I'm not a morning person. I owe many thousands of apologies for the growling sneering grumbling snarls I have inflicted on family and friends in the hours around dawn- and those soon after. I am however a tremendous fan of breakfast, probably becuase it's the only thing that can retrieve me from the slough of despond that leaving sleep thrusts upon me.
However, it was only last night, when attending a dinner in honour of an excellent friend (who gave us all a scare earlier this year, and whose birthday is especially precious) it struck me that evening meals are in fact less good than breakfasts. That is to say, a truly great breakfast can be much better than a great dinner. And further, that when I look back on my favourite meals, I can very easily produce a cracking top five breakfasts and still need to make a few explicit special mentions. Breakfasts are great!
The theory is thus: a great dinner, with superb service, excellent ingredients, exquisite presentation and all the rest, is really only ever going to leave me with one sort of feeling- a generally impressed, slightly smug, overstuffed tired indulgence. There just isn't the wiggle room, the option, for it to do anything else. A dinner is, at the end of the day, at the end of the day. You eat, then slump.
A breakfast on the other hand, has a FAR larger canvas to play with; it can set the stage for the whole day, for life itself. If the setting is good, with views and a bit of a breeze, it can be a springboard to adventure. If the service is sprightly, enthusiastic and attentive, your faith in human kind is essentially restored and all the people you meet for the rest of the day benefit, not just you. It goes on- energy, balance, excitment, engagement, all of these can spring from a good breakfast, not to mention the benefits of a goodly helping of fibre.
So, what are the five best breakfasts I've had?
#5 Bacon and Maple Syrup and Pancakes, Angel Inn, Windermere
Not perhaps where you'd expect me to say the best of this sort of dish is to be found, but it is brilliant here. To be honest I've had bacon and pancakes in the US, and usually, they over do it, leaving one reeling into the morning with rather more ballast than is useful. This was spot on though. Setting is a gem too, looking down along the lake.
As a dish I'd long steered clear- bacon + sweet = wrong. But no, it's ace. Especially with a banana milkshake and a coffee.
#4 Masala Omelette, Goa
A simple curried omelette on the beach in Goa, with the salt of the spray just blowing on off the dunes and the morning sun dappling through the palms is a proper start to the day, washed down with a spicy chai.
#3 Eggs Benedict at either the Real Eating Company in Hove or at Bill's in Brighton
Both these places take an almost perverse pleasure in doing simple food incredibly well, and there is nothing to choose between their eggs benedicts- both have the eggs done to perfection, the hollandaise fresh and lush, the muffins lightly toasted just so, and the ham sourced from some valhalla for heroically tasty piggies. Pricey, but devine.
#2 Huevos Rancheros, Argyle Steakhouse, Fourseasons Aviara, Carlasbad CA
Weird venue. Wouldn't really recommend it normally, but it was part of some massive, Cloud City Bespin like complex north of San Diego where I was speaking at a conference, and the main hotel restaurant (which did a superb crab benedict (I know!)) was a bit too full of children to be tollerable. So I wandered down to the golf course for a walk in the morning and found the bar there serving breakfast. So there I sat- only customer there, with a glorious view over the greens being waited on hand and foot and provided with the greatest mexican peasant breakfast imaginable was a delightfully mind boggling way to ease into a day of California corporate excess. And a golf course without golfers is just a nice garden really.
#1 Boogaloo Diner, 22nd & Valencia, San Francisco
This one saved my life- the perfect example of all a breakfast can be- simple, served with genuine care, and beuatifully made. I entered Boogaloo with a hangover a that would have felled a Wildebeast, and left with a spring in my step and a passion for life.
And five honourable mentions:
Hard Mans Breakfast, Hicadua, Sri Lanka
Double espresso and a Rothmans cigarette in a beach bar (sadly later flattended by a tsunami)
Gut Buster, Market Diner, Brighton
Enough saturated fat to run a small powerstation, on a plate bigger than Belgium- Sausages, burger, beans, tomatoes, eggs, hash browns, fried bread, black pudding, the list goes on and on. They have tea on draft too. Fabulous. However, I've never had it for breakfast, only as a stupidly late supper.
nebulous potato thing, St Francis Fountain, 24th & York, San Francisco CA
Very very nearly as good as boogaloo, but a bit busier and more popular. Had a couple of great breakfasts here, thanks to the PWN Depot crew.
An Eagle's Breakfast
Look it up.
Rowan's Welsh Rarebit
Actually better than any of the above, but I thought I'd limit the list the breakfasts that other people might actually be able to get, but I'm afraid unless she embarks on a dramatic and unexpected career change, I and only I have been given the world's best ever breakfast. Lucky me!