Thursday, 28 July 2011

Best breakfasts: Bistro du Vin, Clerkenwell (now closed)

It was bit of a 'what defines brunch?' moment at the new Bistro du Vin in Clerkenwell... the handsome new brasserie offers a substantial weekend brunch menu from 11am-3pm, and owing to the timing offers some lunchy dishes as well as breakfasty ones.

Overwhelmed by the range of choices, we had an outrageous three courses (although renowned Kiwi brunch chef Anna Hansen, of Modern Pantry tell me multiple courses at brunch is perfectly normal - phew).

The now-accepted brunch formula of a cocktail (read, hair-of-the-dog) starter, is a punchy beginning, with a choice of Bloody Mary, French 75, Bellini or Chase Marmalade Vodka Martini (£9-£10). Then there's fresh oysters for the brave (my dining partner), served natural, with shallot vinegar or Tabasco (£2.75 each for Cornish, £2.95 Maldon), and a neat stack of English Asparagus showered with pea shoots, butter and parmesan for me. Both were fresh, flavoursome and attractively presented.

There are egg dishes to please the breakfast-leaning brunchers, plus a Full English and range of waffles of which the restaurant is very proud, with sweet and savoury options. We went more lunchy with a freshly-made ham and florentina tortellini (£13.95), which was sumptuous, and Belted Galloway sirloin steak with chips (£26 & £3.50). It was perfectly cooked and generous.

Pudding went back to breakfast... cornflake ice cream (made with cornflake-soaked milk so no bits), which was another hit, and bizarrely nostalgic (£2.50).

The bistro has a fresh, lively feel with plenty of light at the front tables and a more intimate feel against the leather banquettes at the back. The wood floor, canopy front and high zinc stools at the bar offer a bistro-feel, added to by French posters and memorabilia on the walls.

Try this place for a hearty, simple brunch/lunch with a touch of French flair.

More London breakfast spots

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Breakfast Here: a triumph of art and frothy coffees

Muesli Lover's first 'do' took place this morning, basking in a rare stretch of sunshine streaming through the windows of the bijou (yes, that means small) Kennington art gallery, Ring Here.

The Breakfast Here event was intended to furnish some busy Londoners with a wholesome and delicious breakfast and some creative inspiration en route to the office, and I'm pleased that it succeeded on both counts.

Our artistes and munchers were guided through the creative process by the gallery's current artist, Pip Johnson. The task was to create a milk bottle vase/jug using Pip's unique etching technique. Indeed many of the breakfast-goers took their inspiration from Pip's striking artworks on the gallery walls and windows around them.

The breakfast was kindly supported by Dorset Cereals, whose nut and seed muesli went down a treat, closely followed in the popularity stakes by the honey granola. Also on the menu was fruit salad with seasonal berries, artisan toast with homemade preserves, all-butter croissants, freshly squeezed orange juice, Suffolk apple juice and Monmouth coffee (which came with a bold frothy option courtesy of our amateur barista...)

Etchings included a Deco-style flower pattern, garden scene, smiling sun, Belfast cityscape, coffee mug and saucer and two flower etchings inspired by Pip's work. The artist even knocked out a quick Marmite jar etching for yours truly. We'll be honoured to have it adorn our breakfast table.

An all-round triumph of art and breakfasting. Next, a weekend brunch...

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Mr Muesli Lover's meat feast recipe

Introducing the other half... for a (hopefully not one-off) guest appearance that came out of an extraordinary breakfast recipe in an effort to clear out the fridge...

I was inspired to invent this recipe when cooking a Far Eastern dish the night before. The buffalo mince had browned and become so deliciously crispy around the edges in that recipe that when, the following morning, I was stuck as to what was left in the fridge to cook for breakfast the remaining fresh buffalo mince was the obvious choice.

I gathered together some other odds and ends - as listed below - and the made the dish as follows. The wonderful thing about this dish is that as long as you have buffalo mince (or perhaps a very lean mince from another animal) and a heavy-based pan* you can amend it to suit your taste.


A small glug of oil
1 large onion (roughly sliced)
A good few pinches of mustard powder
Some chillis (doesn't matter whether fresh or dry, red or green, but some heat is good)
250g (per person) of buffalo mince
2 large eggs (per person)
Some honey (it doesn't matter what sort, as long as you can use a good dollop whilst cooking)
A heavy-based pan
Some fresh sliced bread, for toasting.

With the heat on a little over medium, I browned the onions with the chilli. Don't let them get too soft because you want a little bit of texture in the meal when finished and the next step can take a little while. Also, don't be tempted to use too much oil, the mince will end up releasing a fair amount of fat and water.

