As an expat, my Spanish friends and family members do frequently ask me about nice places to eat when visiting London.
(Sometimes, strangers also ask me all sorts of funny questions over social media, but let’s save that for a different occasion, shall we?) One of my favourite things to do when out and about is going for brunch with friends.
London has got a lot to offer in culinary terms, with thousands of different choices: from the quintessential afternoon tea to Chinese street food and everything in between. Looking for Ethiopian food? Or fancy some Cuban mojitos? You name it! It’s the version of a foodie Heaven on Earth. It’s like you can eat your day out in London, quite literally. (Sometimes, I feel like this city gave me a bad case of August Gloop possession and angry Oompa Loompas will come for me any day…)
With that in mind, it’s no shocker I find myself trying new places all the time. Lately, London has adopted the trend of making cafes and restaurants more and more picture-ready. In the Instagram age, people seem to consider not only the quality of food but also the presentation and environment. One almost feels a bit embarrassed not to make a real effort to look half as good as these pretty places when eating out. Like, can they kick out or scratch your name from the booking list if you don’t look cool enough? Is that even a thing?
Jokes aside though, when it comes to food I can be quite picky. And yes, I’ll choose quality over presentation every time as I have my fair share of experience eating at really top-quality restaurants and hotels . Hence, Instagrammble places can make me quite skeptical. That succulent avocado on toast can look majestic—all covered in flowers and gold dust—but if the food is not as good as it looks, you lost me. Period.
I think it’s a question of common sense (and also, economy). If I am going to pay six pounds for a latte, it better be good! Like, the kind of latte you will remember on your deathbed. (“Oh, child! I remember that amazing latte I had in February 2022. What a wonderful time!”) Like, THAT GOOD.
And you know what? Most of the time, the food looks incredible but it’s not incredible… Actually, it’s not even OK. And I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand meh food, less alone bad food.
There was this time a couple of years ago when the husband and I went to a really popular Instagrammable place (I will omit the name here) and we ordered some waffles and toast for brunch. The place was crowded with people taking cute pictures in front of the floral displays and the queue was for half an hour, so we thought the place had to be good. Big spoiler? It wasn’t. Those waffles were probably the most insipid ones I have ever tasted and the so-called cotton candy cocktail I ordered tasted like carbonated water. I paid about fourteen pounds for the drink, so I can tell you I wasn’t very happy about it. Sebastian was quite disappointed himself, so we never came back. As you can imagine, I am rather wary after that experience.
A few weeks ago, I called a friend for brunch and we decided to go and try a new place. Viola’s at Covent Garden has recently become a super-popular place in town. They serve breakfast, brunch, and afternoon tea options and the place is always packed with people, so you do need to book in advance. As a bonus, the food is displayed artistically, with delicate and colourful floral compositions that will catch your eye.
When we first arrived, we were surprised by the modest size of the place, but it was still full and no free table was in sight. However, as we had booked the day before, the waitress sit us in about five minutes and brought the menu super quickly. (Bonus: the lady was super lovely and we had a nice time chatting with her!)
My friend ordered their red velvet cake and mocha coffee, while I chose the pink latte and salmon croissant. Our food was served super fast and we both held our breaths in awe when it arrived: as you can see in the pictures, it was alluring! My coffee contained real flowers and rainbow glitter and I must confess I was too scared to taste it (partially, because I didn’t want to spoil it, but also partially because I was afraid it wouldn’t taste as good as it looked). And you know what? I was WRONG. Because guys, that coffee was delicious! It tasted sweet, a bit like strawberries, and I loved it.
Then, I proceeded to test the croissant that, to my surprise, it didn’t only contain salmon, but also benedict eggs, and butter-cooked asparagus. The verdict? They were scrumptious! I will say this and defend it to death: probably the best salmon croissant I have tried in town, so far. And that speaks by itself!
My friends happily reported his cake and coffee were amazing too and none of us managed to finish the food, given the generous portions we were served. So, if this was a review from the Art of Eating, I would give them five forks and I’d still fall short!
Regarding value, I was charged £14.00 for the croissant and £6.00 for the latte. So, although it’s not the cheapest breakfast place ever, I’d say it’s very reasonable given London prices for venues of this type.
So, I am glad to report I might have discovered a new favourite spot for brunch. Now, if you excuse me, my mouth is watering after thinking of all the delicious food, so I might need to assault the pantry…