Combining a full English breakfast and a pint of beer is behaviour often localised to airports… at least it is for me. I love it. It’s kind of time travel, where you exist for an hour or two in an anonymous terminal where regular mealtimes have no meaning. Recently, we found ourselves perusing the market stalls and antique stores along Portobello Road, which allows time travel in a far more glorious way. I lost myself in the maps; all original, crusty, tanned and indicating national borders that have long-since changed. The European was busy moon-eyeing the endless trays of jewellery made from various pearls and precious stones.
We left the stores empty-handed and hungry. You would hardly know that we are in the middle of a pandemic. Portobello Road was packed, with queues of shoppers stringing out from many market stalls. Even the oldies were out in force; a surly pensioner berated The European for attempting buy Roma tomatoes with a bank card, not cash… just like old times. As always though, I booked ahead. The crowds were not going to get in the way of a good lunch.
We headed to the Electric Diner, located right at the heart of the central stretch of Portobello Road that one could describe as ‘Notting Hill-y’. It’s adjacent – and connected to – the Electric Cinema, which, having opened in 1910, and cosmetically remaining faithful to the time, is bit of a time capsule in its own right (‘fun’ fact: serial killer John Christie used to work there as a projectionist).
The diner and cinema are both part of Soho House; the diner certainly gives off that certain hipster-y, chilled-out vibe of its parent company. We pushed past the queue (mostly people waiting for a table on its tiny market-facing terrace) and were seated at our table, a huge and secluded banquette underneath two thumping speakers. We looked to move but a) there were no spare tables and b) every one of them has their own pair of thumping speakers anyway.
The speakers were the first thing to annoy me. The second thing, which garnered a little more empathy, was the limited menu. We were given a sheet with four Q.R. codes – for all-day dining, breakfast, brunch and drinks. Having booked in for 1 P.M., I will concede that the full breakfast menu is not appropriate, but we were swiftly told by our swift-footed server (blink and you would miss her) that all-day dining was also um, off the menu. I know that restaurants are feeling the pinch and narrowing their offerings in order to protect their outgoings, but why be so cruel as to dangle the carrot in front of this hungry hippo?
Anyway, not to fear, there were lots of tasty options for brunch (to be fair, a lot of them taken straight from all-day dining), discounted by a few quid each thanks to Saint Rishi. The menu reflects the diner-style surroundings of hardwood tables, leather sofas and walls of white tile. Burgers, hot dogs and other associated stodge rub shoulders with breakfast staples and smoothies. The diner’s food is billed as ‘French-American’; to me, the only indication of the former seemed to be a few dishes which were offered with a side of aioli.
Already a third of the way through a pint of I.P.A., I saw no reason not to order the full English breakfast with a side of hash browns. Maybe it was the morning’s immersion in antiques skewing my time-perception or maybe it was my endless sad stubbornness making sure I order a breakfast just to spite the lack of all-day dining. I wouldn’t put it past myself. The European followed my lead and took a plate of waffles fried egg and bacon.
Even with the discount, this is still diner food, and at the far end of what I would be willing to pay for it. I expected high quality and got it… just. The full English was O.K. in parts and great in others; chunky and sweet smoked bacon, wonderful hash browns that tasted home-made, deep and earthy black pudding and oh, those sausages! Herby, lean and moreish. But that’s the thing. There should have been more. Half the plate seemed to have been taken up with mushroom and tomato with a corner reserved for a couple of small slices of sourdough which looked larger than they were. The scrambled eggs were fine, but we can do better back at the apartment (I have been trained well by The European).
For all the many years I have been ordering full breakfasts, I am yet to discover one that tastes amazing outside of three main locations: greasy-spoons, Wetherspoons, and home(spoons?). As for my better half, she enjoyed her fried eggs and waffles but is not a fan of thick cut bacon so gave her rashers to me. Before I realised what was going on she had the sausage off my plate and that was that.
The afternoon breakfast with beer certainly reënergised me for a long walk from Notting Hill to Bond Street Station, via Little Venice, although in retrospect I do feel that this baroque combination is more enjoyable in the departure lounge of an airport, on the the way to some far-flung corner of the world ( I can’t wait to fly again). As for The Electric Diner? I had heard a lot of about it before I visited and whereas there was nothing to seriously complain about and the food was generally on the correct side of adequate, I wouldn’t rush back. When we visited, the cinema next door wasn’t open, but now it is. If you book a sofa or bed (seriously) to watch a film, you get fifty percent off your meal at the diner, so that might be more worthwhile. That, or going in there for breakfast and ordering a cheeseburger and a cup of tea.
Food, two rounds of beers plus service came to £fifty five (including Eat Out to Help Out discount).