Thursday, 11 March 2010

Breakfast with the butchers of Smithfield Market

Wander through Smithfield meat market in north London before 8am and the streets will be running with blood. You’ll be dodging men in white overalls and white rubber wellies lugging carcasses over their shoulder, bleary-eyed clubbers from Fabric tottering by.

It might not be your first thought for breakfast, but if you’re a Full English kind of breakfaster, there’s no fresher spot than getting your sausages just off the lorry at Smithfields.

There was a time when you’d have to battle the butchers for a seat for breakfast in the local caffs. Back then the fry-ups came with a pint of ale. Nowadays it’s more likely to be a fag and coffee from a Styrofoam cup.

The tradition continues, however, at the Fox & Anchor, where butchers are thin on the ground and it's more likely to be eggs benedict and a bloody marys on the menu, but it's a good honest carnivore's breakfast.

The pub is a popular city haunt during the week and has trendy bedrooms above for naughty weekends (it’s owned by the Malmaison hotel chain). But before noon is when it's at its best.

We're not the only ones who think so. Last week Time Out named it one of the best spots in London for a hungover breakfast. Aside from the "sensational fry-up", which I'll come onto later, there's the quirky Victorian interior – wood panelling up to head height on the walls, coloured lead-lined glass panels and curious alcoves, and then there's the lively Irishmen called Scott who runs the show.

"If you want muesli and croissants, go next door," he said, gesturing to the Malmaison hotel. But he knew we weren't going anywhere...

The food arrived in rustic style on boards and chunky plates, but without the fussiness of a "posh" gastropub. Tea came in a brown granny-style teapot and there was a box of brown sauce, ketchup, Sarsons vinegar and hot Colman's mustard. So farm so British.

The sausages and bacon were British and came from over the road - both were sensational. Though the pork and leek sausages looked a little underdone for my liking, the skin had a crisp bite and the flesh was firm.

The bacon, just slightly burnt on the edges to show off its sweet cure was meaty and not overly salty. I slathered Netherend Farm butter on the fresh bread and washed it down with Taylors of Harrogate tea.

The fry-up costs £8.95, so yes, it's a treat, but worth it for special occasions, or, for that matter, hangovers that prove impenetrable to over-the-counter tablets.

Fox & Anchor, 115 Charterhouse Street, London, EC1M 6AA;; tel. 020 7250 1300. Breakfast served 8-11am MOn-Fri; 8.30-11am Sat & Sun.

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