dixon–designed, and subsequently Instagram-hungry, restaurant. Dixon is one of my favourite designers, everything he touches turns into shades of rose gold, copper-brass and candyfloss. Under double-height ceilings and large palms; I couldn’t resist nestling at the polished pink breakfast bar for the gram’. And the food? Sorry, almost forgot. I ordered ‘The Full Bronte’. I’m weak for the full English; It’s a British institution. I have to admit; I kept staring at my mates ‘The Vegetarian’ breakfast which consisted of bulgur wheat kibbeh, spinach, balsamic plum tomatoes, Portobello mushrooms, smoked baked beans, eggs and extra avocado. Mmm. I stared at breakfast almost as much as the decor.

Berners Tavern

You know the food is going to be good when it’s a Jason Atherton (Michelin star celeb chef) restaurant, so foodwise, don’t worry my friend, we’ve covered. I pinky promise you that I’m not paid to say this, but please order the ‘Moroccan fried eggs’. The textures of tomato fondue, yoghurt and toasted sourdough confirmed that my plate was returned clean. The surroundings are astounding, with the balls-out stately Edwardian-style opulent decor, in the open: people-watching, decadent dining room. The Instagrammable factor relies on the triple-height ceiling, dangling chandeliers and walls arrayed with hundreds of paintings. Oh boy, it’s dreamy, and I didn’t want to leave, to be thrown out into the concrete jungle that is Oxford Circus.

Clerkenwell Grind

The Grind gang are killing it ATM. Clerkenwell Grind has opened its doors as the seventh branch as an all-day restaurant and club-bar with a dulcet atmosphere. This dreamboat entertains plush blue sofas, marble tables and sleepy lighting; it’s easily the most snappable of the Grind bunch. Juices are a favourite here. Set the day with the classic Fresh Orange or their signature – Amber Juice (orange, carrot, lemon and ginger). I’m a massive (fat) fan of the cliche Smashed Avocado (served with a poached egg and sprinkled chilli flakes), or if you’re feeling something sweet: the French banana toast with coconut frozen yoghurt is a winner. If you want to set your Instagram on fire, they have acai bowls.

 

And this is why. Moroccan eggs though 👌🏼🍳

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I wish @Instagram had the capability to move images around in your feed. I've got a nice blue theme going on here!

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Aubaine

Distinctly and deliciously French, Aubaine has grown from its West London home, currently flourishing with nine restaurants. The recently opened Selfridges branch is the most Instagrammble of the bunch. Spring 2017 saw Instagrammers go wild for London’s wisteria; if you have a case of FOMO, you can get your #hysteriawistera fix at Aubaine. Who can resist brunch with Parisian style lighting, cosy cream booths and a draping smell of lavender? You can’t have a French Restaurant without freshly baked bread and patisserie. Foodwise, there are the classics: eggs benedict, granola with yoghurt, freshly squeezed juices. There’s a twist on the full French – with Toulouse sausage, Alsace bacon, duck egg and mushrooms.

Palm Vaults

Slap bang in the middle of Hackney, Palm Vaults is the goddess of the pastel-coloured lattes. It’s a Bloggers paradise. The cute little café is home to pink hanging baskets overflowing with greenery, velvet sofas, terrarium walls, pastel interiors and mini succulents. Palm Valuts deserves this spot in the Instagram category because customers even take pictures in the toilets! The menu boasts Acai bowls, chia puddings, salads with edible flowers and the classic avocado toast is glorious. There’s also a range of vegan cakes including avocado fudge cake — a weird combination that works a treat.

Goodnes 💞🌴💞 pretty pic from @theldnbrunchcollective taken by @winsomelaiws

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Chiswick Fire Station

I could be biased because Chiswick is one of my favourite places in London. In fact, I’m sat in Chiswick right now as I write this post for you. If you’re willing to venture into the wild-wild West, Chiswick Fire Station is an interior goldmine. If there was a Pinterest lottery, then this place has hit the #interiorgoals jackpot. A deep-set bar and restaurant filled with irresistible strawberry milkshake sofas, copper tables and cacti. The light, airy and homey space creates an interior feast over brunch. It’s so cosy that I sometimes snuggle in with my laptop. I usually go for my regular, Eggs Royal Smoked salmon, avocado and spinach on sourdough with housemade hollandaise. The concoction of attractive interior and food is without a doubt the Instagrammers delight.

