In my quest to indulge in as many brunches as my weekends and purse strings allow, I’ve noticed a theme: many of London’s best breakfasts are cooked by Antipodeans. As Australian chef Anna Hansen explains, “Down under brunch is a weekend ritual, with no formality and no rushing off to work.” Therefore, it’s no surprise that Hansens’s restaurant, The Modern Pantry, is known as one of the best brunch spots in the city.
Part steel foundry, part Georgian townhouse, the Modern Pantry’s industrial façade is lightened by bright pink window boxes. Inside, the restaurant is a lesson in elegance, from its pale wooden floors and sun-washed grey walls to such small touches as linen napkins and dainty sprigs of flowers. On a hot summer day, it is a delight to slip into one of the simple wooden chairs and be served a crisp, refreshing grapefruit juice or a creamy smoothie by poised staff in chic white aprons.
As a trainee of Peter Gordon and co-founder of The Providores, Hansen’s skillful fusion cooking has been much remarked upon. Her global approach prevails in the brunch menu. There is rendang mince on toast, deep fried egg and a chilli lime dressing, or the Caledonian prawn omelette with smoked chilli sambal that has become something of an institution. Few could successfully combine these distinctive Asian flavours and milder, seasonal British produce, but Hansen’s rare delicate touch forges international ties with accomplished ease.
Perhaps the chef’s hand was a little too delicate when preparing my waffles, for whilst the British ingredients sang, the gentle Asian flavours barely whispered. Aside from the beautiful mint green colouring, I was unable to detect the fragrant pandan that I grew to love in Asia and the yogurt, though deliciously spun through with rhubarb, only hinted at lemongrass. The strawberries, poached until tender and infused with the subtle sweetness of elderflower, reigned triumphant over the dish. There was neither enough of them nor the yogurt, but obliging staff brought extra rations to save us from eating the waffle dry.
The Modern Pantry also offers a number of lighter dishes focused on fruits and grains. A well-balanced bowl of crunchy honey-roast oats, seeds, nuts and grated apple arrived resting on a soft pillow of Greek yogurt and crowned with nature’s rubies, pomegranate seeds. It was beautiful in its simplicity. Other, more familiar, options of muesli and fruit salads are rejuvenated with more unorthodox additions of tamarillio, caraway seeds or fennel syrup.
Still hungry? Indulge in an item from the fresh pastry section. It’s worth it for the sweet-sharp tang of the accompanying rhubarb jam and for the excuse to sit in serenity a while longer.