Breakfast in Britain: We’ve come a long way, fast.
A decade ago it was a bowl of Crunchy Nut or toast on the run, and that’s if we bothered to eat at all. Fast forward to 2015, and we’re a nation of bircher-muesli-making, egg-poaching breakfast-lovers who can’t resist Instagramming our morning meal. The number of breakfasts eaten both in and out of the home rose to just under 19 billion in 2015, according to The Grocer, with 97.5% of us making time for brekkie at least once a week.
Nowhere is our love affair with breakfast more apparent than in restaurants, cafes and hotels. Brits now spend a whopping £76M a day eating breakfast outside the home, with 9.1% of us eating brekkie out every day. There are porridge cafes, cereal cafes, and more glamorous brunch spots across the UK than you can shake a flat white at. So, with Farmhouse Breakfast Week 2016 running from 24th-30th January, what better time to celebrate our unstoppable love affair with the most important meal of the day?
The seeds of the ‘eating out for breakfast’ trend were planted in the mid-noughties. A new wave of coffee shops and cafes like Flat White, Lantana and Caravan opened up in London, often run by Australian and New Zealander ex-pats. These cafes brought the antipodean trend for healthy and imaginative weekend breakfasts to London, and introduced a grateful British public to avocado toast. You’ll now find these types of independent cafes serving up flat whites and eggs Benedict in cities and towns across the UK. Then there’s the healthy eating movement led by the likes of Jamie Oliver and Deliciously Ella – sparking trends for, among other things, homemade granola, porridge and smoothie bowls. Instagram is awash with ‘breakfast bowls’ and perfect poached eggs (at the time of writing, #breakfast had 39M posts on the social media app).
But while some of these trends might be passing fancies, interest in local, seasonal food has been growing steadily for the last decade or so. This is where hotels can come into their own, capitalising on the local produce in their particular area. Ramside Hall Hotel in County Durham sources many of its breakfast ingredients from the region, according to executive head chef Martin Moore. “Our sausages are from Sedgefield, the eggs are from Northumberland, and the jams are locally-made, too,” he says. Those Northumberland eggs go into the hotel’s most popular breakfast dish: Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, served at Fusion – its spa restaurant.
The eggs Benedict is Moore’s favourite dish on the breakfast menu, too. As he points out, the key to a clever breakfast order is to pick something that’s too much bother to make at home. “You don’t make your own Hollandaise in the mornings,” he says.
Ilsington Country House Hotel in Devon is another hotel that makes the most of the local produce. “Guests want quality, locally-sourced ingredients,” says Ilsington’s Managing Director, Richard Hassell. At Ilsington, these quality ingredients include locally-made sausages and bacon, and hog’s pudding: “A West Country product made with pork meat, suet, bread and oatmeal.” Most local of all are the eggs, which come from the hotel’s own hens. “We have around 60 hens which are located on the back paddock. They have around an acre of land to wander around. The eggs are collected daily and are used for breakfast,” says Hassell.
A high-quality breakfast menu is now a must for hotels. “Breakfast is normally the last thing for guests to do before they leave the hotel, so if breakfast is a positive experience, with good produce and good service, they’re more likely to return,” says Martin Moore. Great breakfasts can bring other rewards, too. Ramside Hall has an award from Visit England for the quality of its brekkie. With diners’ expectations ever higher, more and more chefs are making breakfast staples from scratch. Instead of buying in granola, at Ilsington the chefs make their own, to serve alongside bowls of toasted almonds, dried fruit, oats and honey for a morning spread that would make any health blogger happy. Meanwhile, at Lancaster House Hotel in Lancashire, they make their black pudding from scratch. (You may think of black-pudding as the anti-granola, but recent news reports claim that it’s a rich source of protein, iron and other nutrients.)
Breakfast fashions may come and go (avocado is already being dubbed the overcado online), but don’t bet on the British love affair with breakfast going away any time soon. From niche joints like London’s tiny 26 Grains (which specialises in porridge), to hotels serving locally-sourced sausages and eggs to hundreds of guests every week, there’s a breakfast for everyone…or at least the 97.5% of us who enjoy the most important meal of the day.
Katy Salter is our food writer. She contributes to most of the UK’s major food titles.