Farm Girl

Tucked in an alleyway at the southern end of Portobello Road, Farm Girl is a smaller cafe for the health-conscious-superfood eaters. If you’re not into the whole ‘raw’ food trend, then skip this one and continue your quest with my next recommendation. If Farm Girl were a clothing store, it would be Hollister; It has a bright, breezy and beach-bod ready vibe. Your Instagram story will relish in a realm of colour: turquoise tiled walls, lush flowers on the tabletop, and hanging fruit display. The most popular item is the salads. Otherwise, there’s buckwheat berry pancakes, three-egg omelettes cooked in coconut oil, vegetable patties and cake. I love the cacao smoothie of banana, almond milk and cinnamon.

Flat lay goals!!! Have a lovely weekend 📸 @fashionzauber_com

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Ultimate #botanicalpickmeup – last summer inside the Greenhouse.

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We're ready for Chelsea Flower Show 🌺#cfs #kingsroad #chelseaflowershow #floralinstallation

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Bourne & Hollingsworth

Farringdon’s finest brunch spot. The Instagram magic happens in the frond-filled conservatory filled with textured upholstery. The decor is faded but bright, overflowing with greenery and is the best spot for sun-worshipping. I already know that you’ll fall in love with me after I tell you that the cocktail menu features bottomless Bloody Mary’s and seasonal Bellinis. Breakfast wise, you can build your very own Full English. Amused by the smaller pleasures of life; I like teeny tiny jars of sauce that came alongside breakfast. I kept staring at another customer’s Huevos Benedictos which is runny poached egg served with crisp chorizo and avocado. If you’re craving sugar that day, there’s French toast with banana and chocolate. Utterly delicious.

The Ivy Chelsea Garden

To be honest, you don’t even need to have brunch here as you can take a picture of the beautiful floral backdrop situated at the entrance. Be wary of the Chinese tourists (*cough* me) who hover around to pap the spot. The Ivy Chelsea Garden combines Ivy splendour with a spacious garden terrace. Opt for the delicious Garden Breakfast, with halloumi, avocado and kale hash brown, in its grand dining room. Ivy Chelsea is a summer oasis.

If I’ve missed any places and you just screamed at this screen by shouting the name of the venue, please do let me know and I’ll add to this list.

If you’re planning to go or have been to any of my recommendations, I would love to see your Instasnaps.

Eat loads and be merry, fellow Brunchers.

Location: London

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How I learnt to love my Chinese heritage through food

Before we tuck in and dive into my personal experience with Chinese heritage; I have a new restaurant recommendation.

It’s a fancy-pants one. Discreetly nestled on the 5th floor of Harrods, I’ve partnered up with Chai Wu to discuss delicious and authentic Chinese food with you.

Craving lavish lunch bites or got a special celebration coming up? Love your classics with a naughty twist? Then this is the place. I’m telling you, if you took your loved ones here, you would score major brownie points.

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The interior is divine and #decorgoals. Chai Wu’s design incorporates the five elements of Chinese philosophy: wood, metal, water, earth and fire. I’m going to section up this post to discuss my personal experience with Chinese heritage and how food plays a major part in this.

Earth

If you haven’t read my blog before, I’m Monica Wong. I name my creative outlet ‘The Wong Blog’ as it’s a play on the ‘wrong’ words, *wink*. I’m British, Chinese & Vietnamese. I’m very lucky to have the best of many worlds regarding culture & heritage. I love food. I always have. I believe that if you have a good relationship with food, you’ll live a happier life.

Metal

Food is a showcase of love, and this is especially prominent within Asian communities. Culturally, Chinese parents often struggle to express and communicate their emotions to their children (in comparison to the Western culture). Enjoying food with our loved ones is important, it’s how we communicate our love for one another.