Add the buffalo mince and maintaining the same temperature cook for a good 20 minutes or so. After ten minutes when the mince has browned all over, add a good dollop or two of honey. Around the edge of the pan the mince will start to caramelise and brown, and by shifting it around you can get a lot of the mince to become almost little individual nuggets of crispy meaty goodness! At some point during this process add the mustard powder.

Meanwhile...on the other side of the oven/hob/open pit fire, make sure you have a pan of water boiling for the poached eggs. Place the two eggs - unopened, as it were - in the boiling water for 1 minute. Remove, take the water off the boil and using a suitable spoon or suchlike, stir the water in one direction to create a whirlpool effect - a gentle one.

Crack the heads individually and drop them in the middle. Hopefully, they will sit there nicely cooking. Return to the heat but be careful not to let the water get anywhere near a vigorous boiling as it will break the white up.

The good thing about this recipe is the meat cannot really be overcooked so if you forget the eggs don't panic! With the toast popping up, give the slices a quick butter then liberally sprinkle the buffalo mince over the toast and plonk the eggs on top. Break the yolk and enjoy a wonderful protein breakfast!

*you need a heavy-based pan to get the meat to caramelise

Monday, 11 July 2011

Best breakfasts: Cafe Bean, San Francisco

When Muesli Lover goes on holiday, the pre-break prep goes way beyond packing the requisite shoes and finding the best deal on euros, and extends to hours of online breakfast research, for fear that ML might miss that ‘great little local place’, and a potential gold mine breakfast go down the tubes.

On this occasion though, ML had just one breakfast in San Fran and rather assumed it would be at the mercy of a hotel buffet. But freed by a room-only rate, ML was dropped on Sutter Street, a few blocks north of Union Square. It was late, ML was a little hungover and threw caution to the heavens by entering the first place in view… thankfully it wasn’t Burger King…

And so the Café Bean was discovered. It’s a buzzing neighbourhood joint where the diners almost seemed cast to play parts of stereotypical Californians. There was the wizened baseball fan with black/orange SF cap, the yoga bunny with miniature hound, the uni professor with a dog-eared copy of some enlightening paperback, and supporting cast of wholesome-looking types and eccentric characters.

The Café Bean menu is Dutch-inspired, owing to the nationality of the previous owner, but there’s also a touch of American and Mexican influence in there.

We had dishes off the specials board, of omelette with onions, pesto, tomato and gouda cheese ($8.50) and a green eggs and ham bagel ($5.95) - a Dr Suess-inspired addition of pesto. Both were cooked fresh to order, hot, colourful and delicious. Accompanying chai latte ($2.75) and green tea matcha soy latte ($3.50) rounded off the breakfast nicely.

Other choices include oatmeal, granola and a host of pancakes and breakfast sandwiches. The portions are big, the tables are communal and the others diners might even chat to you – well, this is California. We almost felt like locals… what a great little place.

Details: Café Bean, 800 Sutter St, San Francisco, CA 94109; tel. 415 928 0888;

Pictures from nonstophonlulu and sanfranciscodays

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Recipe: Peter Gordon's black rice, quinoa, miso and banana porridge


250g black rice
a few gratings of nutmeg
100g quinoa
2–3 bananas, peeled and sliced 1 cm thick
60g palm sugar, chopped or grated (or use maple syrup, runny honey or demerara sugar)
2 tsp shiro miso
300ml coconut milk

Rinse the rice for a minute under gently running warm water. Place in a pot with the nutmeg, 500 ml water and a pinch of salt and bring to the boil, then cook over a rapid simmer with a lid on until it’s almost cooked, around 15–25 minutes.

While that’s cooking, put the quinoa into a fine sieve and rinse under hot running water for 20 seconds – this takes some of the bitterness from the grain. Bring a litre of water to the boil, add the quinoa and boil until cooked and the grains begin to uncurl – anywhere from 8 to 15 minutes, depending on the freshness of the quinoa. You’ll need to taste some – it should have a pleasant nutty bite to it. Drain back into the sieve while the rice is cooking.

Once the rice is almost cooked (it should have a little bite to it), stir in the bananas and sugar. Stir the miso into half the coconut milk to prevent lumps forming, then stir into the rice and bring back to the boil. Turn the heat down and keep cooking over a rapid simmer with the lid off until it’s cooked, stirring frequently. Add the quinoa and taste for sweetness, adding more sugar if needed.

To serve: Ladle into bowls, pouring on the remaining coconut milk as you do so.

Fusion by Peter Gordon, £25, Jacqui Small. Photos by Jean Cazals