Stephen Jardine: Breakfast is the great eating-out bargain

Enthusiasm for the first meal of the day is finally reaching Scotland, says Stephen Jardine
Half of us choose to skip the first meal of the day but there are signs that breakfast is growing in appeal.Half of us choose to skip the first meal of the day but there are signs that breakfast is growing in appeal.
Half of us choose to skip the first meal of the day but there are signs that breakfast is growing in appeal.

Never trust anyone who skips breakfast. Follow that advice I’d suggest and you won’t go far wrong in life. When surveys show up to half the population regularly miss the first meal of the day, I shake my head in quiet despair and help myself to another piece of toast.

How can anyone not love breakfast? It can be quick or slow, healthy or unhealthy but the idea that you could teach a class, drive a taxi or say anything worthwhile in a meeting without having eaten in the previous 12 hours would be laughable as long as you ate breakfast and have the energy to laugh. Thankfully, people are waking up to the benefits of breakfast but not necessarily at the kitchen table.

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Despite being the home of the magnificent Full Scottish, we don’t have a proud history of eating breakfast out. Instead eggs, bacon, sausage, haggis and potato scone have traditionally been seen as a Sunday morning treat with cereal or porridge the name of the game the rest of the time. However, that has started to change.

Research company NPD measures consumer habits and says in the past eight years, our spending on breakfast has risen by 31 per cent while lunches have dropped by 6.5 per cent. It seems breakfast is the new lunch, and cafes and restaurants are recognising this.

Sandwich shops open earlier and offer croissants, filled rolls and fruit pots alongside the lunchtime selection. Over and above that, an increasing number of sit down options area available to the early eater. Walk past many restaurants now and the doors will be open for breakfast with pancakes, bacon and coffee helping offset the overheads of a city centre site.

Some go a step further. In most things food, London leads the way and breakfast in no exception. Ten years ago the first Breakfast Club Café opened in Soho targetting those really addicted to the first meal of the day.

A decade on there are now outposts of the chain around London, easily signposted by the long queues out the door. I still haven’t been into one. The last time I tried to get a table there were 20 people in the line in front of me at 8am.

That enthusiasm for what breakfast has to offer is finally reaching Scotland, with restaurants like Checkpoint in Edinburgh specialising in breakfast until 5pm featuring dishes like Cured Sea Trout Benedict with Turmeric Hollandaise. Others like Urban Angel run an all-day brunch menu including treats such as Brioche French Toast with bacon and maple syrup. Breakfast is also becoming more adventurous with homemade granola, flavoured porridge and numerous variations on the avocado theme on offer around the city.

Breakfast is fashionable but it’s also one of the most affordable ways to eat out. Even pushing the boat out you will struggle to spend more than £20 per head on breakfast. Compared to lunch and dinner it remains the great eating out bargain. Or at least it should be.

Last weekend, restaurant critic Giles Coren awarded zero out of ten to a hotel restaurant he visited for breakfast in Oxfordshire. It was a punishing review but well deserved for a paltry fry up priced at a ludicrous £21.50. That’s only £7 less than a three-course Michelin lunch at Restaurant Martin Wishart or £2.50 less than Paul Kitching’s Michelin two-course lunch at 21212.

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For breakfast lovers, that surely represents an opportunity. As our appetite for eating out increases, the top end remains unexplored territory. Heston Blumenthal may have strayed into Snail Porridge but Where is the adventurous, creative cooking at the start of the day?

The first Michelin restaurant to open for breakfast would be ground-breaking. Imagine what Scotland’s two-star chef Andrew Fairlie could do with mushrooms, eggs and kippers? Remember, you heard it here first.