Eating breakfast increases epicness #fact

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Back in ancient times, on my first day at art college, I attended an address by the principal welcoming us as students to a brand new term. The focus of his speech was not the most up to date view on a Eric Gill or revisionist opinion on Tomi Ungerer, but his musings on breakfast. Most important meal of the day etc was the mantra on that day and I can still remember our befuddled faces as we left the auditorium, we were now the coolest of all students — art students — and the main message was Weetabix. OK.

Over time, I’ve dwelt on this message and to be brutally honest I waver between a full on slap up feed in the morning and absolutely bugger all. Personally I don’t always need a breakfast to get the day underway, sometimes it gets in the way and yet on occasions I’m so hungry I can eat anything.

When I’m in the mood though, I do love a great breakfast: a naughty McD sausage and egg mcmuffin to smash a hangover, freshly cooked traditional full English completing any quality hotel stopover, dirty bacon banjos with brown sauce in white bread cakes dusty with flour, wobbly poached eggs on toast with chilli  sauce…I could go on.

So breakfast in London is anything and everything you want and my previous quest for the best breakfast in Leeds seems simple in our capital city. I’m not really on a quest, but seeking a breakfast nirvana: pre lunch food that takes me on a journey of comfort and discovery…and here’s where I’ve got to so far…

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Jackson and Rye

On trend American grub right in the heart of Soho.  Great eggs and traditional American classics mean this place is packed out all of the time. Tip: midweek late morning is always a good time to go. These baked eggs were comforting beyond description.

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The Breakfast Club

Don’t you forget about me etc. Irreverent 80s take on a diner experience replicated across London at a restaurant near you. Everywhere has queues, but the best time to go is midweek and early. The menu is fun and made me smile. The poached eggs with chilli and chorizo in the pic was probably the best breakfast I’ve had so far in London.

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Flat 13

The spankingly fresh Yorkshire asparagus from Sand Hutton near York is divine and the free range duck eggs a delight. The cool Hoxton address has a friendly Yorkshire welcome, with hosts Phil and Julie cooking up a delightful mix of London cool and Leeds anxiety.

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Mrs Atha’s and the best breakfast in Leeds

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A bit of an oversight that I’ve not written about Mrs Atha’s yet. It’s been open for absolutely ages and I’m well behind the curve in terms of up to minute coffee reporting. I’d walked past a few times and made a mental note to find the time to visit, then ended up visiting a few times in a flurry of coffee activity.
It’s worth saying a lot of time and effort has gone into the design of Mrs Atha’s, from the branding to interiors and beyond. I always spot this first up as it’s the business I’m in but I am a big believer in businesses that get this right always get the product right too. Other nice touches like Aesop hand wash in the toilets—the only place in Leeds that does so— tell me there is an eye for detail at work here.
The first time I visited it was a quick coffee and I settled at a table waiting for my friend to turn up, I marveled on how Mrs Atha’s actually makes you feel cool just sitting in it: like you’re in the know, and that’s hard to pull off. It’s also hard to pull off a genuine coffee alternative contender in a city dominated by corporates but Layne’s Espresso, Bottega Milanese and a handful of others have done it, so if you get your offer right, it can work.
I have bemoaned the lack of a genuinely great breakfast in Leeds but with Mrs Atha’s we do have a contender. It’s not your standard full English but a component led version, using Lishman’s bacon and sausage, thrillingly creamy scrambled eggs,delicious sourdough toast and buttered crumpets. Team these up with simply great coffee then we have something really good to get the day started.
The location on Central Street is definitely tucked away, not obvious, and I like that. The place isn’t enormous so does get busy quickly although there are seats downstairs. Food and drink are ordered at the counter and it’s brought to you, which works reasonably well although I’d quite like to see table service but I’m sure there are practical reasons why that’s not possible.
So, lagging woefully behind the bleeding edge coffee hipsters, I can now declare Mrs Atha’s my favourite place for breakfast in Leeds, safe in the knowledge that they’ve probably spotted something new anyway and I can enjoy my flat white and bacon sarnie in peace.
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Leon

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It’s been a busy old few weeks and this week was no different. I spent two days in London on business but managed to find some foodie love among the work stuff. I try to make time when I’m travelling on business to discover new things from a food perspective – it’s often too easy to go for the hotel dinner for one option after a long day travelling.

