There was one of those features in the Observer food supplement last weekend listing exceptional places to eat breakfast. They’re nothing of the sort of course. They’re just a list.
But it got me thinking about my list. Here it is.
British Rail between Chester General and London Euston
Way back in time I worked in London and occasionally went home to North Wales for the weekend. Often that meant returning on the train early on Monday morning and that’s when I enjoyed a traditional British Rail (or whatever it was called in those days) breakfast. Of course it was also a way of travelling first class because that’s where the restaurant car was.
It was a proper and traditional full breakfast. I suspect the coffee wasn’t great, I wasn’t a coffee drinker in those days but few of us were and I’ve always drunk tea with a cooked breakfast anyway. But the service was classic with a liveried steward serving from a silver salver. He’d have been stood in the aisle swaying with the movement of the train, quite an experience.
I don’t eat too many English breakfasts these days, they’re characterised by being sponsored by the local cardiac associations, but if I did I’d go for ones with the style of British Rail.
Click here for more about this journey
Breakfast on the road in Catalonia
I’ve spent 30 odd years in marketing and as a good marketing person I’ve always been keen to visit customers, to touch the real world. And so it was once when I was in Barcelona. The sales guy told me he’d pick me up early and we’d have breakfast on the road. I duly complied.
I guess it would have been about 0800 when we were out of Barcelona that we stopped at what you’d call a Catalan transport caff. I speak very little Spanish and even less Catalan so I just sat down and let my colleague do the ordering. We got good coffee of course and a plate of butifarra, Catalan pork sausages. They were probably greasy and maybe that was the reason why we also had a bottle of red wine to help our digestion.
I wouldn’t normally drink at breakfast time, I’m not one of these travellers who drink in bars at airports before their morning flights, but on this occasion it would have been rude not to.
Croissants and coffee at Waitrose
This is my standard breakfast these days, either at home when I’ve walked into Histon to get my croissant and Guardian at Tesco or outside and/or on the road when it’s often Caffè Nero, Harris & Hoole or Costa (but never Starbucks). And on Fridays when I’m on shopping duty I go to Waitrose south of Cambridge at 0730 and get my breakfast fuel there.
I have a love hate relationship with this Waitrose’ coffee shop. The coffee is excellent, the croissants are light and not weighted down with an excess of butter and I get generous portions of jam and butter. And of course because we’ve got John Lewis cards I get the coffee free.
But the barristas are so slow. They can’t multi task and despite there generally being several on duty rarely is more than one serving so if there’s a queue, like one person in front of me, it moves so slowly. Plus of course because it’s Waitrose the clientele reckons it’s got all day and doesn’t need to make up its collective mind until it gets confronted with the inevitable, and meaningless, ‘how may I help you?’.
Waitrose coffee shop is also one of my regular meetings points for when I must meet people who live south of Cambridge. And because I’m basically a morning person so quite like an early start it gives me a slight advantage over those who aren’t.
Scrambled eggs with toasted Italian bread at Don Pasquale
Sometimes it scares me how much of a creature of habit I am. I enjoy the ritual of life and I’ve finely tuned it to satisfy my needs with the minimum of stress. A part of this ritual is our Saturday morning visit to Cambridge and breakfast at Don Pasquale where we generally meet a few friends.
There was a time when this breakfast was like all my other away from home breakfasts, viz croissants and coffee, but sometime back I switched to scrambled eggs on toast. Then when Don P changed its menu I was compelled to switch to toasted Italian bread which is rather good (pictured above).
My body is so finely tuned to this ritual that my hunger pangs begin as we’re driving down Gilbert Road. And when we get to the restaurant I’m known so there’s no need to order. Coffee comes straight away and then the scrambled eggs. A great start to a Saturday.
The buffet at the Esplanade in Fremantle
On TripAdvisor I described the Esplanade as perhaps the most pleasant hotel I’d ever stayed in. Fremantle itself of course is a special, laid back place and the Esplanade just fits in. An early 20th century facade and a great location close to the sea and to the Main Street, ‘the cappuccino strip’, makes it a great destination. Add generous rooms, good wifi and a decent restaurant and it would seem perfect.
But what makes it special is the breakfast buffet. There’s a great selection of fresh fruit, kiwi and oranges and melon and pineapple and strawberries not just tinned stuff, to start. Then there’s the standard selection of cooked plus a breakfast chef to do your omelettes (or scrambled eggs!), a proper coffee machine and a generous display of bakery products. And it’s all delivered by intelligent, responsive and professional serving staff. Perfect.
I spend a lot of my time in big hotels and if they could all provide breakfast buffets like the Esplanade life would be pretty good.