Monday 23 May 2011

Breakfast at the Savoy, the Strand, central London

A throwback to a different era, the Savoy's ridiculously lavish and ornate lobby and dining rooms feel like they belong in a stately home, while the staff actually take the trouble to learn guests' names. Even if you haven't stayed the night, you can stop by for breakfast. A waiter will show you to a table dressed with a luxurious white table cloth and fine quality cutlery. The menu has a huge selection of dishes, including kippers, kedgeree and other traditional British fare. The food is pricey, but good.  The eggs Benedict (about £15), for example, is served with a well-judged creamy hollandaise sauce and excellent ham. The only disappointment is the rather run-of-the-mill filter coffee. Service can be somewhat hurried, but the smart waiters have a sense of humour and show respect. Moreover, they keep your glass topped up with a steady supply of fresh orange juice. Breakfast at the Savoy is everything you would expect. 8/10

Monday 16 May 2011

Claremont Landscape Garden, Portsmouth Road, Esher, Surrey

Although the National Trust says Claremont Landscape Garden is of national importance, the lay visitor may find it hard to get excited. The eighteenth century landscaping is undoubtedly impressive, but Claremont isn't that large (at 49 acres) or that varied. One side of it is dominated by a lake, complete with a small island and stone pavilion, swans, ducks, geese and their droppings, surrounded by patches of woodland and open grass. There are some fine old trees and some atmospheric paths up and down the hillsides, but the garden isn't big enough for a satisfying walk and you can hear the hum of traffic on the nearby A-road. The grassy amphitheatre is cordoned off so children can't hurtle up and down its inviting tiers. Still, it is worth taking the back route up to the top for an elevated view of the lake and across to the the eighteenth century Belvedere Tower. The tower is generally closed and the original Claremont House is now an independent school, so there isn't that much to see. But children will like the substantial and solid wooden playground, with its mini castle, and the tea room serves some fine cakes. Claremont Landscape Garden is just about worth the standard six pound admission charge. 7/10 

Thursday 5 May 2011

Saturday Brunch at The Lido Cafe, Brockwell Park, south London

Housed in an airy Art Deco building next to Brockwell Park's outdoor swimming pool, the Lido Cafe can get very busy on a Saturday morning. If you want one of the prime sturdy wooden tables out on the sunny, palm tree-lined terrace, you should book ahead and even then you might find the sheer number of punters means the service is sluggish and haphazard. Breakfast is served up until about 12.30, when the kitchen prepares to kick-off lunch at around 1pm. The fine full English breakfast (£8.65) features near-perfect scrambled egg, a good sausage, decent bacon, a pile of nicely-cooked and seasoned mushrooms, plus grilled tomatoes, accompanied by two huge slices of warm sourdough bread and butter. Other options include an excellent eggs benedict (about £6.50), featuring two precisely-poached eggs topped with chunky ham and creamy hollandaise sauce. A mug of good, but very strong, coffee is about two quid. Excellent value, the Lido Cafe attracts local bohemians and exercise nuts from the nearby gym. If you aren't in a hurry, brunch in this atmospheric cafe will put you in a happy, holiday mood. 8/10