I had arranged a breakfast meeting at Leon in Ludgate Circus near Blackfriars. I really like Leon, it strikes me as a chain with a heart. It’s a small London chain of high quality fast but good food restaurants in the cooler parts of the city. I really wished we had one in Leeds.

On this occasion I ordered one of their full english breakfast pots as the menu says ‘Poached egg topped with Cumberland sausage, British back bacon and saucy beans, for those who love both breakfast and England’. These pots are pretty cute and well worth teaming up with some hot buttered toast for a very satisfactory start to the day. And their coffee is excellent.

It wouldn’t be a post from me if I didn’t mention the branding and identity of Leon. It’s really cool, lo-fi and very much of the moment. It captures the spirit of what they are trying to do and the staff reinforce this by also being right on song from a brand perspective – chatty and unpretentious.

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One Sunday morning in Harrogate

Although a little lie in at the weekends has become a norm since the “kids” flew the nest I always struggle if the sun is streaming in from behind the blinds. So we decided to get up and about with The Lad for a gentle stroll and perhaps some breakfast…..would it be possible to even sit outside?
We headed off to Harrogate and arrived around 9.15 am, parking was easy but D was obviously feeling generous as she fed the meter even though it is free parking on Sundays. However on such a beautiful day such things just us make smile. We wandered around the stray taking pictures of the trees which were in the early but stunning stages of autumnal glory.
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After 45 mins we ended up at one of our favourite deli’s, Weetons and took a table outside. We ordered a mix of breakfast and Earl Grey tea (try it) and two full English breakfasts, at £9.50 each our expectations were high, no need to worry though as it was cooked to perfection and it tasted as good as it looked.

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We decided to invite the kids for a late lunch. Weeton’s has a fabulous delicatessen, cheese counter and bakery not forgetting to mention the choice of wines and chocolates on offer. Decision made, starter of olives with garlic and chilli, sweet garlic and freshly baked bread then pasta and meatballs for main followed by bannoffee pie and cream…£25 to feed six people..stuffed to the brim. What a lovely day.
G&D

Malton Food Festival

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We spent a very enjoyable day at The Malton Food and Drink Festival last weekend. Opting to start the day in style, we had breakfast at Leeds Bar and Grill (superb, by the way) and then hopped on the train to Malton. Rather than drive we fancied letting the train take the strain. In the end we had to stand all the way to York due to a short train and racegoers. This did not dampen our spirits in any way and we hopped off the train in Malton on a bright and breezy day.

The Festival itself was very well put together with plenty of local producer stalls all set in the picturesque town centre. There were a couple of large demo tents and an excellent beer festival in the local concert hall. Sensibly, near the beer was the hog roast and artisan sausage butty stands to soak up the local ale so we were set for a great afternoon.

One of our favourite producers were there – Sand Hutton Asparagus – and there were a couple of tempting Pimms and Pie stalls that caught my eye and wallet. all in all we felt it was a great event, basking in good weather and very well attended.

Oh, and there was a tank. Well not quite a tank but a reconnaissance vehicle. Still it looked cool and trundled noisily back to base at the end of the day.

London Town

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On a recent two day trip to London I experienced a real mix bag of food and drink.

Not for me the heady pleasures of the high roller in the West End of London or Knightsbridge. Oh no. I left the chrome finish S5 back in Leeds and headed for the big city. This time it was two days spent in Canary Wharf where practicalities meant a local hotel was easiest. Fortunately there’s some good restaurants in Canary Wharf servicing the business crowd meaning there’s not too much travel to the centre, which is a good job as it’s a fair old journey by cab and even the underground is tiresome.

