Ravenous or simply in the mood, get inspired by these best breakfast bakeries, cafés and insider venues that I enjoyed in 2018. Some require a long drive, others waiting in a long queue or reservation well ahead, and sometimes you must stay overnight to savour the delicious morning privilege delivered into your room. A proper breakfast can be hedonism at its greatest and for most busy city dwellers it’s also the greatest luxury reserved to weekends only. Let’s fix it.
Staying over is a must for my best breakfast in 2018 – a warming bowl of Sonoma Grains porridge at Single Thread, in Healdsburg, California. The inn’s seasonal fruit scone with lemon curd was better than anything I had in England. The three Michelin stared restaurant and five room luxe B&B also whips a full Japanese, generous English (a tribute to Heston Blumenthal with whom the chef/owner worked with), and Sonoma breakfast sets (local cheese, charcuterie, bread, grains), all decadent and superb. These feasts over the three mornings we stayed keep me salivate for coming back. Everything was beyond perfected simplicity. The avocado toast (on sourdough) with their own farm-fresh boiled egg was my husband’s favourite. The California wine country never offered a better, sophisticated indulgence than with the arrival of the Single Thread in Sonoma County. Meadowood and the French Laundry over in Napa Valley can only gasp with wonder.
Another superb farm to table feast, but more rustic was at São Lourenço do Barrocal in Portugal. The historic farm set in the breadbasket region of Alentejo, close to the Spanish border, revealed Portugal’s greatest gourmet secret. On its own side of the border the Iberian pigs grazing on acorn made for the best, most fragrant and meaty jamón (de bellota) we had to date. The coffee was impeccable as elsewhere in Portugal. I got my drip into a pot and was ready to run in the olive fields with the free-roaming cows. The popular dairy-free oat milk was as good companion for the brew as their own cows’ milk. Lactose-free yogurt, daily refreshed seasonal fruits like pomegranate seeds, persimmon, freshly baked changing Portuguese pastries and flaky croissants, the buffet and a la carte warm plates catered to every palate, and the quality was extraordinary. Farmers eat well!
Relish the slow life in California with the best breakfast
A drive to LA’s Silver Lake is a must for SQIRL’s ricotta toast. The famous slice of gluten with in-house curdled ricotta and your choice of one of their famous locally sourced jams that like a sweet pond of colour dwells in the luscious meadow of fat. For the best breakfast in town get before noon as the line picks up. The shakshuka is served with the longest toasted baguette ever (see bellow), the sandwiches are not bad, but the rice bowl is exclusive, indeed! Perfectly locally roasted coffee or house lemonades for a liquid fix complete the ‘so-Cal’ experience.
Still in the embrace of Hollywood, drive Westside for the superb sourdough and cakes at Lodge Bread in Culver City. The carrot olive oil cake, the apple millet and seeded banana, plus the miso chocolate chip cookie, please! That was my order to go after a decadent brunch of a superb flatbread with an unctuously rich labneh, mixed and some pickled veggies, generously poured over with olive oil and tossed with fresh green herbs. Even kids love it there, feed’em real bread LA mums!
The art of European morning pastry: a glutenous affair
My best breakfasts were mostly at bakeries and cafes known for their AM focus. For less pomp and more finesse in pastry though, one must go to Europe.
- An apple tart (tarte fine aux pommes made only in the fall season) from Du Pain et Des Idées, the pain au chocolate (they call it chocolatine) and other seasonal tarts like with apricots in summer are must for me when in Paris.
- An organic flour based cardamom bun “bulle” at Green Rabbit in Stockholm. The same nordic specialty made from organic sourdough at Handwerk in Oslo. Our Norwegian breakfast there included all sourdough-based breakfast pastries they had: cinnamon, black currant, but the cardamom twist was the most delectable, not too sweet.
- In Italy, the almond biscotti from my favourite baker at the Ventimiglia market (Liguria on the border with France) were devoured in a car, while the mini-pastries with a cappuccino at the historic Pasticheria Marchesi in Milan were almost as memorable, but less ravenously irresistible.
Breakfast means breaking the fast from involuntary overnight dieting. If your dinner did not involve 10+ courses at a gastronomic restaurant (check my best meals in 2018), you feel ready to indulge in the am.
Some restaurants focus also on their morning offering. At Meierei in Vienna, the ingredients are sourced from the same farm as for the two Michelin restaurant above, the Steirereck. Such decadence at its grandest shows in the Stadtpark Breakfast set. Poached eggs, fruit dairy porridge, stewed seasonal fruits, freshly milked buttermilk, farm cheese, perfect for me. My husband relished in the preservative-free bacon with an omelette. The dairy queen of Vienna does the best breakfast in town.
For the setting, the self-service greenhouses inside the biodynamic Rosendals Tradgard where sustainability and taste rub shoulders is hard to beat. This venue in Stockholm is an escape to the country and reminds me of the Petersham Nurseries in South London, but is more truly sociable (less London pretentious) and thus fun. The smorebrot, bricks of butter to dip in, cookies and pastries are very good (vegan options). Get goodies to go from the in-house bakery and shop, or savour the views over its vast gardens. Their tisanes and a smaller greenhouse for private hire radiate the hygge cosiness.
I love the idea of breakfast, for today it symbolises the slow life. The wholesome time in the morning when you sit down with your first meal and savour it mindfully. I’m dedicating to its history and purpose, plus reminiscing on some of the best breakfasts I have had in my entire life, my first musing in 2019. Check it next week. For most, the start of the day means a warm cup of coffee or tea, on the later I muse in the best teas I sipped over the past year. Perhaps, your resolution this year might be making time to mindfully, indulgently and happily enjoy breakfast on most mornings. Starting the day right-footed (with a happy belly and the mind as they are connected) is important, don’t you agree? The best breakfast can start you well.