Not too long ago, I was invited down to London for a friend’s birthday brunch. Except it wasn’t really brunch. If it had been, I would never have made it in time. Setting off at a leisurely 10am, I didn’t need to be seated until 3pm. Food didn’t hit the table until half past. So, you see, though the meal was referred to as a ‘brunch’, it cannot possibly have been one as it fell between lunch and dinner, rather than breakfast and lunch. What I had, then, was a dunch.
Brunch has gone the way of Bolognese, paella, or Mexico’s Day of the Dead; it’s become one of the popular kids. As oozing yolks and vibrant avocado are inherently ’grammable, brunch has blossomed in tandem with the breakfast boom. And now, overwhelmed by celebrity status, it’s caught in the middle of a Miley Cyrus style identity crisis. Do the masses care that the meal’s fundamental characteristics are clearly demarcated in its name? No, they’re too busy twerking to the tune of Eggs Florentine. Now, brunch’s problem is that everyone’s at it, and they’re at it all day.
For the sake of balance (not something I often find myself writing), much of brunch’s charm (yeah, it’s basically a person now) can be put down to the fact that it takes no definite form. Flitting around in a meal-time twilight, it can just as easily take the shape of a hangover cure as it can strut in on posh plates with walk-on music blaring and a champagne entourage in tow. The good news is that, regardless of time and regardless of purpose, brunch, when executed correctly (i.e. no split hollandaise) is a thing of egg-cracking, protein packing beauty.
Another piece of good news is that driving to London is unnecessary; brunch is a meal that Leeds is adept at. And here are some places to consider:
A refined all-rounder
I like Ox Club, a lot. The evening offering is one of the more innovative and modern in Leeds and I’ll rave about the Patagonian lamb at On Roundhay whenever I get a chance, but they’re also a safe pair of hands for a weekend brunch. The usual suspects are all there: sausage, egg, bacon, black pudding and the gang, and then there are some overseas additions in the form of sriracha maple butter, kimchi, ras el hanout eggs and more sprinkled throughout the menu. Whether you’re after a post-rave reviver (assuming people still go to raves) or a boozy Launchpad for the day ahead, you can’t go far wrong here.
A real yolker
LS6 is a godsend for students, but caters for Headingly residents one and all. There are fry ups, wraps, salads (yeah right) and even Tex-Mex options but this place is really about the eggs. Benedict and Royale are strong options, but never discount a good French toast. The drinks here are more herbal tea than bubbly. This place isn’t the slickest operation, but it’s a real healer.
A bottomless bruncher
I walked past Shear’s Yard more times than I can count before finally crossing the threshold into the restaurant. Once inside, I liked what I saw. It’s bright and clean with a stripped back décor. They, on the other hand, were probably less impressed. I was greasy, hungover and in search of salvation. This isn’t really the place for that. Brunch here is not a cuddle, it’s a starting line. The bottomless brunch, granting a nicely compiled selection of refillable drinks and a main for £25 a head, seems like a very good deal if you’re looking to get elegantly fucked up. The menu neglects classic stodgy fayre; you’re more likely to find caviar crème fraiche than egg and chips, and even the Croque Madam I ordered was deconstructed, lightened and accompanied by an onion chutney. Don’t mistake this for criticism. These dishes are designed with prosecco and spritz in mind, I’d simply drunk mine nine hours too early.
Another suburban splendour, here. The cosy Chapel Allerton coffee shop is a real favourite of mine. In yet another victory for a simple mission statement, they make nice coffee and slather yummy things on sourdough. Ok, there’s more to the menu than that, but I’d be happy even if there wasn’t. To be honest, I’d still be chuffed even if their sole dish was the beans on toast with toasted pumpkin seed and parmesan. Happily, if I’m feeling adventurous one day, I can branch out into pancakes, gnocchi with ragu, or one of the many homemade cakes. Hell, even the avocado on toast sounds slightly more interesting than usual, crushed with pine nuts, chillies and dressed radishes. While the beans remain, I guess I’ll never know.
More than a coffee shop
Until recently, Laynes had been bleeping intermittently from the distant reaches of my radar as a coffee shop that sometimes did pop ups and stalls. Fast forward through an extension and kitchen development and you have yourself another popular brunch spot. Predictably popular for a station-side café, the choices are modern and less obvious than traditional coffee shops. With dishes such as the sweetcorn fritters with punchy chimichurri and Yorkshire rarebit packing bold flavours and a redeeming stodge, it’s tempting to have a meatless meal. But then, once you remember that everything is better with streaky bacon, you get a little miffed that it only features in the extras section at an additional cost. Still, totally worth a visit.