I’ve been going to Quaker meetings for the last 3 months. Don’t worry, I’ll get to the brunch in a minute. Since Amy started working on Sundays, we’ve had to put our Sunday brunching habits to one side and I felt like I needed another reason to get out of bed on a Sunday. So at 9:30 I get on a bus and I go to Clissold Park, in Stoke Newington, which is, in case you were wondering, the happiest place on earth. There are huge adventure playgrounds and dog walkers and fun looking exercise groups and boys playing football. On all but one Sunday, it has been ridiculously sunny. I walk through the park and I go to my meeting and then I either go to the gym (booo!) or potter around the shops in Stoke Newington (yay!) and this is how I became aware of something:
Stoke Newington Church Street has more brunch places than any other street in London.
No seriously. The place is packed with them. Cute bakeries and hipster greasy spoons and fancy looking restaurants… you’re ridiculously spoilt for choice. So now that Amy has Sundays off for a little while, I knew I had to take her.
Foxlow looked like one of the fancier establishments on the street and OpenTable had told me that it was one of the top brunch places in London. We didn’t need to book and were seated on a lovely table by the street where we could watch babies and dogs go past to our hearts’ content. We ordered mimosas, which were the perfect brunch cocktail – sharp, light, fruity and slightly fizzy, made with grapefruit juice.
Quakers had left me feeling Godly, and extolling the virtues of simplicity, so I ordered poached eggs on sourdough with avocado. The eggs were Burford Browns with rich orange yolks, and the avocado was perfectly seasoned with chilli and lime. I was filled with a little regret when I saw the bacon brought to the table next to us – streaky and perfectly crisp – but there’s always next time.
The main was light enough for an indulgent pudding and the menu tempted me out of my abstemiousness, so I ordered a chocolate and salted caramel tart. I cannot recommend it enough.
What a perfect brunch – delicious food, eaten outside in beautiful weather with some booze to wash it down. That’s how you do Sunday right.
You know how the movie Amelie was like Instagram before Instagram existed? Searingly beautiful to look at, all sepia tones and big eyes and cake shops, girls riding bicycles around old-timey streets and eating beautiful food and everyone is best friends. And you know that real life is nothing like that, but you’re kind of willing to pretend that it might be.
That’s what Stoke Newington is like.
At the end of Church Street there are two old churches opposite each other – I like to think that each is run by a rival team of old ladies who are delightfully pleasant to everyone they meet but who sabotage each other’s bake sales and tut at the other church’s gaudy Christmas decorations. “Have you seen the rainbow fairy lights they used this year, Maude? What do they think this is, a discoteque?”*
As you walk up Church Street, you will find an amazing number of artsy cafes and bakeries with tempting cakes in the window – it was very difficult to walk past them all, but Hattie promised me that there were even better things to come. Church Street also has a series of independent clothes shops, bookshops, and homeware shops – there’s even an independent toy shop, which is not something I knew existed anymore. It was perfect.
Foxlow, too, was fabulous. Everyone – the waiting staff and customers alike – was stylish. There was a group of six twenty-somethings who ordered bloody marys (apart from the one obligatory white man who ordered a beer) and they had the tiniest, cutest dog I’ve ever seen. There was a family with two curly-haired children with matching scooters. There was Hattie and I, ordering mimosas and incredulously saying “This is such a glorious Sunday” over and over again like we’d taken drugs.
Then the food arrived – I had the sweet potato, greens and eggs, which is a fantastic vegetarian hash with two fried eggs on top (with the brightest, richest yolks you’ve ever seen). It was great – I love food like that, where lots of vegetables have been thrown together and cooked until they’re soft and every mouthful is different. It’s rich and comforting and it still feels healthy at the end.
For dessert, I had the chocolate and popcorn ice cream sundae, because it was sunny so ICE CREAM and because Hattie had already ordered the tart. It was great. The plain ice cream was delightfully simple, and the chocolate sauce had solidified (which is how you know it’s really good), and just when I thought I had eaten all the salty popcorn, I realised that there was more underneath, and it was all glued together with hard chocolate sauce like a salty chocolate surprise. The whole thing reminded me of the ice cream factory at Pizza Hut (aka NIRVARNA, amirite?), only posher and without all the hundreds and thousands.
It’s easy to get run down by work and uncertainty and living in a country where people actually voted for David Cameron to be prime minister (TWICE). But on a sunny day, with good food and your best friend and nowhere to be – the world is a gorgeous, happy place. And that’s a good feeling to hold onto.
Have a joyful week, brunch fans! And if you live in London – check out Stoke Newington. You’ll love it.
* I just looked this up – they built St Mary’s Church in the 1850s because the “Old Church” was too small to hold all the fans of this hot new vicar that everybody loved. Like if One Direction tried to play an arena instead of a stadium. CARNAGE. Now the Old Church is used as a arts and performance venue, proving that even imaginary bitterness in Stoke Newington is actually just something lovely.