Breakfast at The Wolseley

There are few bastions of true civility left. Sometimes, when you’re up to your scratched elbows in flat pack furniture, and coming to the realisation that your future wardrobe will revolve around cotton shirts that button down the front and don’t require ironing (perfect for an encroaching life with a wee one) it’s nice to retreat to that sort of place. Even if it’s in your head.

Which is why at the moment I’m returning to The Wolseley.

In all of the great London-bucket-list experiences, breakfast at The Wolseley should be up there. It’s not because there’s a good chance on a Sunday morning that you might get a sly glance of Chris Martin and his fair-headed offspring eating porridge at a far table (which we did). It’s not because inside the vaulted doors, just off Piccadilly there are sleeves cued for dripping umbrellas and a newspaper rack, stacked with Guardians, Daily Telegraphs, Times, Independents, Financial Times, El Pais, Le Monde, Frankfurter Allgemeine- and even a Daily Mirror.

And it’s not because of the Full English breakfast (which is very very good).

It’s because by walking through the door, you’re joining in step with hoards of others who have realised that this is the place where civility is captured in a cup.

The Wolseley manages to turn 350 covers in a day, yet nothing about its soundtrack of murmured blurbles and gentle tinging of cutlery gives the impression that this a place that churns through patrons.

This is the sort of spot to come for a breakfast meeting with a publisher, to catch up with an old friend, or to take refuge with a spouse on a gloomy Sunday morning.

When there are big decisions to be made in life, it helps to get started ticking off the small ones. That process starts with the choice between thirteen varieties of coffee, thirteen teas and infusions and five varieties of hot chocolate. If it’s not a cappuccino you crave (which are competently done), then a pot of Earl Grey tea should fit the bill.

From there come ruminations about fuel for the day. It’s hard to pass up The Wolseley’s interpretation of bircher muesli- a hardy combination of sodden oats, dried cranberries, sultanas, hazelnuts, milk, grated apple and grated pear. For those in need of the answer to what makes this taste so decadent-  it’s cream.

Alternatively, if the world is barking a little harshly at your door, the infant comfort of boiled eggs and soldiers always provides a nice element of respite.

It arrives with the toast pre buttered and cut into fine lengths, all swaddled and waiting for you next to a double headed egg cup.

Or else, there’s  The Full English (capitals appropriate). Their rendition sees crisp smoked bacon a confident link of sausage, baked beans, tomato, Lancashire style black pudding, mushrooms and eggs- which you can choose whether they should be fried, poached or scrambled.

This is a place where service is swift and discrete. Chairs are comfortable and return patrons are remembered. But the real reason I covet a trip to The Wolseley is the pastries. It’s not necessarily about how the mixed selection includes a Bordeaux cannele; a joyously eggy, dense crown of honey tinged dough with chew and give along with chocolate croissants and danishes.

It’s not that their petite portions make you feel just fine about scoffing two or three.

It’s about the spread of them which welcomes you as soon as you walk in the door.

They’re baked overnight, every night by The Wolseley’s  in house tourier. Each day only a small portion of them are purchased and devoured by hungry guests, surreptitiously picking up the last flaky crumb from the plate with their index and thumb. Yet they’re there as a welcome offering, for the aesthetics and the scent. The spread of pastries at the door speaks of warmth and generosity, attention to detail and precision. They whisper of things that are good and right and pleasing in a city that can be grey, harsh and tough. And for me they’re a visual cue of some very contented mornings indeed.

 The Wolseley
160 Piccadilly London W1J 9EB

Nb, it’s worth making a booking ahead of time for breakfast at The Wolsley.

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