Eating Out Magazine

The brats who ruin brunch

Brunch provides the luxurious pleasure of a relaxed mid-morning meal until the ankle-biters arrive

This article is taken from the December/January 2023 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10.

A Sunday morning in London, my daughter is three. She wakes up, we read a story, go downstairs for breakfast, wrestle her into jacket and boots, go out for a long walk, feed the ducks, a bit of swinging and sliding at the playground. Back home, I check the time. It’s 7.30 am.

Brunch has had a bad rap of late. Back in the day when we all wanted to be New Yorkers, brunch was cool and aspirational, a sophisticated, leisurely pastime for the moneyed metropolitan in between yoga in Central Park and the hottest exhibit at the Whitney.

The late chef Anthony Bourdain spoiled it when he pointed out in his bestseller Kitchen Confidential that brunch menus are the last staging post for ingredients on the way to the bin: “Old nasty odds and ends and $12 for two eggs and a free Bloody Mary.” But Sex and the City meant that brunch remained the go-to weekend activity for women who wanted to believe that nibbling French toast with anaemic strawberries in knock-off Manolos was
every small-town girl’s route to Mr Big. The end was nigh with the advent of Insta and smashed avo.

What I really don’t get is why parents think it’s fair to inflict their brunching on other people

Despicably hipsterish and according to Quincy Jones invented by white people anyway, so actually, like, dead, brunch has long since ceased to be a thing, but I really get why it works for parents. Sunday is still the longest
day and the possibility of spending some of it in the company of other adults and maybe getting a look at the paper is deeply appealing. What I really don’t get is why parents think it’s fair to inflict their brunching on other people.

Le Petit Beefbar is a gorgeous little restaurant on a quiet street off the Kings Road. It’s part of an international group with branches in Luxembourg, Monaco and Malta, which says delicious things about their target market, and its signature is the “Sauce Beefbar”, a truffle-herb-butter combination which apparently contains a drop of an alchemical elixir named “Sauce Originale Relais de Paris”.

With that introduction, one hopes the sauce would be as murky and embittering as said market’s tax arrangements, but in fact it’s pretty genius, glossy, unashamedly rich and perfect for sloshing over most of the choices on Le Petit Beefbar’s menu.

Brunch here could be civilised and rather luxurious: the menu is split between straightforward beef-centred lunch choices along with three variations on eggs Benedict, pancakes and pastries. I loved that they offer a brunch beef Shawarma, maybe London’s most expensive ‘bab at £22, but respect to their consideration for the hungover, particularly as it can come with Lafite by the glass if one needs a little hair of the dog.

The Truffle Scramble was just so, creamy eggs on brioche muffins with a generous toupée of springy truffle, shaved radish on the side providing welcome bitterness and crunch. Steaks are served on cute little chafing platters, lending an Edwardian breakfast vibe, with the deservedly famous sauce generously dolloped over. Sides of unctuous mash and crunchy autumnal vegetables were thought through rather than afterthoughts.

Décor is as smart and soothing as the attentive, buff-waistcoated staff: Prussian blue panelling and cushioned banquettes, polished but not too effortful. Altogether delightful, until the families started to turn up. Children understandably hate brunch as much as their parents crave it. Who wants to be cooped up for three hours for the best bit of the weekend while your parents try to act like the people they were before they had you?

You can feel the small ones’ resentment at this existential insult in every overturned mimosa and vociferously rejected mouthful of shakshuka. Even the nicest children will behave horribly at brunch, which is why clever companies like Giraffe have set up as child-friendly, with cartons and crayons.

The atmosphere swerved from sociable to sociopathic in less time than it takes to hurl a chocolate croissant

The Rochelle Canteen in Shoreditch has a play area and space for prams, the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen allows the little darlings to run free outside while the Bloody Marys do their work. London offers many venues where parents can fill the gaping hole in Sunday in the company of others of their wretched kind, so why must they insist on encroaching on innocent establishments like Le Petit Beefbar?

As the ankle-biters of SW3 swarmed, the staff retreated to the open kitchen. Someone turned up the music to mask the wailing, obliging deafened customers to bellow their orders. An avocado was mislaid, three more jugs of Sauce Beefbar arrived uninvited at our table, the greeters in their neat dark suits fought their way through the growing junkpile of buggies and scooters in the narrow entrance to be interrogated on nut allergies, athleisured fathers texted their mistresses behind the FT Weekend. The atmosphere swerved from sociable to sociopathic in less time than it takes to hurl a chocolate croissant.

Beefbar’s founder, Riccardo Giraudi, claims to want his restaurants to offer a 360 degree experience, but a circle of Hell probably isn’t what he meant. Le Petit Beefbar is definitely a hit but do book for the evening

Enjoying The Critic online? It's even better in print

Try five issues of Britain’s newest magazine for £10

Critic magazine cover