“Why not make a voyage through breakfast?”
I am obsessed with breakfast. It is, hands down, my favourite meal of the day. Staying in the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur somewhat curtailed by culinary experiences of the city because I basically ate so much that I couldn’t eat until 6pm at night. The food was that good, as this rather boastful Facebook status attests:
Phoebe Lucia Elizabeth Amoroso… may have just eaten her entire daily intake of calories for breakfast: 2 Chinese dumplings, fried noodles, lamb rogan josh, rice, mango chutney + raita, mattar paneer, 2 types of papadams, curry puff, veggie curry, melon, papaya and grapes, two pancakes with maple syrup, and salad, all topped off with a trip to the chocolate fountain.
Through what I like to call “travel training”, I can eat anything for breakfast and in any quantity (preferably large). During a brief spell teaching English in China, I went to stay with one of my students and her family, where they served beef noodles in the most delicious peanut sauce.
On a daily basis, I would scuff my way down the street, dodging the spit and piles of burning trash, whip out two 10 RMB notes, and wave them at lady serving baozi, jostling with the crowd. These are delicious fluffy white steamed bun with pork and/or vegetable fillings and should be served for breakfast everywhere.
I was also impressed with my £10 per night hostel in Istanbul, which produced a very simple breakfast like this:
Or maybe my £1.20 humous and falafel hall in Amman, Jordan:
Or these delicious Shan noodles in Yangon, Myanmar, again for only $15 a night:
The above experiences led me to want to learn more about breakfasts. I began to dream about travelling the world and eating all the breakfasts. Then learning to make all the breakfasts and setting up a World Breakfast Cafe, which would serve breakfast food ALL day. After all, one man’s breakfast is another man’s dinner.
Despite having had this idea for a while, I found myself gabbling about this idea quite recently. Then, this week, two friends independently sent me a link to World Breakfast Allday. My idea was not so unique.
In between outrage and curiosity, I decided I absolutely had to try it. Furthermore, as it so happened, this week is National Breakfast Week in the UK. So what better excuse?
The concept of World Breakfast Allday is to explore culture through traditional breakfasts, which are disappearing throughout the world. The entire set-up of the cafe invites communal sharing of a meal – the room is long and narrow, with one simple wooden table to fit 14 people. Children’s lampshades dangle over it and and there’s a travel-themed one above the counter at the far end, behind which you can see all the ingredients and the staff prep the food.
The regular offering includes the English Breakfast (1500 yen) and the German Breakfast (1000 yen), which includes muesli fruit and honey. Then there is a ‘special’ which changes every couple of months. Currently, it’s from Russia and the owner of the cafe will be touring Russia to learn even more about Russian food and culture in March. Charmingly, the cafe has been bedecked in Russian products, including Russian playing cards and matryoshka.
When faced with a small yet adventurous menu like this, there was only one logical option: grab a friend and order an English and a Russian between you!
I can be fussy when it comes to a good English breakfast but I was very impressed by the quality offered at World Breakfast Allday. The sausage was meaty and well spiced without overdoing the sage, firm and non-greasy. I raved so much about the sausage and asked the where they got it from that they showed me the packet and, apparently, the ingredients included wine!
Next up, we had some beautiful non-oily fried bread, Heinz baked beans and the first ever hash brown that I’ve actually enjoyed – although I haven’t tried them in years, having been traumatised through school dinners.
Along with some soft scrambled eggs (goodbye to the rubbery monstrosities that tend to lurk in cheap hotel buffets) and a tasty tomato, these were all the pluses to the English breakfast. Yet the discerning among you will have already worked out the problem.
BACON. Where is the bacon? I can forgive an absence of black pudding but not serving bacon with an English breakfast is like running a French restaurant without serving wine, or giving an American a peanut butter sandwich without the ‘jelly’ (jam). In other words, it is grave cultural sacrilege.
