Arranging to meet a colleague in London's museum quarter, I tiredly stumble into the first place I come to, folksy new brunch and lunch place, Muriel's Kitchen.
Named after some venture capitalist's grandmother (who obviously had a smart eye for a roll out and a chain concept). It's as British as only South Kensington can be, like a plastinated theme park recreation of a fictionalised remembrance of a bucolic rose tinted past. See also Irish pubs in airports and Michael Gove's education policy.
The look goes for Farrow and Ball country kitchen, the menu farmer's market chic. If there's a limit to the number of times they can reference fresh and local and ‘fun’ I can't find it. It's been designed by a focus group consisting of the wives of Tory grandees and former prison guards.
The staff are joyless and borderline scary as they contemplate table turn and space yield in a way that would impress the most ruthless of bankers. We're all crammed in closely and efficiently despite the space being less than half filled. I pitied the poor sods who followed after me and, unhappy with their allocated seating at the apex of two, cold windows attempted to move. “All of the chairs are assigned to a table… Please don't move them. No, no. Those tables are for four people only”. This is ‘fun’… with deliberate quotation marks.
Despite that oh so jolly treatment, the food genuinely isn't that bad. My cheese omelette was borderline undercooked (in true French style) but fresh, light and creamy with a good hit of sharp cheese. The chutney alongside is just as I remember from my mother's WI days. Poached eggs are blisteringly golden, melting across acres of blushing toast that crunches with seedy goodness. Only anaemic coffee lets it down, I could be taking the line on parsimony too far but it tastes like the second time the beans have been used.
It's generally a fine breakfast, with fine ingredients, albeit for a fairly ‘fine’ price. As it is removed we are upsold more tea, coffee or additional pasties. Declining, we are immediately presented with the bill and practically cleared with the table. Despite a decent breakfast, sometimes you remember why eating out is not just about the food…