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Brunch at Harlem

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by Kat Parr Mackintosh (subscribe)
Young and coffee in varying degrees, Kat also says stuff @ThoroughlyMode
Published November 16th 2010
London is still more a tea-and-two-slices kinda town than a place of great, pre-luncheon cuisine. But if you like to get your feasting out of the way early on in the day to leave time for appropriate digestion then there's nothing quite like a proper New York brunch. And the good news is you CAN get one in London, at appropriately dubbed: Harlem on the 'lower west side' of Westbourne Grove.

They say it's soul food, and from noon on weekdays, and10am on weekends, they're certainly feeding their not-overly-nutritious goodness directly into the soul's feel-good veins, with feel-better classics like buttermilk pancakes with blueberries or bacon and maple syrup, eggs benedict, royale, scrambled, or in omlette form, with bacon, smoked salmon, or a steak! and corned beef hash.

If your stomach doesn't wake up until later in the day you could coax it out with something lighter: granola, bagels, watermelon slices, or just a Bloody Mary from Harlem's Bloody Mary Buffet – an ingenious exercise that guarantees the perfect mix of tomato juice, Tabasco, celery salt, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce and whatever other odds and ends you put into your bloody drink.

But the best dishes on the menu are the Uptown and Downtown brunches which are mixed plates of all of the above and more. Uptown is on the sweet side: pancakes with blueberries, eggs, a bit of bacon, and downtown is on the savoury side: sausage patties, Boston baked beans, eggs how you have them, lashings of bacon, cubed potatoes and grilled tomato. Yes, you may feel your arteries burn but there's plenty of time to work this lot off before bedtime.

If you're not ready for brunch before 4pm then make do with the classic diner dinner menu of ribs, burgers and cobb salads, with added extras like buttermilk fried chicken and mac 'n cheese. The one advantage of missing brunch is that in the evenings there's drinking and DJs downstairs in Harlem's Underground... If you do make it out for brunch you can walk it off round the markets of the Portobello Road just around the corner.

It's not just Harlem's food that tries to be soul-authentic. The décor is used diner chic: leather banquette seating and lots of dark wood are all very West Village, but the faded chandelier is very West End. Harlem is owned by Arthur Baker, who used to produce Chic, amongst other 70s legends, so both floors are covered in fantastic music memorabilia. If you're a music buff check out the photos, records and other bits and pieces while you munch on your brunch.
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Why? Because tea and two slices doesn't always cut it
When: From noon weekdays and 10AM weekends
Where: 78 Westbourne Grove. Nearest tube Bayswater
Cost: You can have a coffee and bagel for around a fiver
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