The second problem, which somewhat paled in comparison, is what other discerning brunchers among you will have determined from the photo. Two mushrooms. Just two, eh? Well, hey there, Westerner. This is Japan, and this is where things are small and cute. Including the food. So suck it up. In fact, those mushrooms were sucked up in seconds.
Did I still, begrudgingly, enjoy my ‘English’ breakfast? Yes, oh yes.
So this is where some good ol’ fashioned nationalism arises. How would the UK fare against Russia? And so let’s get straight to what we’re all thinking:
What the hell is a Russian breakfast?
According to the Internet, they involve kasha (a kind of porridge made from different brains), butterbrots (a slice of bread, often rye bread, topped with butter or ham), eggs, tvorog (similar to cottage cheese) and slice sandwich. As one Russian lady explains, not particularly encouragingly:
The reason you won’t find “traditional” Russian foods in most hotel breakfast spreads is that Russian breakfasts tend to be simple, filling, and not particularly appetizing (to someone who is not used to these foods at breakfast). Personally, I find a Russian breakfast delicious and comforting, but then again I ate it growing up for many years!
According to World Breakfast Allday, the Russian breakfast involves:
Beetroot salad – a little mild in flavour to be honest
Pickled mushrooms – these were delicious, not too tangy. The pickling really enhanced the natural flavour of the mushroom.
Salmon and sour cream bellini – perhaps a little too much sour cream, the salmon got a little smothered
Beef croquettes – not quite sure what was in these but they were fairly satisfying. For me, they needed a an extra kick and so the mustard on the side was a welcome addition.
Kasha – buckwheat porridge cooked with a mixture of water and milk, with a dollop of butter in the middle. If you derive comfort from the warm, stodgy blandness of porridge (said without irony, I really enjoy it) then you will enjoy this. If not, the pleasures of this will be completely lost on you.
So despite a sterling effort from World Breakfast Allday, I kind of have to agree with the assessment of Russian breakfasts as simple, filling but without spectacular flavour. If I had to choose, I’d be voting for an English breakfast every time. But you guessed that already, didn’t you?
Because no Russian-themed meal would be complete without borsch (680 yen) and pickles (650 yen), we can confirm that World Breakfast Allday have also done an excellent job on there.
As for the drinks to accompany our breakfast dabbling, World Breakfast Allday has a large selection of goodies from around the world, and not all breakfast beverages either. I sampled Russian sbiten (680 yen), a hot and VERY sweet drink. There is a reason why they have decorated the menu with sweets. It’s made from boiling up sugar and honey with cinnamon and ginger, and it’s enough to give you Type 2 Diabetes in just one shot. The Russian mors (680 yen) was much more a palatable – a fruit drink made from lingonberries and cranberries.
For something completely random, we also tried Jordanian mint tea (680 yen), which was just a bit minty, and not much else.
And, finally, even breakfast should be finished off with a dessert. I loved these Russian cookies (650 yen) – strawberry, cranberry and, my favourites, apricots. They were served with whipped sour cream, which is something I definitely should have eaten earlier because it’s brilliant! There’s also some apple sharlotka (680 yen) for cake-lovers .
World Breakfast Allday is running a Russian cooking class this Wednesday (February 4th) 19:30 – 21:30 – for more information, and to reserve, give them a call: 03-3401-0815.
World Breakfast Allday 4/5 – Cute and cosy, with an emphasis on communal culture sharing, World Breakfast Allday is definitely worth a visit, not only for the atmosphere but also for some competent cooking. As is the case with non-Asian food in Japan, you pay for the privilege and they also operate a frustrating one drink per person policy, but with so drinks from so many countries to choose from, think of it as an adventure and glug something at random!
Address: 〒150-0001 東京都渋谷区神宮前3-1-23-1F / 3-1-23-1F Jingumae Shibuya-ku Tokyo
Transport: Gainenmae (Ginza line) – 5 minutes
Hours: Daily, 7:30 – 21:00