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How To Deal With The Brunch Comedown

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Photographed by Danny Kim
Despite all their promises, eggs on toast are repeatedly failing to change my life.

As a Londoner, there isn’t much I believe in anymore. Not in politicians, chuggers or the property ladder. Not in the Victoria line, or in the TFL announcers who say you shouldn’t get the Victoria Line. Not in people who tell you the cashpoint is out of order, or that they’ll watch your laptop while you go to the loo, or that their swaying pal on the N29 isn’t about to be sick on your shoes.

But like every third millennial with FOMO and an overdraft, I do believe in brunch.

I’m there with the best of them every weekend, packing up my hangover and joining the queue at dawn to coo over runny yolk, chug flat whites and cocktails in stomach-curdling tandem, fall off a banquette trying to get the perfect overhead table photo, and be obediently swept out like old toast crumbs when the waiters need to herd the next lot of hopefuls in.

I brunch like it's a nervous tic. Sometimes I don't even realise I've done it until I come to, an hour later, addled with caffeine and sugar and wiping the avocado smears off my jeans. This morning I pitched up at The Good Egg in Stoke Newington (not to be confused with Bad Egg in Barbican, Egg Break in Notting Hill or West Egg – the fictional town in The Great Gatsby) at 9:40am – a full 20 minutes before it opened – and barely even felt ashamed.

I’ve had brunch in the sky, brunch underground, brunch on a boat, brunch on the beach, a ‘bottomless’ brunch that turned out to be BYOB and brunch that called itself ‘brunch’ but was really just a trough of chilli con carne with an egg floating on top like a life raft. I’ve had Dishoom’s liver keema curry at 9am, Caravan’s jalapeno cornbread at 8am, and a sugar comedown so severe after Duck and Waffle’s duck and waffle that I thought my time had come.

But recently, and I’m sorry if a plate of French toast somewhere dies when I say this, I've been having… doubts. At first I thought it was just acid reflux, but it turned out to be twinges of disillusionment. I’m becoming a brunch agnostic.

‘Brunching’, smuggest of the modern verbs, with all its promises of Sunday papers and sparkling wit

Because the actual brunch is never quite as good as the IDEA of brunching, is it? ‘Brunching’, smuggest of the modern verbs, with all its promises of Sunday papers and sparkling wit, everyone suddenly channelling the spirit of Noel Coward just because they’re clever enough to roll two meals into one. You can dress it up in syrup all you like, the fact remains that you’re still going to have the same chat in The Wolseley as you would in a Wimpy bar. Maybe better in the Wimpy, because the waiter isn’t judging you.

The food has started to fall short of expectations too, as menus fail to keep up with my ballooning greed. Why can't I get brioche and potatoes and chorizo and miso hollandaise and beef short rib and AND whipped yoghurt with hazelnut praline all on one plate? Why must I choose? Why do my friends just want a cup of tea and refuse to laugh gaily over Bloody Marys like an iStock photo labelled “women, brunch”?
Why am I nauseous for three hours afterwards? Why do I leave feeling like I've just lost an orgasm, as well as £22.50? Is it possible that, despite all suggestions to the contrary, eggs on toast are NOT going to change my life?

Of course, it’s not as easy as saying “brunch is dead! I shall have three Weetabix at home in my own kitchen and SCREW the mark-up!”, because I’d never see any of my friends again. Swearing off poached eggs would make me a bigger pariah than Dry January. Where eight years ago my social life revolved around Sam Smith pubs and sticky basement clubs, it now centres on communal tables made from tree trunks and wherever does the best shakshuka. Where once we drank, now we eat. Then eat some more, drink another coffee, and retire at a wholesome hour in the afternoon to have an enormous poo in private.

But eventually, I suppose, things will shift again. Eventually brunch will go back to just being food, and we'll place all our hopes and dreams in something else.

So as the reality sinks in like the lead weight of brisket hash in my belly, I’m trying to stay positive and look to the future. What will be the next brunch? Souped-up, three course midnight feasts? Fishfingers, beans and potato waffles at 5pm, like our childhoods?

Or elevenses? If we could scale things back to a social habit that just involves a mug of Earl Grey and two very nice chocolate biscuits, it could be excellent for both my cholesterol and bank balance. “I’ve heard about this great new elevenses place in Peckham!” people will say. “Their vermouth-infused lavender garibaldis are to diiiiiie.”

“Meet you there at sunrise so we can get a table?”
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