Breakfast, they say, is the most important meal of the day, and I’ve been lucky enough to take advantage of them all around the world. I’ve started with congee in Hong Kong and a no-fun egg-white omelette with a decaf soy latte in California.
No matter whether I’ve made a full-bodied assault on a hotel’s buffet or nipped down a side street to find that perfect locals-only cafe, breakfast is always the meal that sets the tone of my trip away.
I’ve learned that Italians do it standing up, the Dutch put chocolate sprinkles on their bread, and the Swedes often offer hangover tablets at the buffet table.
A sense of occasion: The Wolseley, London‘s offerings include a fry-up, pancakes and kedgeree, as shown off here, as well as devilled kidneys, bircher muesli and egg-white frittata. It may not be cheap but it’s certainly a treat
I also know that American pancakes can sometimes double as construction bricks but grits – a creamy cornmeal served with bacon and cheese – is more delicious than it sounds.
There’s a sense of occasion and a touch of theatre here; silver domes are lifted to reveal everything from devilled kidneys to kedgeree. In the heart of Piccadilly, there’s a global-minded menu including bircher muesli and egg-white frittata.
Not cheap but very inviting.
Bethnal Green has become very hip, but one thing has stayed the same.
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WEST COUNTRY: THE PIG, DEVON
You’ll find mismatched crockery, vats of local yogurt, impeccably meaty sausages and fat slices of bacon at this Elizabethan country house near Honiton. Staff try to source everything from within a 25-mile radius and most of the vegetables come from the hotel’s own garden.
SCOTLAND: SHIP ON THE SHORE, EDINBURGH
Overlooking the former Royal Yacht Britannia on the Leith waterfront, a truly regal breakfast awaits at Ship On The Shore. Options include smoked salmon, Arbroath smokies and Stornoway black pudding, and can be partnered with oysters and champagne.
YORKSHIRE: BETTYS, HARROGATE
A Yorkshire institution that celebrates its centenary this year.
The Swiss heritage of Bettys means that there’s Gruyere cheese and muesli on offer, but also solidly local pikelets, muffins and Yorkshire-produced sausages. There are six branches but Harrogate feels like the mother ship – a light and airy Victorian building overlooking sedate Montpellier.
WALES: HARBOURMASTER HOTEL, ABERAERON
Playing to geographical strengths, the morning offering at the 13-room Harbourmaster, one of Wales’s first boutique hotels, comes with seaweed-enriched laverbread and Penian bacon. But it also has room for modern favourites such as avocado toast, all served quayside in the pretty coastal town.
IRELAND: BALLYMALOE, COUNTRY CORK
This hotel has provided farm-to-fork eating since 1964. The Allen family keep the farmhouse ethos, and breakfast tables groan with dishes including porridge made from local Macroom oatmeal, butter and cream from the hotel’s farm and even coffee from its own roastery.
SWEDEN: GREASY SPOON, STOCKHOLM
The city’s trendiest cafe is a benchmark for rising breakfast trends, serving everything from smashed avocado to beetroot latte, although there are updates of British breakfast classics, including fry-ups.
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At the point where the Grand Canal curves out towards the Adriatic, you can enjoy breakfast while taking in one of Europe’s most perfect views. Although the food is expensive, it is everything you’d hope for from a five-star hotel.
Ask for a terrace table and admire the Santa Maria della Salute opposite.
In the food-obsessed Les Halles area, one of the city’s best bakeries has a small cafe attached. The croissants and baguettes straight from the oven are the best you’ll ever taste.
And the bakery has charm in spades.
10 Place des Petits Peres, close to the Bourse metro station.
A menu that reflects the city’s diversity and love of carb-laden breakfasts with bagels and lox, knishes and challah bread. This cafe only opened in 2014 but with its dapper white-jacketed waiters, it brings a century of Lower East Side culinary history from the veteran, family-owned deli attached.
CHATEAU MARMONT, LOS ANGELES
Breakfast with a full complement of celebrities on the side, this hotel is where people come to see, be seen and eat lots of protein, plus sip cold-pressed juices served inside this Victorian mansion and on the terrace. Just don’t try to take any photographs: cameras are banned.
Middle East feast: Houmous, shakshuka ‘shaken eggs’ and salads – like these at Manta Ray, Tel Aviv, are popular worldwide
In the heart of the Capeland winelands, this serene gabled farmhouse, surrounded by an estate, is perhaps South Africa‘s best-known foodie hotel. At breakfast, the light-filled Babel restaurant offers impeccable ingredients, including estate-made olive oil and micro herbs picked minutes before they appear on the plate.
ISRAEL: MANTA RAY, TEL AVIV
Middle Eastern breakfasts are having a moment, with houmous, shakshuka ‘shaken eggs’ and salads popping up across the globe. Manta Ray has a beachfront setting and crowds lap up the Mediterranean climate by heading out to the terrace to enjoy one of the city’s finest breakfasts.
AUSTRALIA: BONDI ICEBERGS, SYDNEY
It’s insanely popular, but one to savour, especially after a bracing dip in the saltwater pool.
KENYA: GIRAFFE MANOR, NAIROBI
Some neck: Feeding time at Giraffe Manor outside Nairobi, Kenya
Visitors to the Giraffe Manor, near Nairobi, Kenya have a bite to eat with the other residents who eat specially prepared pellets
You might expect a hotel on a cocoa plantation to deliver breakfast with a high sugar content, but the menu at Boucan, owned by the Hotel Chocolat group, is more sustaining than that. It prefers to concentrate on local fruit, porridge and eggs and bacon, plus cocoa tea, a traditional, quite bitter drink that Samuel Pepys drank in the 17th Century.
A hotel with a nuanced touch of the Raj. Above the River Rungeet, the vista is rows of tea bushes.
With eight rooms in old plantation buildings, mornings see everything from British-style fry-ups to paratha (an egg cooked into unleavened bread) on the menu, plus tea that has been grown just yards away.
COSTA RICA: FINCA ROSA BLANCA, SAN JOSE
A 14-room hotel on a coffee plantation has produced a blend of taste and sustainability. You’ll be able to have your morning coffee from beans picked, roasted and ground from the surrounding estate and go hiking in the nearby countryside.
The menu is firmly South American.