69 Dean Street London, W1D 4QJ www.deanstreettownhouse.com
Oh Pitcher! Oh Piano! O tempora! O mores! Where now the pissed PAs staggering gamely about on stiletto heels? Where the young swordsmen from the suburbs gathered to hunt in packs? And where the office leaving parties swirling out of focus in a haze of cheap white wine? All gone, all gone. The Pitcher & Piano is now the Dean Street Townhouse in a transformation more fascinating than ‘From Ladette to Lady.’
I think the front entrance is all that’s left of the original. Even the floor is new (if you can label planks so distressed they should be calling The Samaritans new). It all smells enticingly of wood smoke. Can they be scenting the air with eau de campsite? No, around the corner in yet another bijou space a real wood open fire is burning.
Coming in from a rain-whipped Dean Street early in the morning – well 9:30 actually – I find this perfectly gorgeous. The pastries shine on the countertop, the hush is total, absorbent of sound but not censorious. The period chairs may be repro; I’m someone who Alan Clark would have dismissed as ‘a person who has to buy his own furniture’ so I’m no expert, but I like what I see. They are comfy and classic and I sink into a deep armchair with one of those old man noises you develop after 40 – half grunt, half expletive.
Now of course they have lots of healthy things on the menu, but as I have said before, there’s no point in paying for breakfast and only eating the sort of muck you force down at home. It’s the full English for me and for J too, whose idea of healthy eating is to drink decaff.
And good gosh look at those prices – £11.50 for the full English? That’s pretty cheap. You can queue behind Alan Partridge overloading his plate at the TravelTavern buffet bar and pay more. You can pay more at a roadside diner while a family of six eats burgers for breakfast next to you . Here though your dishes are brought to your crisply linened table by waitresses. What’s not to like about that?
I like my eggs scrambled in the morning and none of that cheffy ‘runny is best’ nonsense either. Soft and billowy will do me and that’s what I get. The bacon is quality, no white foam, and the sausages proper porkers. I spread lemon compote on them, mistaking it for mustard, but once I scrape off my attempt at extreme gastronomy, the bangers taste meaty and prime.
The black pudding contains no little squares of fat – I sort of miss that but of course this is actually more a French boudin noir than a British artery buster, and is the same diameter as the mushroom below – i.e. sizeable. The only wrong note is my tomato, which has not been done enough for my liking, I want to see and taste blackened bits please. Heinz Tomato Ketchup and HP Sauce are on the table, so I hum a snatch of Rule Britannia as we tuck in.
Toast and good butter with a choice of quality compotes – the lemon curd tastes much better when not on bangers – and tea on tap. Perfect.
I like it here, I’d like to live here and be taken by sedan chair to my meetings with King George. This is where you want your producer to take you for breakfast after viewing the rushes; this is where you want to be if your crowd is creative. If you’re a suit you can go to The Wolseley.
And if you’re very naughty this is where you’ll want to make your lingering goodbyes after a tumultuous night of extra-marital sin in the tempting upstairs bedrooms.
They even offer simple bacon rolls, sausage sandwiches and beans on toast here, and I’m told lunch and dinner are equally good.
I don’t miss the piano and I don’t miss the pitcher, I just emerge into Dean Street ready for anything the day has to throw at me. Now that’s a good breakfast.