FOOD • August 2018
If the average hotel continental doesn’t take your fancy, try a morning dive into the local culture with a breakfast to remember. From savoury crepes in Shanghai to San Francisco’s best croissant, we asked Michael Zee, creator of hit Instagram account @symmetrybreakfast, for a tour of the best breakfast capitals around the world
There are few breakfast meals more famous than the full English, and few places more iconic for it than Bethnal Green’s E. Pellicci and The Regency Café in Westminster. Having appeared in crime blockbusters Layer Cake and Legend, each restaurant features traditional 1950s’ interiors plus the obligatory surly waiting staff, who very much add to the charm.
Middle Eastern eats
Another one of my favourite places in the Big Smoke is The Good Egg (pictured) with locations in Stoke Newington and Carnaby’s Kingly Court. The shakshuka (poached eggs and tomato) and tapas-style Jerusalem breakfast plates make for a fantastic morning feast, all inspired by modern Israeli and Arab flavours.
When I lived in the capital, I would take the night bus at 4am to Billingsgate Market to buy fish fresh off the boats. Inside lies the market’s best-kept secret, Piggy’s Café, where I would order a scallop-and-bacon roll and take a moment to scan the monochrome photos of celebrities who have visited over the years.
If you’re an early riser, head to the junction of Fuxing Zhong Lu and Xiangyang Lu where you’ll find a vendor selling jianbing (pictured), a popular Chinese breakfast of savoury crepe filled with egg, pickles, hoisin sauce and a crunchy cracker. Or, opt for a portion of sheng jian ba - a hot Shanghainese delicacy of pork soup dumplings.
The crowd pleaser
Further south at 338 Xiangyang Lu is Lao Di Fang Mian Guan – literally the Old Noodle Place – a Shanghai institution that cooks up unmissable bowls of hot spring-onion noodles and soup with juicy wonton dumplings.
If you happen to arrive in the early hours, try heading to the breakfast market on Shunchang Lu at the crossroad of Yongnian Lu. It opens at 5am and closes at 9am (10am at weekends). My advice is to start early and with a very empty stomach, before working your way around the delicious stalls.
An apple a day
My husband Mark is from the Netherlands so we spend a lot of time in Amsterdam. If you visit the Dutch capital without stopping by Café Winkel 43, you’ll just have to return. The apple tart is a very typical Dutch dessert, and this café’s recipe is known across the city. Try once and you’ll be back for more.
Café with a conscience
One outfit with a social cause at its heart is Café Dignita (pictured) – a non-profit restaurant that raises money to help people affected by trafficking and exploitation. If you have a sweet tooth, try the strawberry pancakes, topped with lavender infused mascarpone, toasted almonds and crushed meringue, or for something savoury, the courgette and halloumi fritters are wonderful.
Stroll down the Albert Cuyp market – a long stretch of stalls so it’s best to break up the journey with plenty of snacks. Must-eat treat? Poffertjes – a bite-sized buckwheat pancake, moistened with butter, an avalanche of icing sugar and dark syrup.
The hip hangout
One firm favourite is Craftsman & Wolves, purely for its egg and corn muffin with Tabasco salt (pictured). It defies the laws of physics (the muffin opens to reveal a runny egg yolk inside), and will make your Instagram blow up with likes.
Croissants worth queuing for
For me, authenticity does not always promise quality. An example is my choice croissant – not found in Paris, but at Tartine Manufactory in San Fran. Order alongside the coddled eggs with za’atar and grilled bread.
If you’re in California for the wine country, stop at Model Bakery in St Helena. Its English muffins are legendary among locals, served hot with lashings of butter and jam – the perfect way to start a day of wine tasting.