Brunch, the combination of breakfast and lunch, is a hot trend that’s taken off in London. The versatility of the meal, as well as the social acceptance of having a boozy beverage in the morning/early afternoon makes it highly attractive to all ages. Whether you’re nursing a hangover, having lunch out after church, or on a date with a romantic interest, brunch is can fit into any weekend plans. The places on this list will be more than enough to get you out of bed in the morning.
The Early Bird
For a premium version of the diner classics you know and love, the Early Bird is the place to go when you’re downtown. They call themselves a “fine diner,” meaning they bring fine dining standards to diner food. They avoid frozen and processed foods at all cost, including smoking and curing their own bacon in-house. The Early Bird has become a hotspot for Londoners to get their greasy spoon fix without sacrificing in food quality. The Early Bird offers classic brunch fare with a twist, including a variety of styles of Eggs Benedict, including one with BBQ pulled pork and smoked garlic slaw. Alongside those options, they have classic breakfast platters, a Toad in the Hole, and their take on a breakfast sandwich that they call the Egg Mc Justin. Or if you’d prefer a sweet brunch over savory, they offer mouthwatering pancakes, waffles, and French toast. Or if you’d rather pull out all the stops, the Fat Elvis, a monster-sized plate of French toast slathered in peanut butter, honey, and maple syrup and layered with bacon and fried bananas. Breakfast dishes aren’t the only options though. Early Bird offers a plethora of sandwiches, including some of the best grilled cheese known to man, poutines and perogies. Or for the best of both worlds, the chicken and waffles will rock your world. If you slept in on your weekend, fear not: their breakfast menu is available all day. Or at least until they close, which is 8pm on Saturdays and 3pm on Sundays.
Cora Breakfast and Lunch
Although we don’t usually like to feature chains, Cora is too good not to talk about. With two locations in London, one on Adelaide North and the other on Wellington by the Victoria Hospital, Cora’s is a go-to brunch spot for Londoners and Canadians in general. Starting humbly in a small diner in Montreal by Cora Mussely Tsouflidou, Cora Breakfast and Lunch was a pioneer in the breakfast/brunch space, claiming to have invented, or at least improved, a great number of modern staple breakfast dishes. The Cora model is simple: quality, feel-good food done quickly. While they’ll never push you out of the restaurant, the rate of people flowing in and out of their dining room is impressive. Food comes quick, but not for lack of quality, freshness or taste. Their menu offers every breakfast staple, from omelets to crepes to bagels and lox, in an unbelievable variety of combinations. Their fruit and/or chocolate-filled pancakes are huge crowd-pleasers and their array of egg preparations – from scrambled to Eggs Benedict to omelets – are incredibly satisfying. Always innovating, their newest menu items are as thought-provoking as they are mouthwatering. From their omelet burger (in any of their varieties of omelet) to the Double Surprise, a plate of two French toast sandwiches made with egg, bacon or ham, and swiss cheese, all topped with fresh fruit. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the sweet/salty combination is hard to deny. Since brunch is also half lunch, Cora also offers a lunch menu. Burgers and sandwiches are their main offerings, as well as savory crepes turned into wraps and burritos. Cora Breakfast and Lunch is an easy go-to with options for even the pickiest of eaters. Cozy but cool, classic but innovative, Cora is perfect for any crowd no matter who you are.
Richie’s Family Restaurant
Neighbourhood: Masonville 1673 Richmond St. (map)
Richie’s Family Restaurant is an old school diner nestled away in a plaza across from Masonville Mall. After over 60 years of service, it’s easy to say these guys know what they’re doing. Breakfast at Richie’s isn’t just a morning deal. You can get it any time you desire so long as their doors are open. Their all-day breakfast has attracted London to their doors for over half a century. Their menu is familiar, but not tired. Whether you’re looking for the classic breakfast or a more lunch-like meal, you’re bound to find something that you’re already craving on that menu. Eggs, pancakes, and bacon cover much of their menu in various ratios. They also offer an 8oz New York Sirloin steak served with two eggs and toast if bacon or sausage fails to intrigue you. Or for a lighter variation, you can get your eggs with fresh fruit and cottage cheese, called the Fresh Start. Richie’s is a family favourite, which makes sense as a family-owned and operated business. When you enter, you’re bound to find multiple generations sharing a table in the dining room. For a welcoming and cozy experience, Richie’s is a go-to favourite for many Londoners, and that many people can’t possibly be wrong.
Neighbourhood: Fanshawe Ridge 1910 Highbury St. N (map)
If you talk to a north Londoner about weekend brunch, you’re basically guaranteed to hear about Johnny’s. This family-owned diner is about as north as you can go on Highbury without leaving the city at the corner of Fanshawe Park Road. Johnny’s is a great fit for anybody. It’s family friendly while still maintaining a degree of coolness that attracts a younger, childless crowd. The combination of friendly staff and large portions of delicious food, and fair prices is undeniable, no matter what demographic you fall under. Diner classics come hot and fresh from Johnny’s kitchen, from breakfast sausages to pancakes, you’re bound to be satisfied. For the lunch side of brunch, a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches are up for grabs. Whether you want a burger, a chicken caesar wrap, or a beef dip, they’ve got you covered. Even when Johnny’s gets busy, you’ll never be waiting too long. Sunday mornings and early afternoons are their busiest time considering one of the largest churches in the city of London, North Park Community Church, is a stone’s throw from the diner and many have made Johnny’s their brunch destination after their service has finished. The appeal of Johnny’s is universal, attracting Londoners of all types to their location in the far north.
