If you’re twenty-something, live within an hour of central London or have had a friend’s birthday to celebrate recently, then you’re sure to have been to a bottomless brunch at some point this year. Inspired by the trend that first took off in Manhattan, it’s now more popular than ever and near enough impossible to wander around any London district without being offered unlimited bubbles with your breakfast. Perfectly articulated by Mathieu Gastal of TopBrunch, “brunch is no longer just for people who wake up too late for breakfast on a Sunday” and we Brits spend over £80m a year on the occasion. And that £80m doesn’t take into account the amount of prosecco we go through in tandem. It’s become more than just a piece of bacon, a puddle of beans and eggs “your way”, it’s now a bigger session than Fabric ever was and without a doubt is threatening to unseat the noble roast as the weekend’s main event.
There’s an abundance of reasons why bottomless brunch has taken off at what feels like the speed of knots. The fizz-fueled affair is the perfect way for us to combine one of Britain’s favourite meals with Britain’s favourite past time (getting pissed), without breaking the bank. Nothing brings together a social occasion better than a bit of booze and this notion lets you have as much of the stuff as you can swallow in your two-hour time slot. A glass of mid-morning champagne used to be a Christmas day treat but nowadays we’ve lost all concept of when wine o’clock actually is and depicting Britain’s drinking culture perfectly, bottomless brunch is a justification for having as much alcohol as you want at any time of the day, especially before midday.
Another reason resonating especially to those living in London, is that we’re all pretty cash-poor but incredibly friend-rich. Be it a birthday, engagement celebration or just a jolly good knees up, restaurants offering bottomless brunch accommodate nicely for big groups and it only costs us somewhere in the region of £30-£40 to enjoy a nice meal (usually) and free-flowing bubbles. Some even offer unlimited Mimosas, Bloody Mary’s and Espresso Martinis, naturally making you feel as though you’re getting even more for your money and providing a caffeine hit too. We can’t resist feeling as though we’ve got a good deal, the more drunk you leave, the more convinced you are that you’ve cheated the system and drank more than your money’s worth. It’s not worth thinking about the quality of alcohol or the fact it’s probably being watered down, you’ll be pissed eventually and you didn’t even need to dip into your overdraft so who cares?
I’ve already eluded to it, but London is by far the best place in the country for it. You’ll find hundreds of restaurants offering it, but no two are quite the same. As with anything novel, there are a few places offering a half-hearted attempt at bottomless brunch, but for the pick of the bunch, they’re all offering something a little bit different. I’ve been around the block a few times and nothing quite comes close to Tanner & Co where you’ll each be offered four courses for breakfast and just as many bottles. Stomachs are adequately lined and rowdiness welcomed with open arms, making it the perfect place for big parties. Villandry is good for those wanting a bit of class and Bunga Bunga for those wanting the complete opposite (expect table dancing and the odd male stripper). Food wise, Hotbox is good for meat lovers or those binging at the weekend and Flesh & Buns lets you get hands-on with Japanese food. Other popular places are Bourne & Hollingsworth (more Br than Unch) and Bad Egg which has absolutely nothing bad about it, the food is incredible. Chefs across the country are recognizing the growing trend and even Jamie Oliver has shared a list of his favourite places. Just a few thousand miles away in Dubai, homesick ex-pats can partake in the infamous session at Atlantis, The Palm, and let their hair down in the midst of what is otherwise a very different culture.
Offering a bottomless brunch option has firmly become a well-known marketing tactic for restaurants, but what we don’t quite know is whether the benefit of the promotion outweighs the cost of literally providing as much booze to customers as they wish. Even with a guaranteed £40 a head, profits are being eroded slightly but that’s not to say that these places aren’t still making a killing, particularly when the average £12 cocktail costs about £2.30 to make. The allocated time slot means customers are locked in for at least 2 hours and hence are encouraged to buy more food. Obviously the food needs to be of a high enough standard to make sure customers come back again but if the focus is on what’s in the glass rather than on the plate, then chefs can probably get away with cutting a few corners on quality. The eggs probably aren’t free range and I doubt anyone was up first thing kneading the sourdough, so automatically there’s some simple ways to save some pennies and invest it in the intoxication of your guests instead. But these places will have to be careful as it only takes one too many proseccos to turn your guests from tipsy millenials into football hooligans and with the reputation of your restaurant at stake, you don’t want to put off other diners who came by just for a cappuccino.
Despite pretending to be blissfully ignorant to how unhealthy this much alcohol consumption actually is, the bottomless phenomenon has pretty much become a bi-weekly occurrence now for my friends and I, and I’m almost certain this is a trend that will stick around for a while. While the bottomless offer started off pretty consistently across the market, it’s interesting to see what the late-comers have brought to the party by way of encouraging people to venture there instead of returning to a firm favourite. Participating cuisines now stretch as far as Asia and bottomless cocktails are the latest pull-tactic but I’m sure restaurateurs have plenty more up their sleeves, it just depends how much giveaway their comfortable with. As a group of millenials forever seeking out the next excuse to celebrate, my friends and I are down for trying them all and welcome any new establishment that is happy for their guests to pour out onto the street a few hours later with just as much prosecco left in their bottles as they have dignity.
Don’t worry Mum, that’s an exaggeration.
Pictures are not my own.