Brunch is, by its very nature, the most indulgent of meals.
Invented by British writer Guy Beringer in the 1890s as a Sunday cure-all for those who had overindulged the night before, it is timed too early to achieve much beforehand and is too enjoyable to consider planning anything afterwards.
The only plausible reason you’re on your third mimosa at 11am, brunch is a thief of time, served with smashed avocado and a poached egg.
So if you are going to treat yo’self, you might as well do it properly; over four courses on the 39th floor of one of London’s most iconic buildings with a glass of the world’s most iconic Champagne brands in hand.
Searcy’s, the hospitality group responsible for upmarket restaurants in the Barbican, Blenheim Palace and the Pump Room in Bath, has teamed up with Veuve Clicquot on a new brunch offering from its fine dining restaurant directly underneath the famed glass dome of the Gherkin. The partnership shines the spotlight on Verve Rich, a sweet, soft Champagne concocted to bring out the flavours of fresh ingredients and served on the rocks.
Diners can personalise their cocktail with fresh slices of cucumber, spicy bell pepper or chunks of sweet pink grapefruit from the serving trolley, with each bringing a different balance of flavour to Rich’s creamy finish. It goes perhaps without saying that this is far from Beringer’s vision of a Sunday soak-up at your local greasy spoon, so leave your hangovers at home, not least because those feeling fragile may well have trouble navigating their way through the Gherkin’s fortress-like security measures.
Fortunately, ours is a relatively smug Sunday morning as we ride the two lifts up to the 39th floor, where the diamond-framed view of London is resplendent, even shrouded in the soupy leftovers from the Beast from the East 2.0.
The décor is sophisticated and no-frills – futuristic steel furniture, shiny black-tiled floors – presumably to avoid detracting from the panoramic vistas. And the same could be said for the menu; four courses of British brunch classics that have been elevated to another level.
To start, a generous serving of light, buttery pastries and sourdough; pleasant enough but for the most part untouched because there’s indulgence, and then there’s the top button of one’s jeans.
A light first course makes heroes of British produce; bright, juicy heritage tomatoes over creamy ricotta and smoked salmon and pesto on a dense seeded loaf.
The eggs arrived next; fried with black pudding or bavette steak, poached with smokey beans or a choice of Benedict, Florentine or Arlington with a rich hollandaise sauce.
Each was executed with precision and all the classic flavours present and accounted for, but the surprising standout was a salmon fishcake; light, flaky and encased in a crisp shell of breadcrumbs. Desserts, if you can fit them in, include a chocolate ganache tart with malt ice cream and a slightly bitter Guinness gel, waffles with berries and chantilly cream, ice creams, sorbets and cheeses.
There is also an impressive-looking Eton mess, which seems excessive for the hour (barely noon) but who are we kidding? This is brunch.