Campus Hi-Fi is a mainstay in the everchanging landscape of Richmond Row. While there has been a whole lot of ebb and flow throughout the years, this diner has stayed the course since 1957. With two post-secondary campuses in London, Campus Hi-Fi knows what college students need on weekend mornings: food that is simultaneously tasty, cheap, and just greasy enough to curb the effects of last night’s party. All-day breakfast is the name of the game at Campus Hi-Fi, offering classics and implementing their own personal twists. Sure, getting The Traditional – 2 eggs, 3 strips of bacon or sausage links, home fries, and toast – is a guaranteed hit, but why not try something a little new, like Shawn’s Breakfast Poutine, Pete’s Scramble, or Meg’s Ukrainian Breakfast, which offers perogies, Polish sausage, eggs, and toast. It’s close to the classic, but just different enough to keep things interesting. If you’re not feeling the breakfast elements of brunch, you can grab one of their lunch dishes, whether if be fish and chips or the Hi-Fi burger. The entire menu is on the cheaper side, considering their target demographic is college students, it makes sense. But if you’ve graduated, dropped out, or were never interested in post-secondary life, don’t feel like you aren’t invited to this brunch party – everyone is welcome.
While so many brunch spots are focused on eggs and their many preparations, these places look to attract the plant-based crowd. Rather than just offering options like plain old fruit salad and dry toast, these places celebrate the plant-based lifestyle and make it something to get excited about.
Plant Matter Kitchen
Don’t let vegan scare you away, it’s not going to hurt you – in fact, it didn’t hurt anyone or anything to make these delicious brunch options! Whether you’re vegan, brunching with someone that is, or just looking to switch things up and step out of your brunch comfort zone, heading down to Wortley Village to visit Plant Matter Kitchen is a fantastic idea. Not unlike the restaurants above, Plant Matter Kitchen offers classic brunch dishes such as breakfast sandwiches, huevos rancheros, and breakfast burritos – but they’re vegan. In place of eggs, which aren’t vegan, Plant Matter fills your plate with scrambled tofu, which has a similar texture to scrambled egg. If you’re worried that they would leave hungry, fear not. For the largest diets, Plant Matter Kitchen offers the Hangry Burrito Deluxe, a burrito so massive, it has its own gravitational pull – or maybe that’s just the intoxicating smell pulling in those who order it. The Hangry Burrito Deluxe is a tortilla packed full with everything but the kitchen sink and topped with tomato sauce, house-made cheese sauce, and sour cream. There’s no picking this thing up, it’s a fork-and-knife type of burrito. And you can be sure it’s a glorious mess once you dive in. As one of the growing number of vegan restaurants in London, Plant Matter Kitchen is absolutely leading the charge in the brunch category. Their offerings will hit the spot for vegans and non-vegans alike.
Z’Energy Day Cafe
Z’Energy Day Café is the identity that Zen’Za Pizzeria takes on in the morning hours until 3pm. Z’Energy’s claim to fame is the most visually impressive avocado toast that I’ve ever seen. On most avocado toasts, the titular avocado is presented on the toasted bread as a mash or maybe in slices. At Z’Energy, the skilled hands of James the Brit Barista shape avocado into a beautiful swirling flower. But it’s not just a feast for the eyes, the Brit Barista concocts delicious flavor combinations to compliment the richness of the avocado. Caramelized onions, balsamic mushrooms, various cheeses, both dairy-based and vegan, can all be added to your avocado toast to enhance it even further. But it’s not called a café for the avocado toast, their drinks are also heavenly. Their drink menu runs the gambit of old school to trendy, simple to complex. Grabbing a black coffee is an undeniable classic but exploring new terrain with a turmeric and ginger latte could result in you finding your new personal favourite. James the Brit Barista always goes above and beyond, and he’s a real character, so expect lively conversation as you order. We highly recommend following the Z’Energy Facebook page for his daily show which is always high energy and engaging – definitely worth checking out, but the real thing is always better. Z’Energy is a great place to spend your morning or early afternoon. Between the fantastic food, the delectable drinks, and the Brit Barista, Z’Energy’s irresistible energy will be bringing you back time and time again.
These places are small and mostly unknown. Their internet presence is nearly non-existent, their signage is minimal, and they don’t advertise. In fact, you’ve probably driven past them and not given them a second thought, but little did you know that they’ve got some of the most rocking brunch in the city.
Westside Family Restaurant
Neighbourhood: Oxford Park 107 Mount Pleasant Ave. (map)
Westside Family Restaurant is nothing fancy. They’re a tiny restaurant that shares a parking lot with a gas station. But in their kitchen, some of the best greasy spoon breakfast foods are dished out. Although it might not be the healthiest start to your day, the home fries are to-die-for and can heal your hangover pains like nothing else.
B&B Snack Bar
Neighbourhood: Downtown 529 Pall Mall St. (map)
B&B Snack Bar is another tiny spot you may have driven past several times without even realizing. This hole in the wall can be found on Pall Mall, but only if you’ve got great eyesight or a map app open. Their signage is pretty small, but it’s apt for their space with only 10 counter seats and a few two-person tables. Their menu is simple, but delicious nonetheless. Eggs, a selection of breakfast meats, toast, and home fries are the main core of their menu with a few additions and daily specials to round it out. At B&B, they focus on the basics, and they do it well, so as long as you go in craving bacon and eggs, you’ll leave satisfied.