Wood

Chinese food has a diverse and complex history. With recipes and secret cooking techniques fed down generation to generation, each ingredient symbolises an experience.

Fire

In Chinese culture, red is a lucky colour. At Chinese New Year, we celebrate with a special feast. Traditionally, we eat lobster for luck, dumplings (symbolising pieces of gold) for wealth, fish provides prosperity and vegetables are for health. I learnt to fall in love with my heritage by appreciating, enjoying and spending quality with my family (a traditional Chinese dinner is bowls of rice for each member with shared dishes at the table) — we made sure we never missed dinner together as a family.

Water

We always drink soup (bone broth) or Chinese green tea to wash down our food. This is to aid metabolism and to learn to appreciate your every bite.

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The Food

Okay, so when you visit Chai Wu, I recommend ordering the following dishes above. Brace yourself. My guest & I went a bit overboard with the food. And I have hungry eyes.

The most popular dish is the Beijing Duck. It’s pricey, but it comes with a duck chef and a bonus dish of lettuce wrap or duck fried rice.

If you’re craving a steaming basket of dumplings, we opted for the lobster topped with beluga caviar and prawns with black truffle. Omfg, the Popcorn Shrimp with creamy, spicy dressing is the best thing you’ll ever taste. You can never go wrong with a side of salt & pepper squid.

We couldn’t be happier when the ice steam display came with the mixed sashimi platter. I’ve never seen anything like it; the other sushi restaurants need to up their game.

For mains, if you’re into a cocktail of tangy flavours, then go for the Sea Bass with three flavoured sauce. The sweet and sour chicken served with a dragon fruit is most Instagrammble’ of dishes: it’s pink, fruity and cheerful. Veg-wise, we ordered Gai Lan (Chinese Broccoli) with Oyster Sauce, BTW you’re not a meat-eater, they have a vegetarian menu.

I recently wrote a post on my favourite high teas in London; did you know that Chai Wu offer service this too? You can get ahead of me and book a slot on my funky widget at the bottom of this post.

Be sure to add Chai Wu on your shopping list the next time you’re at Harrods.

Location: Chai Wu, Knightsbridge, London

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Top 5 Afternoon Teas in London

If you’ve been following my Insta, you will of occasionally spotted a tower of treats, followed by my delight of its acquaintance.

Afternoon tea is a British institution; it’s the ultimate indulgence. A few people have asked for recommendations on where to take friends & family in the big smoke.

If they enjoy the sandwich, tea & cake combo as much as I do, then here is my guide. Welcome to my top five Afternoon Teas in London.

Sketch (quirky)

Sketch is magical. The domed hall is passionately pastel pink with a confection of David Shrigley’s artwork on the walls. If you like tea with elegance & slightly eccentric decor, I’d recommend this place. Highlights: mini cheese toastie, cute ceramics with witty messages and the funky bathroom.

Tea Rating: 8/10

Sandwich Rating: 8/10

Scone Rating: 8/10 (warm & fluffy; bonus points for homemade jam) Cake Rating: 8/10 (mini spiced apple tart was my fave)

Recommendation: go with the girls.

Sanderson (quirky)

The Mad Hatters Afternoon Tea Party at Sanderson is a childhood dream come true. There are lots of quirks; I think I said ‘ooh’ fifty times that day. The menu is inside an old book, the sugar is in a jewellery box, and the flowers are edible. The Courtyard Garden has a laid back and chilled vibe. Highlights: different flavours of bread, pocket watch macaron, drinkable dessert and passionfruit ice cream.

Tea Rating: 8/10

Sandwich Rating: 8/10 (sandwiches are great, but I wanted more because I like carbs)

Scone Rating: 7/10

Cake Rating: 8/10 (mini spiced apple tart was my fave)

Recommendation: go in the summer to lounge in the courtyard. Go if you have the dietary requirement as they cater to those.

