Restaurants; Let's raise a toast!

Restaurants have woken up to a bleary weekend breakfast market. Nikki Spencer celebrates the great British brunch

America has a lot to answer for: massive shopping malls, drive-through burger bars, and the Jerry Springer Show... But there is one terribly civilised thing that has come from across the pond, and that's brunch.

After the excesses of Christmas, the idea of sitting down to a formal, three-course meal may still make some of us feel a little queasy, whereas a relaxed lunchtime spent chilling out - reading the papers, drinking coffee or cocktails and tucking into eggs and bagels - is probably just what the doctor ordered.

And there is certainly no shortage of places around where you can indulge in this sort of activity. Old favourites, such as Le Caprice and Joe Allen's, in the West End, are being joined by relative newcomers such as the Riverstation in Bristol, whose weekend brunch has been so popular that from next month they are extending it throughout the week as well.

Yet it's not only modern-European and American-style restaurants that are offering brunch. On a Sunday at Chutney Mary (above), the award-winning Indian restaurant on the King's Road, you can tuck into spicy scrambled eggs on granary toast or fresh, flaked salmon and crab cakes with Goa spices to the accompaniment of a jazz duet.

Or, for something a little grander, there's always the Palm Court at the Waldorf Hotel. Every Sunday they also hold a jazz brunch, but with the added extras of unlimited food and unlimited champagne - though this is probably one to avoid if you've just started your new year's diet.

At most places, brunch is very much a family affair, and children are welcome. Some establishments are going further than others to make them feel at home. At The Collection, on Sundays, they turn the downstairs bar into a kids' play area, with Norland Nannies on hand to look after the little ones so their parents can get a taste of how weekends used to be.

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