YouTuber Katie Quinn has the scoop on porridge, the full English, and beigels
Ever think about moving to another country? Last year, video host Katie Quinn (aka QKatie) and her husband packed up their cameras and moved to London, the land of fry-ups. Quinn now makes videos and podcasts with food professionals all over Europe, from cooking with restaurateurs to training as a cheesemonger at Neal’s Yard Dairy, the city’s foremost artisanal cheese shop. Going from Brooklyn brunches to full English breakfasts was bound to be a change, but Quinn has embraced all the differences with ease—though she understandably really misses a New York bagel. I chatted with Quinn over email to get the scoop on how a New Yorker living in London copes when it comes to breakfast.
Extra Crispy: What did you have for breakfast today?
Katie Quinn: Oatmeal (they call it porridge here) topped with some homemade granola or muesli, with a spoonful of almond butter and some fresh local cherries.
Is this a typical breakfast for you?
Yes, very. Sometimes I'll swap out the oats for greek yogurt, and the fruit is on constant rotation. If I don't do fruit then I'll stir a spoonful of jam in (my favorite jam at the moment is a quince and rose jam from Mazi Mas, an incredible organization here in London in which all the very talented cooks are refugees and migrants. They make the best treats!!). Sometimes I'll do a hard-boiled egg with some sumac sprinkled on top. My husband chuckles at my desire to always sprinkle a bit of this, a bit of that on everything. But it's those little things that go far! For a typical day, the porridge combo I just described is my go-to because it fills me up and gives me energy to attack the morning's to-do list!
What would you say is the biggest difference between New Yorkers' breakfast habits and Londoners'?
I get nostalgic thinking about how I'd grab a bagel in the morning on my way to work in NYC. New Yorkers don't even know how lucky they have it with amazing bagels around every corner (or maybe some New Yorkers do know it!). Of course there are the favorite bagel shops in New York, but every neighborhood has at least one decent bagel option. Bagels are not really a thing here in London. There are two famous bagel shops (spelled "beigel") in East London on Brick Lane: Beigel Bake and The Beigel Shop, which are some of the last remnants from when the area was predominantly a Jewish community, reminders of when signs were written in Yiddish. These places are specifically known for their salt beef, served on a bagel with a pickle and and hot mustard.
My husband Connor, a huge fan of the iconic American bacon-egg-n-cheese breakfast, has especially noted that they don't do cheese on their breakfast sandwiches here. It's bacon on a roll or bacon and egg on a roll.
What would you say is a "classic" leisurely London breakfast?
The full English breakfast! Wikipedia says it best: “The traditional full English breakfast includes bacon (traditionally back bacon), fried, poached or scrambled eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or buttered toast, and sausages (also called "bangers"). As nearly everything is fried in this meal, it is commonly called a "fry-up".” The Wolseley here in London does a fantastic classic breakfast spread. There are also usually options that are reminiscent of a typical European breakfast, with meats and cheeses, viennoiseries, fruit, yogurts, cereals, etc.
Another traditional breakfast dish is kedgeree, which is a curried egg, fish and rice dish and is a classic example of an Anglo-Indian mashup (a byproduct of colonization).
I found it interesting that some of my British friends here adore the classic, fluffy American blueberry pancakes, which have become a bit fetishized because you never see them here. They'll sometimes have just plain pancakes with maple syrup and bacon, and crepes, but not the pile of blueberry pancakes that we get at American diners.
Americans (and New Yorkers for sure) love brunch. Do Londoners care about brunch in the same way?
Brunch is definitely not “a thing” here like it is in New York City. From my observation, I'd say that some places in hipster East London have started to hop on the brunch trend of offering unlimited mimosas for brunch. My British friend (@charlottehuco, who's from Birmingham but has lived in London for a decade) told me, “I think [brunch] is still viewed as a very middle-class thing here. Lot of my friends will brunch often, but not the majority of the country.”
Londoners don't care about brunch in the same way New Yorkers do, although one could argue that they were the original brunchers with the Sunday Roast tradition, typically served between 1-3 p.m. on Sundays and in much the same spirit as a New York brunch, I'd say.
Can you name a few of your favorite places to eat breakfast in London, and tell me why they're so special?
Dishoom is everyyythinggg. It's an Indian restaurant that does an incredible breakfast (… and lunch… and dinner… ). My go-to is the Bacon & Naan Roll [photo attached] with a Mango Lassi on the side. They also do a full English Breakfast with an Indian twist called the "Big Bombay." It manages to capture both London and Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) on one plate! Another favorite is St. John Bread & Wine near Spitalfields in East London for the best fresh-baked doughnuts and a really solid breakfast menu overall. Smoking Goat is a Thai restaurant in Shoreditch with a knock-out Thai breakfast. If you're into spicy and noodle for breakfast (as I am!), do there.