Browns (classic)

If you’re looking for a side-serving of grandeur and sophistication with your tea, then book a table at Browns. Classy and traditional, Queen Victoria used to have her tea here. I was impressed by the range of infusions. BTW: tea, sandwiches & cakes are unlimited. Step to it. Highlights: Coronation chicken sandwich (I asked for more of those bad boys), spiced pumpkin and ginger eclairs.

Tea Rating: 9/10

Sandwich Rating: 9/10 (bagels & sandwiches are served)

Scone Rating: 8/10

Cake Rating: 7/10

Recommendation: take your parents to this one.

The Goring (classic)

If a Belgravia-based hotel were a person; it’d probably be a smart and a well-dressed gentleman that knows how to charm your pants off. Welcome to The Goring. Kate Middleton’s favourite hotel. It has a more boutique feel compared to the bigger hotels like The Ritz. It’s quintessentially British. Highlights: giant macaron and a blood-orange-mousse dome. You’re offered refills of tea without having to ask.

Tea Rating: 9/10

Sandwich Rating: 8/10 (you get bagels & sandwiches)

Scone Rating: 8/10

Cake Rating: 7/10

Recommendation: Order the Bollinger Tea (Goring’s own special loose leaf tea blend).

Mayfair Kitchen (bit of both)

Set in the sophisticated yet unassuming Mayfair Hotel — it’s the most contemporary of the bunch, and surprisingly best value for money. If you’re not looking for traditional then this is your best bet, it’s afternoon tea with a Mediterranean twist. Highlights: bruschetta, Amaretto or Sicilian lemon scones with vanilla mascarpone. I’m currently craving the white peach and oregano pannacotta as I write this.

Tea Rating: 7/10

Sandwich Rating: 8/10 (you get bagels & sandwiches)

Scone Rating: 7/10

Cake Rating: 8/10 Recommendation: go with your mates for catch ups as it’s got a brunch-y vibe.

The runners up are The Waldorf & The Dorchester. Overhyped: Aqua Shard (the view was breathtaking, but I didn’t like the food). Places I’m planning to go to next: Ritz, Claridges, Fortum & Mason, Savoy and The London Edition.

I hope my post has helped you organise your next gathering filled with scones, clotted cream, finger sandwiches and cakes.  If it has, I’d love to hear from you: we can be friends on Twitter here, Instagram here and Facebook here.

Bon Appétit!

Location: London

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#ProjectMNYC – The Big Apple Eats

The food in New York. Ah man. Where do I begin?

New York City is a microcosm of the world, where you stumble upon four different ethnic eateries right next to each other.

You name it. New York has it. Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Indian, American… The list goes on. With New York’s diverse population, if you come across the right spot (especially the local areas) the food is pretty damn authentic.

Ok, let’s list the food I would urge you to try. Let’s start with the all American fave’.

NEW YORK PIZZA!

I’m talking about the 1$ cheap takeaway-on-a-napkin kind. None of the gourmet stuff. Thanks to New York’s historic Italian influence, this pizza is just dying to meet you. It isn’t shy of hearty tomato sauce & elastic cheese. Carbtastic and oily as f**k. I love it. You can get it pretty much everywhere in NYC.

NYC Pizza 5/5.

 

 Another American favourite incoming…

The bagel.

The bagel is a New York institution so I had high hopes for this one.

I opted for salmon, capers, onions and cream cheese filling.

This is a vain picture of me holding a bagel. Yes I know this is lame. I’m expanding my readership to the Korean target market, there seems to be some online trend of watching chicks eat ATM.

 The New York bagel is packed full of flavour. I find bagels in the UK a bit bland.

But overall, I wasn’t massively over the moon about them. I wasn’t craving them afterwards.

New York Bagel 3/5

Next up.

Meatloaf.

I first heard about meatloaf in F.R.I.E.N.D.S and in some other random American TV shows. I’ve always wanted to try it. When I told a New Yorker about my latest life goal, she laughed and said, “…ewww why? That’s gross because we used to eat it in 5th grade and it’s the kind of meal your grandma would force you to eat”.

She accepted my plea and took us to Chat N Chew.

How American is this menu?!

