The Full English (various UK establishments)

One of the great joys of visiting England is the ability to enjoy the masterpiece of English breakfast cuisine: the “Full English”, also known as a “fry up”.

Many philosophical discussions revolve around the ingredients constituting a proper “Full English”, but this is basically a dish built upon a combination of English-style bacon rashers and some eggs. However, bacon and eggs alone does not a “Full English” make… to properly earn the title of a “full breakfast”, they must be assembled on a plate along with:

– toast (or, better yet, the unhealthy cousin to toast, bread fried in the bacon grease)
– sausages
– at least one token fried tomato, and generally a mushroom as well

Other common and well-appreciated ingredients include:

– black pudding, white pudding, or a little of each
– baked beans
– bubble and squeak
– hash browns

Basically, this is the breakfast of champions (and the bane of cardiologists). That, and it’s important to be properly condimented… when doing a proper American breakfast, I like my tabasco sauce, but for a Full English, it’s got to be “brown sauce” (Heinz Brown Sauce, or better yet, H-P Sauce).

I’ve made it a point for years to enjoy the virtues of the Full English every time I’m visiting or even passing through the UK. Last visit, I did some research on various web sites and blogs, and three places consistently ranked high on the list of places to get a good authentic Full English: The Regency Cafe (by my brother’s place in Pimlico, and I reviewed them back them), the New Picadilly Cafe (now closed, unfortunately), and The Mess in Hackney. The last of these is conveniently close to our host’s place in Hackney, which is the Full English shown here. This was indeed one of the better Full English breakfasts I’ve had, including eggs, sausage, bacon, potatoes, toast, mushrooms, and the obligatory tomato.

However, this trip was long enough that I was able to enjoy several other Full English breakfasts across the spectrum.

Indeed, the morning of my brother’s wedding, we decided to go all out and find the most righteous Full English we could lay our hands on around London, and ended up at the Fountain restaurant on the bottom floor of Fortnum and Mason. Featured prominently on their menu was their Tercentenary Breakfast: “A breakfast fit to serve any of the monarchs we have served over our 300 years of history”, with two different types of heirloom eggs (hen *and* duck), two bacons (Fortnum’s house bacon and a guest bacon), two sausages (again, their house sausage and a guest sausage), black pudding, white pudding, and the obligatory token tomato and mushroom. Plus all the other components, such as tea, toast, and a pain au chocolat. A very fortifying start to the day, indeed (although this was far and away my most expensive breakfast of the trip, weighing in at 17 quid).

We also finished our trip on a Full English note. While airports are generally not known for good cuisine, there is the occasional exception. One such exception is Brasserie Chez Girard at LHR’s Terminal 3, which is a rather nice sit-down bistro with a very nice breakfast menu. I ended up get L’Anglais (at right), i.e. the Full English, which was your basic Full English. Oddly enough, this was actually the only Full English this trip that included baked beans.

Helpfully, Chez Girard is one of those airport establishments that actually understands that they are in an airport, so they are also good at getting your food and your bill out to you quickly, so you don’t have to scarf your food down as you hope to still make your flight.

All-in-all, this trip added several good Full English breakfasts to my experiences in England.

The Mess
38 Amhurst Rd
Hackney Central
London, UK
Mess Cafe on Urbanspoon

Fountain Restaurant
Fortnum and Mason
181 Piccadilly
London, UK

Brasserie Chez Girard
London Heathrow Airport
Terminal 3 Departure Lounge

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