Friday, January 9, 2015

Shortlist of Where to Eat Breakfast and Brunch in London, Ontario

By Bryan Lavery

For years, we’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day...
Edgar and Joe's

Best Deal in Town: 

Edgar and Joe’s Café offers an affordably-priced breakfast menu featuring nutritious food made from scratch with locally sourced high quality ingredients from purveyors like Las Chicas Del Café and Metzger Meats. Hand-crafted bread and baked goods are freshly-baked daily; condiments, preserves, soups and daily features are made from quality raw ingredients. The in-house baking, eclectic salads, breakfast features and a variety of exceptional sandwiches have become particular standouts. The all-day breakfast is elevated by homemade jams and breads, and the particularly tasty addition of sweet potato to the home fries and with the addition of house-made ketchup is bliss.

Billy’s Deli is a local downtown institution, and a prime destination for breakfast and lunch for many reasons, notably their fresh seasonal pies with local ingredients. However, lately the pie counter has looked a little bit sparse. Billy’s actually looks less like a traditional deli and more like a diner, with three rows of tables with bench seating along the walls, four tables with chairs in the center, and a pastry counter near the front door, connected to a welcoming display window. The main room has been updated, but retains its freshly scrubbed, homespun appearance. There is also additional seating on the second level when it gets busy or for private parties and events. And Billy’s does get busy — very busy — because it has legions of loyal regulars and new converts on a daily basis. The deli is well-known for its breakfast menu, and the regulars congregate Saturday and Sunday mornings to partake in the deli’s delicious offerings that inspire great conversation over a cup of steaming coffee and a hearty breakfast. Breakfast offerings include everything from omelettes to crisp potato latkes served with sour cream and homemade applesauce, to Huevos Rancheros, a classic Mexican breakfast, presented at Billy’s as an ample dish of eggs, sautéed peppers, black beans, chopped lettuce, black olives and cheddar, served on baked tortillas with a homemade spicy-sweet tomato chili sauce and then oven-baked. Another signature breakfast dish is the Skillet, served piping hot in a flat-bottomed, cast-iron pan heaped with caramelized onions, sautéed peppers, potatoes, corned beef, smoked ham, bacon, two eggs and melted cheddar.

Jane Beattie’s The Bag Lady, a funky retro café, variety store and take-away located in the heart of Woodfield has a kitschy, quirky retro ’60s vibe and serves an all-day breakfast menu, seasonal salads, made-from-scratch desserts, and brown-bag lunches-to-go at the back counter.

Gregg and Justin Wolfe’s Early Bird is King and Talbot’s red-hot, retro diner with casual farm-to-table cooking. The Early Bird has a quirky charm and a hotchpotch menu of updated retro diner classics with a new generation comfort foods. Signature dishes include: the king-sized “turducken club” sandwich. You can’t get much more hip-but-earthy than the Early Bird. Opens at 10 a.m.

London’s once thriving “counter culture” continues to disappear, yet a few fine examples of this restaurant style have managed to survive. The Del-Mar in east London has been operating since 1953 and still serves a great all-day breakfast. The High Lunch has also remained the genuine article for over forty years, with its counters, bar stools, open grill and good food. At the helm, Pat Spigos is a formidable cook and the model of generosity and hospitality.  Carrying on the family business, Pat’s children Betsy Kouklakis and Bill Spigos operate the very popular Prince Albert’s Diner on Richmond Street, a great breakfast spot and trendy late-night eatery which has been catering to the Richmond Row clientele for 18 years.

CLOSED: Another notable Richmond Street eatery is the popular Toddle inn. It was refurbished several years ago but remains a well-loved destination by many Londoners. The Toddle Inn opened as a modest establishment with a simple menu and a large, horseshoe-shaped counter. Customers were mostly single people and students. In later years, tables were added and the Toddle Inn expanded its menu to appeal to a broader clientele. Nearly 70 years later, the Toddle Inn is still operated by the Egleston family.

