As a contributor to this fine blog that is The Boozy Bunch, I often get asked for recommendations for restaurants that do a well-priced, good quality brunch in London. In recent years this meal time has really taken off – it appeals to the trendy, hipster generation, the ladies who lunch club and those of us who frankly can’t be bothered to drag ourselves out of bed in time for breakfast on a weekend. Of course, a slightly later mealtime is now an even better excuse to combine brunch style menus with daytime drinking, so much so that London restaurants have exploded with a plethora of boozy brunch offerings for us cosmopolitan socialites. Especially at the weekend, it’s almost a pre-requisite for a successful restaurant to offer not just a brunch menu but a boozy brunch menu – those that are savvy enough to offer a temporarily unlimited supply of alcoholic sparkle are guaranteed to fill tables every Saturday & Sunday daytime. So since The Boozy Bunch bloggers kindled their friendships over unlimited boozy brunches, I was not surprised when my flatmate asked for me to pick a suitable restaurant to mimic this rather wonderful tradition for her birthday this year. Boozy Birthday Brunches, now that’s some attractive alliteration!
After a brief perusal of possible options, I stumbled across New Street Grill, a restaurant I have to admit I hadn’t heard of before even though its brunch featured in the top bottomless brunch lists in Time Out, Metro and Buzzfeed. Whilst I don’t typically rely on these publications when picking restaurants, this was obviously one establishment that was not on my radar and I do so hate to not be in the loop. A quick look at the brunch offering sold it to me – 2 courses for £20 or 3 courses for £25 (reduced menu, only 3-5 options on each course but something for everyone) and unlimited Prosecco for £15. This was an affordable boozy brunch, comparable to Avenue or One Canada Square. Booked for 9 people, Saturday at 1pm (we are all 20-somethings, none of us are even capable of an 11am brunch).
I made sure I was the first one to arrive, armed with birthday banners and surprise cake for the birthday girl (the cake meant that I had to carefully suggest to the table upon arrival that we should order starters and mains and then “see how full we are before considering dessert”). The restaurant itself was pleasant – located around Liverpool Street in an old warehouse (it was previously owned by the East India Trading Company) it had lots of exposed brickwork, old-style filament lamps and arch windows. Our table was set up by one of these windows in question, although when I say table I really mean 4 smaller tables of slightly different heights pushed together and covered in a tablecloth that wasn’t ironed and so didn’t actually lie flat. Am I being a bit picky here? Probably, I only noticed it because it made putting birthday decorations on the table a bit trickier. But it was lovely and light and out of the way, always good for the noise that this particular group of friends can create after a bottle or three of Prosecco.
Starters were very much an egg affair for our table, I counted 8 in total. Typical of a brunch menu, Benedict, Royale and Florentine were all offered – hollandaise on the side was an optional request from our table, not as standard. By the sound of yummy noises emanating from around our group, they seemed to have gone down well. I opted instead for the scotch egg (it’s one of my favourite pub snacks) – black pudding adds a lovely meaty flavour and the yolk was just about runny enough. The accompanying tomato relish was a little sweet, if it had been pickled instead the vinegar tartness would have nicely cut through the richer scotch egg. I also tried some of the Gravadlax, pleasant but not exceptional.
On to main courses and it was steak central on the table. The sirloin was served with bearnaise sauce and chips, which were absolutely perfect – I love a thick chip, crisp on the outside and fluffy potato on the inside. The steak was a good portion size and tasty, but I was left a bit flummoxed as to why they asked the table how it should be cooked. Of course any restaurant worth its salt should ask the customer how they like their steak, but then they should also be able to cook it that way. My preference for steak is medium rare; these steaks all arrived medium well. Given the price of the whole meal I was less fussed (the lashings of Prosecco helped mellow me out as well) but if this was ordered off the Á La Carte menu (at £30 for sirloin) it would have gone straight back. I did however really enjoy the roasted garlic on the side – a whole bulb that likely gave me the most awful breath but which I was absolutely delighted to wolf down with the steak (side point, I adore garlic).
Prosecco-wise the serving staff were very attentive to keep us topped up. I think I set the tone when they poured our glasses at the start of the meal – my glass was filled first, so of course by the time the last glass had been charged for a birthday toast mine was empty again. Yes, I should have waited and performed a sophisticated toast first, but it’s important to let the staff know you mean business when it comes to unlimited alcohol! Although the Prosecco was swiftly poured, it was not delivered with any amount of grace or poise, but rather splashed into the glass (and at times splashed into nearby water glasses as well). Not the most refined service, it has to be said. Additionally, whilst Prosecco was quick, all other drinks took at least 3 requests before they were provided – we are talking coffees and soft drinks here by the way, not some delightfully complicated cocktail that requires time and effort to make.
Overall, the birthday girl enjoyed her lunch, which ultimately is all that matters. And at £40 total (including service) I can’t complain either – friendly staff, tasty food and some perfectly acceptable quality. It doesn’t rank in my top 5 London brunches though (stay tuned for that list folks!).
New Street Grill
16A, New Street, London EC2M 4TR