Who doesn’t love brunch? Brunch is basically an excuse to eat anything at any time until the evening on weekends. As a child, I thought of brunch as a very adult thing to do. As far as I know, children never get invited to brunch birthday parties. Or maybe I just thought that because I secretly watched Sex and the City and Carrie Bradshaw has brunch a lot. I was actually a little disappointed when doing research for this article as I found out that brunch did not emerge in New York, alongside the cronut and more recently the sushi burrito, but in England in the 19th century. Apparently hungover Sundays are not as modern as our parents would like us to think. The term brunch was coined by an article published in 1895 called “Brunch: A Plea”, in which the author cleverly remarks: “By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers.” This Mr Beringer got a lot right, especially because he wasn’t extremely specific about the food which should be served - he demanded ‘'everything good, plenty of it, variety and selection.’' And even more importantly, he was also the one who suggested replacing tea and coffee with whiskey and beer. These choices don’t sound quite as appealing for our times but Bloody Marys and Mimosas just weren’t fashionable yet.
Today, 120 years later, one may think that not much has changed. It doesn’t get much better than a boozy brunch. Or does it? When looking for a brunch place in London, Europe’s brunch paradise and the starting point of the brunch fever, one will find surprising options such as Dim Sum brunch, vegan brunch (what’s brunch without a poached egg?), 24/7 brunch at Duck & Waffle, or even an Alice in Wonderland themed brunch supper club. Mr Beringer did after all ask for variety and selection, so there it is.
Of course not all of Europe can match London’s brunch variety but it seems that most big cities in Europe now have at least one cool enough cafe that serves decent brunch. So what are some of Europe’s best brunch places? In honour of Mr Beringer, who institutionalised brunch for those who like to party on a Saturday night, I decided to combine brunch and nightclub recommendations because, obviously, the brunch should depend on your choice of a club.
Sometimes, one needs to be careful though. Germans for example are big fans of brunch buffets. This sounds nice in theory because you’re thinking “unlimited food”, the reality however is often disappointing as it consists of plates of carelessly arranged cold meats and lukewarm scrambled eggs. Another thing that Germans love to do and which I have never understood, is arrange sweet and savoury brunch items on one plate. Why would I want cheese next to fresh fruit? Don’t cancel your planned trip to Berlin because of this though, there are plenty of delicious non-German brunch places there to explore.
For example , one of my favourite brunch places in Berlin is Cabslam, which stands for California Breakfast Slam. After moving a few times, it seems that they finally settled down right by the Spree and it’s perfect to fuel up after a very long night at Sisyphos. Berlin is nicest in the summer, and so are these two places which both have amazing outdoor areas. Not as amazing as the pancakes though !
If you think Belgrade is an odd choice for a brunch/party guide, you are wrong. This city is bursting with new alternative places to eat, drink and go out. One of the most popular places is called Supermarket and it combines fashion, drinks and food. They also happen to make great American breakfast and bagels. While we’re on the topic of stores, go to Drugstore the night before. It’s an electro club with a very Berlin vibe to it, but more relaxed and full of native Serbians. Definitely worth a trip!
Like most European metropoles, Madrid is also bursting with new American-styled brunch places. But Spanish breakfast is just too good to replace it with fancy pancakes or poached eggs. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than sitting on a sunny and quiet terrace in the centre of Madrid, with a coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice and pan con tomate - thickly spread tomato with sea salt and a lot of olive oil on crispy white bread. My favourite place is Cafe Moderno in Malasaña, an inconspicuous traditional cafe. Their terrace gets more sun than most terraces in the area and their breakfast deal is still the best I have ever come across. On the same square you will find Federal Cafe if you decide to go for the American breakfast after all. A minute from the Plaza de las Comendadoras, you will find Siroco, a laid-back nightclub with different tunes playing on the two floors. If there is too much of a queue, head to Cafe La Palma first, a Madrid institution with regular concerts.
This is obviously the trickiest one as the options are endless and there are so many different kinds of brunches in London. The fact that I chose a place which doesn’t even offer bottomless bellinis means a lot, because that’s usually the first thing I check. But in my opinion it’s just impossible to beat eggs and pancakes at Granger & Co, the Australian brunch heaven of Bill Granger. Luckily, there are three locations so you can never be too far. It has happened to me more than once that the queue was too long at one location, so I moved to another one just to get my scrambled eggs faster. From far away or if you don’t have your glasses on, they look like a massive heap of mayonnaise but they are just perfectly folded eggs. Order them with roast tomato or tea smoked salmon and you will never regret it. And leave room for ricotta honeycomb pancakes, they’re too good to miss. The Clerkenwell location is the least busy one but for a perfect weekend, go to Maggie’s in South Kensington on Saturday night to swing your booty to some 80s music and to make room for those pancakes, and head to Granger in Notting Hill in the morning.
No matter where you find yourself around Europe, you are sure to find some kind of hybrid of the American brunch and a different way to adapt to the trend. Brunch is definitely another one of those foodie trends that has managed to transcend all kinds of borders, and I for one am grateful to be able to travel and try out all different types of brunch!
ABOUT THE Author
Nina Mannheimer is from Munich and currently studies European Studies at King's College London. Besides politics and history, she loves food and is always on the lookout for new trends in gastronomy and cooking. She recently launched Dalou, a breakfast delivery service for companies in London