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The Breakfast At The End Of The Universe

May 11, 2014
Asparagus with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, one of the seasonal choices at Cornerstone Café in Woolwich.

Asparagus with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, one of the seasonal choices at Cornerstone Café in Woolwich.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have formed the impression that all I do is go out for breakfast and take photographs of my menu choices.

It’s true, that is all I do. At least, that’s all I would do if I didn’t have to attend to matters such as working for a living and eating the occasional piece of fruit.

I’m not really interested in sensible old Weekday Breakfast: porridge, yogurt, toast, granola, the whole pantheon of snore-inducing but undeniably important and healthy ways to kick-start the work-day metabolism. Obviously, I eat it (for my own good and because my mum says I should). But I don’t love it.

Not like palate-seducing, bacon-laden, opposite-of-Continental, gut-stretching, unctuous, sexy, salty, fatty, sweaty, and utterly civilised Weekend Breakfast. Oh my word. It’s not love, it’s lust. Even as I type, I have a belly full of asparagus, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, consumed this very morning at Cornerstone Café. It was a thing of beauty that cast a sunny glow over an otherwise cloudy Sunday. As ephemeral as a rainbow. So I took this photo of it, obviously.

Weekend Breakfast is my Aristotelian Prime Mover, the source and cause of all subsequent motion in my universe of Saturdays and Sundays. When I first moved to Woolwich, the bedrock upon which my leisure-time happiness is founded was shaken to its core. There was nowhere to have breakfast. In desperation, I cooked my own. I skipped breakfast and went straight on into lunch. I even went to a local greasy-spoon dive a few times until I was served a BLT that was so vile I assume the rats had rejected it after vomiting up their portion. The horror, the horror, it haunts me still.

Then, the Woolwich Renaissance began. Cue me waking up all perky and hungry on a Saturday morning with decisions, decisions, decisions. In these heady times, it feels like a new café is opening every other month. I may even need more than one hand to count the choices if this keeps up.

So, why not order another flat white while I talk you through the current state of play.

I reserve a soft spot for Cornerstone. It was the first of the new crop, and remains my darling. My staple choices are the Eggs Benedict or Florentine, or scrambled on sour dour toast and paired with bacon. Mushrooms with pearl barley and poached eggs also appear on the menu every so often and are worth the bacon-denial.

On the other side of The Wall, Koffees and Kream taps into the traditional breakfast vernacular of plates laden with bacon, beans, eggs, chips, sausages, tomatoes, and mushrooms. These super-sized serves cover the plate and look the business, but I don’t mind seeing a bit of bare crockery. The Mediterranean Breakfast is a stand-out: eggs, grilled halloumi, feta, spicy sausage, olives, cucumber, tomato and fresh bread. Remove the fried egg and it’s almost a tasting plate. And what’s not to love about a breakfast dish that goes quite nicely (thank you, I don’t mind if I do) with a glass of red wine? The omelettes are tasty, too. The other day I had one with fresh tomato, halloumi, and mushrooms, served with a substantial and very fresh salad (all omelettes come with chips so you’ll need to un-order them if you don’t want them).

On that subject, and call me misguided or just plain wrong, but chips with breakfast feels de trop if you’ll pardon my French. I know millions don’t agree, and I do hope we can still be friends.

The very shiny and new Café Deluxe in Plumstead is another worthy addition to the SE18 breakfast scene. Similar to Koffees and Kream, variations on a full English theme abound, but the Café Deluxe Omelette is already nearly my second-best breakfast friend. It brims with tasty cheese, bacon, mushrooms and sausage, and comes with a choice of chips (there they are again!) or salad. I’m waiting for a pleasant day so I can dine alfresco on Café Deluxe’s diminutive and very pleasant deck.

If you live in SE18 you’ll need wheels to get to my other new favourite café, The Scullery, up at the Blackheath Standard. Bus wheels will do nicely; the 53 takes you right to the door and you can walk breakfast off in glorious Greenwich Park when you’re done. The Scullery’s mantra is seasonal, locally sourced produce. Sparkes supplies the outstanding bacon and sausages and the owner has a couple of allotments where he’s busily growing goodies for the menu, which will evolve along with the seasons. My Scullery Breakfast was a thing of chip-free perfection comprising bacon, a sausage, an egg done how you like, beans, a large field mushroom, half a grilled tomato, and a pattie of delicious bubble and squeak. The vegetarian option of two poached eggs, bubble, and two grilled tomatoes is lovely, too. I believe the café also makes the occasional order of locally smoked salmon.

So there you have it. Where there were none, there are four and perhaps more to come. And an added bonus is that all four serve good coffee (with a special mention and golf-applause to the flat white on offer at The Scullery).

I’m pretty pleased with how my universe is shaping up.


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