The Church Key Bistro Pub
Highly Recommended:

The Church Key Bistro Pub offers a top-notch brunch and chef Michael Anglestad has a repertoire of flavours that are big, brash and rustic but thoroughly cosmopolitan. Pastry chef Cliff Briden is also at the top of his game. Best of all owners Vanessa and Pete Willis haven’t overlooked its roots as a place for locals to meet and imbibe. The Church Key serves one of the best Sunday brunches in the city. Brunch ($25) begins with a large basket of freshly baked pastries for everyone to share. Then, select one of the featured brunch entrée items like: Tom Yam Pla (hot & sour fish bowl) with crispy pickerel, steamed salmon, trout and assorted vegetables in a natural fish broth garnished with lemongrass, lime leaves and spicy shrimp toasts or eggs Benedict with a potato crumpet topped with garlic cured pork belly, house kraut, frankfurter sausage, boudin blanc, poached eggs and Meyer lemon and gin hollandaise.
River Room Café and Private Dining 
Highly Recommended:

Speaking of brunch, panoramic views and the tailored simplicity and elegance of the River Room Café and Private Dining make it an excellent spot for Sunday brunch. Chef Jeff Fortner has over a dozen dishes on offer on the brunch prix fixe menu ($25.00), including sublime eggs benedict with perfectly poached eggs and delicious hollandaise; classic Cobb Salad with grilled chicken, crisp bacon, blue cheese, hard-boiled egg, chopped tomato and cucumbers; brioche French Toast of the Day; and prime rib beef Hash, with peppers, onions, potatoes and prime rib, topped with two soft-boiled eggs and accompanied by signature greens. Brunch is served with a generous basket of warm mini-muffins and fresh-baked, melt-in-the-mouth cheddar scones, as well as coffee or tea and your choice of a glass of red or white wine, mimosa, Caesar, bloody Mary, screwdriver or domestic beer.

The Idlewyld Inn & Spa
Highly Recommended

The Idlewyld Inn & Spa has two well-appointed dining rooms with well-spaced tables, comfortable armchairs and banquettes. Chef de cuisine Trevor Stephens comes to the Inn after spending nine years at the Elm Hurst Inn. The restaurant offers a locally-inspired menu of contemporary and traditional choices, complemented by a selection of international and local wines, and draught ales are on tap.
Stephens’ menus are loaded with ingredients which, along with the stylish dining room, evoke the phrase fine dining. The Inn serves breakfast daily and on Sunday’s brunch. Classics like eggs Benedict, and cured salmon and spinach Florentine with poached eggs, toasted English muffin and mornay sauce. Be sure to try the seared slices of crispy duck breast confit. The breast meat was grilled to a seductive char on the outside and deep pink within and accompanied by an arugula salad. The arugula is tossed in blood-orange vinaigrette and garnished with dried cranberries, toasted almonds and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Blackfriars Bistro
Highly Recommended:

Blackfriars offers a deliciously artistic setting only a short walk from Downtown London. The central location and ample parking make this the perfect meeting place for a culinary adventure. Upbeat, knowledgeable staff is your first introduction to Blackfriars. A large blackboard, featuring several daily specials — utilizing the most interesting ingredients the area has to offer — covers most of one wall.. The bistro’s intimate size and style allow for perfect closed room parties, and Blackfriars has established a strong reputation as a caterer.

Blackfriars’ innovative culinary team, led by Chef Jacqui Shantz, showcase their talents with seasonal menus handwritten by restaurateur Betty Heydon, who has presided over this local culinary landmark for over 19 years. Blackfriar’s is well known for its Sunday brunch.

• Sunday Brunch — a must to highlight your weekend. Try the classic Eggs Benedict with house-roasted potatoes or the Eggs Bombay — two eggs nestled on a bed of mixed grain rice with a mild red curry sauce and fresh fruit. 46 Blackfriars Street, 519 667-4930

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