You know that thing when you see something on the internet (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, whatever) and you just have to track it down and go there or eat it or drink it or experience it? It’s the whole influencer effect. Until recently I only really understood it as a concept through rabid teenage fangirls who just HAVE to have a certain nail varnish just because their favourite vlogger is wearing it or commenting on Instagram dying to know where a big blogger bought their bog standard black umbrella. However, I must admit that a few weeks ago I moved out of the realm of merely perusing Instagram during a moment of downtime to actually being influenced.
The worst thing about having been influenced? I can’t even remember who it was that influenced my actions in this case, I just remember scrolling my feed and seeing a photo of a hollowed out loaf of bread stuffed full and topped with an egg. I clicked on the location, fully expecting to find it came from a restaurant miles across London or something. But no! East London! Haggerston to be precise. Only a short trip from Whitechapel via the Overground or, better, a twenty minutes stroll from Colombia Road Flower Market on a Sunday.
Oh but it’s East London, I thought, surely they won’t take reservations and I’ll have to get there an hour before I want to sit down and actually eat. But lo and behold, as I clicked over to The Barge House’s website, they do take reservations, it was a Christmas miracle. I booked us in for brunch on our next free weekend.
On a sunny Sunday we strolled up to Colombia Road and, after perusing the flowers and deciding against buying anything as we were going on holiday the following week, we headed across to Haggerston. On the way we stumbled across what is probably my new favourite piece of street art:
Arriving at the Barge house for our 11.30am reservation, the place was already busy with people and I was pleased we had reserved a table. We were led upstairs and seated at the back near a fan, albeit away from the view of the canal. We were handed menus on clipboards and ordered drinks – a spicy Bloody Mary for my boyfriend and a pot of tea for me.
The weekend brunch menu at the Barge House is short and in terms of food is solely made up of Breakfasts in Bread (genius name, right?) – hollowed out sourdough loaves stuffed with various breakfast options.
My boyfriend dithered between The Vegetarian (filled with slow roasted tomatoes, spinach, leeks, oyster mushrooms, avocado, asparagus, topped with a free range egg and sprinkled with cheese) and The Smoked Salmon (filled with spinach, leeks, smoked salmon, crème fraiche & topped with a free range egg & sprinkled with cheese). Whereas I was pretty certain from the start that I was having The Original (filled with smoked bacon, Cumberland sausage, slow roasted tomatoes, leeks, oyster mushrooms, spinach, topped with a free range egg and sprinkled with cheese).
The breakfasts arrive on a board together with a sharp knife – all the better to cut the sourdough shell with.
It’s hard to know how to approach it but in the end I went with slicing a segment from it and attacking it from there. My boyfriend went with an approach a little bit akin to peeling open a flower. Either way, the egg yolk is perfectly cooked and pricking it with a knife leads to a cascade of yolk down the side of the roll.
It really was a proper breakfast in bread with generous hunks of sausage hidden inside together with bacon, tomato, mushrooms, spinach and less traditionally, leeks. I probably could have given the leeks a miss to be honest as they don’t fit with my idea of breakfast but they’re in there as a kind of leeky breakfast bonus if you’re a leek fan.
We managed to finish our rolls, with my boyfriend almost admitting defeat at the end but pushing through to finish it off. Although it does look like a lot, because the bread roll has been hollowed out for the filling, it doesn’t leave you too carb-bloated afterwards. Perfect.
As we were leaving, a queue was starting to build up outside The Barge House and we knew we made the right choice to get there relatively early, enjoy brunch and get away in time to enjoy a long and lazy sunny afternoon. I can highly recommend that you do the same at some point.