Bourne and Hollingsworth. Or Bourne and Hollingsworth Buildings as they call themselves. Every bit as pretentious as it sounds, it’s definitely a ‘ladies who brunch’ type of place – think bottomless cocktails, designer handbags and large groups of gossipy women exchanging expensive gifts. I mean this with a hefty touch of satire of course; I’m both heavily generalising and the stereotyping (we quite clearly don’t fit that group and I’m sure there were many others there who didn’t) but there’s no denying that it felt more exclusive and refined than our average brunch spot.
It’s in a bit of a strange location.. the nearest tube stop is Farringdon and it’s just under ten minutes walk from there and slightly longer to Angel. It was eerily quiet for a Saturday morning – there were more people inside having brunch at this place than on all of the surrounding streets put together. We arrived around 11 (we had a booking at 11.15) and it was fairly quiet, but it got busy very quickly. They have quite a large seating area but not a huge number of tables – obviously a lot more than the average small London brunch spot but there are a lot of tables set up for big parties of 8-10. Since they take bookings I think you’d definitely struggle to get in without one for weekend brunch. I’d probably advise booking in advance too; I have tried booking this place on the Monday/Tuesday of the week I wanted to go which I’d expect to be sufficiently early at a lot of places, but they were booked up. Despite the prices not being noticeably more expensive than many other brunch places we visit, it did seem like it was slightly more special than your average brunch.
Inside, B&H Buildings has a strange mix of décor but it worked – there was an old fashioned country home style bar area complete with an oversized Christmas tree, a piano and a fireplace, going through to a rainforest themed area which led on further to a conservatory-type room, with hanging baskets of plants, wooden fans spinning from the ceiling and a mix of rainforest themed arm chairs and dark green velvet sofas. It almost looked like something out of a film set and it’s exactly the type of place I’d expect large groups of girls to come for brunch and a catch up. In the bar area there were plenty of families and mixed groups but the inside area was exactly that – full of big groups of women all trying to talk over each other, which meant it got pretty noisy. It was strangely dark inside despite the open windows, but it was a gloomy Winter day and the only light inside was from a few bare, rustic lightbulbs.
They offer a small and ever changing menu – the menu when we went was different to when I’d looked at it online a few months back. We started with coffees and juice and it didn’t take us too long to decide on our first course. I was starving! I’d had a heavy day of eating before – I’d been working from home (snacks on tap!) and we’d been for a five-pound pizza and doughball dinner before ordering (literally!) all the snacks at the cinema and I always find that the day after eating more than usual I wake up even more hungry the next day! We got the braised beef, crispy potato hash, HP hollandaise, crispy shallots with a fried duck egg and it was every bit as amazing as it sounds. Soft, tender pulled meat in a creamy sauce with soft potatoes and a runny fried egg. We got a side of sourdough too of course, though they didn’t bring any butter 😦 Luckily we had the delicious sauces from the brisket and the hollandaise to compensate!
After our main we usually move onto dessert but I was still hungry. They had a few other savoury options, but they’re more lunch than brunch – a burger and a tagliatelle for example, though they did have a kedgeree too. I can’t decide where I stand on kedgeree and I am simple at heart so I went for an absolute cliché of an option – smoked salmon, avocado and poached eggs. They offer a ‘build your own’ breakfast that comes with two eggs and three sides of your choice, but it’s extra for both smoked salmon and avocado so I ended up ordered my dish as a load of sides. They have a combined smoked salmon + avocado side so I got that with a side of poached eggs too. We also got more sourdough as a side.. they offer crumpets too which in hindsight would have been a better choice since we’d already had toast, but you just can’t beat the classic avocado toast!
Despite them all being sides, to me it seemed pretty obvious that I was ordering it as a complete dish, so I was slightly surprised to see itt all came completely deconstructed, so I literally had to build the dish myself, not that it’s something to complain about J I guess there’s not much to say (and not much that can go wrong!) with poached eggs, avocado and smoked salmon! The smoked salmon was delicious – a beautiful colour and a nice balance of saltiness without it being overpowering. They’d been a bit too heavy handed with the lemon in my crushed avocado and it was also starting to brown. The poached eggs were the smoothest I’ve ever seen – though I think the whites had been trimmed off, otherwise they were the smallest eggs I’ve ever seen. The middles were beautifully runny as expected though – talk about the perfect picture!
Then it was time for the sweet stuff! They don’t actually have a huge amount of sweet breakfast options.. they did have some desserts, which I guess fits with the whole long/all-day brunch theme, but when it comes to brunch I really am quite traditional. I don’t want a chocolate brownie and ice cream as a brunch dessert.. I want warm almond croissants, pancakes and waffles drowned in syrup! The only sweet option on the menu was drop scones which were served with a choice of clotted cream, berries and honey, caramelised banana and mixed nuts and streaky bacon and maple syrup. Despite loving the bacon and maple syrup combination, I’d already had plenty of salty foods so I was feeling something totally sweet. Caramelised banana would usually be my first choice but the waitress couldn’t tell me which nuts were present in the mixed nuts, so that left me with one option only! Rather than order the same dish (again!) we decided to share to leave extra stomach space for all of the birthday treats Marcus had planned for me later in the day 🙂 It turns out we needn’t have shared, as the pancakes were small and thin, but what they lacked in volume they certainly made up for in flavour! They were buttery and almost slightly crispy on the outside, yet light and fluffy and sweet in the middle. Anticipating them being a little dry since they were only served with clotted cream, we ordered a side of yogurt too, but I wouldn’t even say they needed it. I’d probably have preferred a berry compote rather than whole berries, but the pancakes were so delicious I’d have happily just eaten them alone with a drizzle of honey.
We washed them down with more coffees of course and I have to say I was pretty impressed with the coffees. My flat white came with beautiful coffee art and the coffee was strong without leaving the strange aftertaste whose presence in London coffee shops I so frequently moan about.
All in all it was a lovely place, serving up all of the typical items you’d expect to find on a brunch menu with a relaxed and slightly more refined atmosphere than a lot of other independent cafes. I loved the quirky decoration, from the strange floral armchairs to the weird rustic bathtub in the toilets (which I soon realised was actually the sink!). For me, it was nothing to get excited about; if you’re after a more upmarket brunch than your typical in-and-out London brunch spot, then it does the job but there are certainly better choices around.
Would I recommend it? Yes
Worth going out of your way for? No
Would I go back? Probably not
Link to their website: http://bandhbuildings.com