Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Dear Mr. Vernon...

It's been a while since my intrepid search to find the best breakfast around turned up any new savoury evidence. Well, let's be brutally honest, it's been a while since I blogged about absolutely fucking anything, isn't it?

So, let's do a quick Brekkie review. Specifically The Breakfast Club, where I breakfasted last week. On my birthday. 42, since you asked. Getting old.

Anyway, 'The Club' has several locations across the capital, from Battersea to Hoxton as well as Oxford and Brighton, all of which should give you a general idea of where they are coming from and what sort of market they are after. (Possibly not 42 year olds, even if it is their birthday.)

We went to the Croydon Boxpark branch where breakfast staples are served all day, as one might expect. There are plenty of options including pancake-based and Mexican-style breakfasts, but I was naturally interested in trying their signature Full Monty to see how it compares against other FEBs. (Yes, FEB is an acronym now. Or an initialism if you prefer. It works both ways. I'm 42, I can influence shit.) 

At first glance it appears to be quite the mammoth plateful, and it is, though not necessarily in the way one would like. It's a kind of an anti-tardis, sorta looking and feeling bigger and better than it actually is.

I'll explain...

The Potato Club

After 42 years on the planet, my jury is still well and truly out when it comes to potatoes at breakfast.

I can get on with hash browns, home fries or some sort of rosti, though I lament the fact they have largely displaced fried bread as the saturated carbohydrate of choice on an early morning plate.

It's supposed to be a breakfast, not a roast dinner...
And, crucially, potatoes should not dominate the plate. They just shouldn't. That's not what breakfast should be about. A few on the side is fine, but they should know their place.

At 'The Club' they break this rule, serving a very hefty portion of 'fried potatoes', at the expense of, well, just about everything else.

To be brutally honest, I didn't care for them at all. They were cut far too big, resembling underdone roasties, still a bit hard in the middle, and while tatos and onions obviously go well together, I don't want them at breakfast time. And I shouldn't have to start a breakfast review by talking about them.

But what's the other half of the plate like?

The bacon is absobloodylutely top drawer, and there is plenty of it (though it might not seem that way if you look at the potatoes first). Thick, meaty rashers are the perfect balance of salt, smoke and fat - it's the sort of bacon you can really lose yourself in and forget life's worries like getting older or having too many underwhelming spuds on your plate.

Who cares if each rasher takes five minutes off your life? It's a trade worth taking in this case.

First World Problems

Two eggs can be either fried, scrambled or poached. I opt for the latter and they are perfectly cooked - the albumen fluffy but not watery; the yolks lovely and runny. I'm not the biggest egg fan in the world, but these are very nice.

The toast is decent too, crunchy sourdough that serves as a perfect foil for the egg yolk and the beans - there's nothing much to say about the beans here, it's everyday baked beans in a little dish rather than something cooked with bacon and Worcestershire Sauce, which would've made things more interesting, particularly as the range of condiments on the table were restricted to your standard, everyday, glum-arse Ketchup and Brown.
But just the one...

Another downside for me is that for £11.50 you only get one sausage. One. Weep for me, children.

To be fair, it's a pretty good sausage, but not necessarily what I'd want from a breakfast sausage, if that makes sense. It's meaty and thick and herby - I'd happily eat a few of them with mustard mash and gravy - but for breakfast I want a banger that's a bit less herbaceous but which dials up the saltiness and smokiness. A subtle difference, but the sort of thing that pernickety fuckers like me tend to notice.

The crispy Black pudding is spicy and delicious, and the mushrooms are meaty and buttery. No complaints there, other than I'd like a bit more. A simple half tomato rounds out the plate. Did I mention the plate was mainly potatoes?

There's good coffee, a really roasty blend with hazelnut notes on top, though I'd have liked my Americano (£3) to be a bit bigger.

I like the freshly squeezed orange, apple, ginger and lime juice (£4.50) but again, once ice is taken into account, it's really a small glass. One gulp and it's all gone. Still thirsty.

As breakfasts go, it's not really on a par with, say, Hawksmoor, though it's a notch up from your standard greasy spoon, or indeed a Wetherbreakfast. That said it comes at a price compared to either of these.

A full breakfast for two with a juice and a hot drink will set you back £40-ish, though you'll probably not want any lunch afterwards.

With a few modest tweaks, The Full Monty could be really special. Ditch the underdone potato and onion hash, add crispy home fries with lardons and a fried slice, switch out one dinner sausage for two breakfast bangers, and upgrade the beans, and it would be awesome.

As it is, it's perfectly fine but a bit of a curates egg. Which isn't as good as a perfectly poached one, obviously.

Where to find it...

The Breakfast Club  currently has several branches across London (plus Oxford and Brighton)


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