We stayed at the Britannia International Hotel which is literally five minutes walk from the heart of the business district of Canary Wharf. My colleague described the hotel as shabby chic but without the chic. It looked tired and in need of some TLC with the only saving grace being that we didn’t have to eat there apart from breakfast, although that was bad enough.

What is it about hotel breakfasts these days? It seems we have to pay a kings ransom just to get a freshly cooked affair. Is there anything sadder than the ubiquitous hot hotel buffet?  With it’s rock hard fried bread, appalling quality of sausage, frankly disgusting bacon and fried eggs only the starving would touch. But still I ate it, albeit with plenty of tabasco.

On a more positive note, we had dinner at Jamie’s Italian in Canary Wharf. I can report that there are some very, very good people working under Mr Oliver delivering consistently great food across multiple sites. This is the third of the Italian chain I’ve eaten in and I can report that the attention to detail is off the scale. I’m loving his work and the work of I’m sure hundreds of people behind Jamie.

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After a full day it was dinner for one as I’d opted stay over for another day of meetings whilst my colleagues headed back North. Always a tricky choice when you’re dining by oneself – do I admit defeat and go sit in the hotel restaurant with a book of iPhone? Or do I venture out and see what I can be bothered with?

The malls underneath Canary Wharf also contain a lot of ‘light’ eateries – Pizza Express, Leon, Nando’s etc -so there’s plenty of choice. These places offer a single diner a relatively speedy dining option too, which I preferred on this occasion.

I opted for a new ‘gourmet burger’ place called Byron. I’ve noticed the proliferation of these gourmet burger gaffs and I did wonder whether it’s a thinly veiled excuse to sell you something ordinary at an extraordinary price. Not so on this occasion. The quality of the simple, but delicious food was a real surprise and it was a pleasurable diversion for billy no mates. Bright, breezy and recommended.

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London is a hard place to eat out because the choice is sooo huge. It’s doubly hard when you’re there on business, on your own and because after a hard day working for the man, sometimes all you’d like to do is chill out with a bottle of wine and eat something comforting. It also helps to have a dining partner who knows the lie of the land and the local places, but they’re not always around.

Hey, I’ve got an idea. How about a website/blog where you put in where you’re staying and there’s recommendations by local foodies on where to go for food and drink, each categorised by what kind of mood you’re in and how much cash you want to spend. Just a thought.

The Calls and Brasserie Forty Four

D and I decided to have a night at The Calls hotel to check it out before we put up guests there for our 25th celebrations. The hotel is small and boutique style, everything is just spot on as you would expect, big comfy bed, great bathroom and expensive tioletries etc etc

We met J&L for a quick pint as they were in town for a pint at the Adelphi which wasn’t quite the experience we imagined, busy is ok even early doors but only if you can service the crowd.

The walk over the bridge at Brewery Wharfe and that area is really cool, a trendy and relaxed atmosphere. We had dinner at Brasserie Forty Four, first time there in years. Reasonably busy but although the room is great overlooking the river and all that but it was somehow lacking in atmosphere. Champagne, well we were having a date! We had corned beef crisp cakes for starters which were ok but the corn beef centre was sloppy. For mains we decided on Duck and Calves Liver with Calvados jus. My duck was absolutely spot on and D’s Calves Liver was very good but she felt the Calvados jus was reduced a bit too much. Coffee and cognacs followed by one for the night in the hotel honesty bar and off up to the big comfy bed. (Friday night special at The Calls £150 per room, dinner, bed and brekkie).

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The Calls breakfast will take some beating. A superb Continental buffet with home hand made everything followed by individually cooked to order English breakfast, touch of magic is the selection of 12 speciality sausages to choose from(2 each any combination). D had traditional pork and I opted for the Pork with black pudding.

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Best Breakfast ever, well almost The Wolseley just shades it because of the grand setting.

D&G