 Meatloaf wasn’t what I expected to be honest — I thought it would have a steak-like texture and shaped like a piece of bread. It’s actually a big stodgy piece of mincey meat. I can see why the Americans eat it — it’s easy to make and makes great convenience food. It’s a bit like pate accompanied by gravy, mash and veg’.

Tineal had some good ole mac ‘n’ cheese. Can’t go wrong with that.

Oh, before I forget: meatloaf 3/5.

Hi battered Oreo.

I love Oreos. I love dipping them in breakfast tea.

 This is my reaction when I discovered these bad boys on the menu.

 

 Giggling to myself, I tried a battered Oreo.

 It’s so weird. You eat the first one and you’re like, ‘nah, this ain’t right’. And then you eat another and another and you’re like, ‘no actually, this is really good’.

 Crispy batter, warm melt-in-the-mouth biscuits with jammed icing.

 It tastes like the lovechild of a fat chip and a cookie.

 Battered Oreo 4/5.

Ok, so I’m really sorry about the next one. Because I ate it before I could take a picture of it.

It’s a cake from the famous Magnolia Bakery. Yes, I obviously got confused and thought I was in Sex In The City at the time. I licked the cream and then next thing I knew, it was gone. I know. Naughty Monica.

 Magnolia lemon cake 4/5

Magnolia chocolate cake 4/5.

Have you tried any of my favourite NYC eats? Whatdya’ think?

Have I missed any nibbles that you think I should try?

Location: New York

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#ProjectMNYC – Brooklyn Brunchin’

Dear fellow Brunchers,

I’ve always thought that London did Eggcellent brunch.

But oh no, no no. New York. Brunch in New York. It’s something else.

It makes sense; brunch is a New York institution. I would have had a strop if it wasn’t all cracked up to be. Ha, get it? OK, no more egg y̶o̶l̶k̶s̶ jokes.

Every weekend the NYC streets are jam-packed (on toast) with hungry (Bloody) Mary’s. I love a good melt-in-the-mouth eggs Benedict (my favourite) with creamy avocado on sourdough bread, topped with those hipsters chia seeds and the whole shebang. In London, I’ve noticed that all the little benedicts compete for creativity (dependent on what cafe you decide to go to on your brunch day).

My New Yorker cousin Amy ushered me to a little place called Colonie in Brooklyn.

Best brunch I’ve had by the way.

Amy told me that ‘Bottomless Brunch’ (hehe, bottomless) is very popular. New Yorkers love their breakfast with all-you-can-drink Margaritas, Bloody Marys, Mimosas or Sangria. I physically cannot handle more than one drink (my friends call me one-shot Wong) but who doesn’t love unlimited top-ups of anything?

Amy had the ‘Biscuit Benedict’. Sublime smoked ham & hollandaise, this type of sunshine is just the wake up call you need.

The ‘Mushroom & Asparagus Scramble’ is like a pick & mix bag of breakfast goodies stacked on top of each other. I, of course, opted-in for added chorizo (I was ready to eat my arm that morning). Paired with eggs: it’s crunchy, fluffy, comforting and works well together.

I love Brooklyn: quaint streets lined with inventive restaurants, stylish bars and eclectic shops. It’s just so damn cool.

A typical Brooklyn inventive hipsterish hang-out is Royal Palm.

It’s a retro Shuffleboard bar. It’s got a 60’s vibe and you feel like you’ve walked into an all-American diner/bowling alley.

 I know this is a Brunch post, but I have to share with you this ramen I had in Brooklyn.

The story starts with an octopus salad and a hint of lemon. It ended with a crispy + squishy happy ending.

A generous amount of Pak Choi and a good meat to noodle ratio = happy Monica.

But, the real key to a good ramen is the broth. Spicy and fragrant, it was Souper.

I’ve already shared this waterfront view in Brooklyn with you in my Yellow post. But, I love it so much; here it is again. It doesn’t need much of an explanation so I’ll end this post and leave you to the city.

Brooklyn, you melt my heart.

Your’s truly,

Fellow Bruncher.

Location: Brooklyn, New York

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