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Eating for England?

03 May 2002 by
Eating for England?

Football fans will be eating out for breakfast a lot during the World Cup tournament, and they'll find many bars and restaurants giving the first meal of the day a suitably international slant. John Greenwood reports.

For a month in every four years, the football World Cup turns pubs, bars and restaurants into perfect settings for the shared experience of supporting your national team. Being in a lively bar or restaurant is, for many fans, the next best thing to being in the stadium itself.

Sven Goran Eriksson's boys are hoping to repeat the success of England's 1966 team at the four-week-long festival of football, which kicks off in Seoul on 31 May with France versus Senegal.

But this time round things will be very different for those establishments showing the games. The nine-hour time difference between the UK and joint hosts Japan and South Korea will result in a lot of the games taking place before many a self-respecting football fan would normally stumble out of bed. This year it's time to wake up and smell the coffee and a full-cooked breakfast.

With games starting between 7.30am and 12.30pm (British Summer Time), breakfast and brunch will be the order of the day through the month of June. Chefs are preparing menus for a huge variety of morning meals from around the world to match the spectrum of nations taking part. With a little effort, the committed football fan-cum-gourmand could eat the national breakfast of most nations playing.

French favourites
Cyrille D'Arrigo, general manager of Battersea restaurant Le Bouchon Bordelais, is hoping for another success for current champions France. His restaurant is a hub for the local French community and he will be offering a French breakfast of baguette with French jam and butter, together with a choice of hot drinks, for £3.50. England fans can egg on their team with a full English breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and orange juice for £5.95.

Just off London's Oxford Street, Carluccio's is reflecting three-times-winner Italy's twin passions for food and football with an Italian breakfast of pancetta with eggs and orange juice, baked croissants with jam and butter and hot drinks for £10. For the games starting at 12.30pm, Carluccio's is sticking with a classic Italian formation of bruschetta with tomatoes, peppers and oregano followed by lasagne and for dessert a specially created Coppa del Mondo ice-cream. Included in the £16 price is either a Peroni beer or glass of Italian red or white wine and coffee, with a complimentary glass of Prosecco if Italy win any of their games.

With some games, such as England versus Nigeria (starting at 7.30am), laying on hospitality will mean entering new territory for many establishments. London's Sports Café, however, is well-versed in early starts, having opened early before for coverage of the British Lions rugby tour in Australia and several American boxing matches.

The Sports Café is opening its bar at 7am, 30 minutes before each day's first match, but is targeting customers with a range of breakfast deals at the bar as well as corporate hospitality packages. With the British penchant for drinking alcohol while watching football, the tournament could add a whole new meaning to the phrase "all-day drinking session" in what is likely to be more than a game of two halves.

To line the stomach, the Sports Café is offering a full English or American breakfast at £9.99, or for £20 a Champagne breakfast consisting of a pitcher of Bucks Fizz, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, coffee and fresh croissants. Corporate packages range from £60 to £150 per person, depending on the game, for either a breakfast/brunch buffet or a lunch buffet including all drinks (except spirits) from one hour before until one hour after the whistle blows.

"A buffet is a lot easier to serve for events such as World Cup games," says Jane White, corporate events manager at the Sports Café Group. "It is easy to replenish and everyone can get what they want quickly and get back to watch the game."

For the Japanese World Cup breakfast experience, Japanese bars Yo! Below are offering three breakfast bento box alternatives for the more adventurous football fan - green tea cured salmon and scrambled eggs on toasted Japanese bread with sushi and fresh fruit, organic muesli, sun-dried fruits and mochi or miso-seared yellowtail with Japanese pickles, rice balls and fresh fruit - all with an Asahi beer for £10.

With breakfast giving plenty of slow-burning carbohydrates to keep you going through the 90 minutes, there will be no missing goals while queuing at the bar at Yo! Below as each seat has its own self-serve Japanese beer tap to prevent those throats from drying out.

"Everyone wants a taste of Japan for this World Cup," says Yo! operations manager Alison Vickers. "England versus Argentina is in Sapporo so you can get a flavour of what the squad can expect from our range of Japanese beers."

Everybody's favourite "other team" and World Cup ever-presents Brazil embody the spirit of the tournament. Tim Peach, general manager at London club Salsa, is expecting a sea of yellow and green as 375 expat Brazilians and Brits squeeze into his club, charged £3.50 entry to participate in a cauldron of passion at Brazil games.

The entry ticket includes a complimentary sausage, bacon and tomato ciabatta, and the carnival atmosphere will be kicked off by drummers from the Brazil School of Samba and lubricated by caipirinha cocktails, made from sugar cane spirit and lime juice, or Brahma beers at £1.50. "We want to create a Brazilian atmosphere, so, as well as the samba drummers, we are providing traditional Brazilian party food," Peach says.

"We are offering coxinha (chicken fritters) at £1 each or the Brazilian national dish, feijoada, a ham and black bean stew, for £2. We will repeat the matches on video for those who have to work."

Not everyone wants raw fish or bean stew first thing in the morning and at Tottenham Hotspur's White Hart Lane stadium contract caterer Crown Venue Catering is laying on English breakfast or brunch packages starting from £80 a head.

From 10am, guests who think they can eat for England can feel at home tucking into cornflakes, eggs, sausage, lamb cutlets and minute steaks in conference suites or executive boxes for eight to 18 people, with Spurs legends on hand to discuss the finer points of the beautiful game.

Scrambled not fried
Paul Oakwell, Crown general manager at the Spurs site, already has 600 covers booked for the biggest game of the early rounds, England versus Argentina, and his tip for caterers is to avoid fried eggs. "They will be as hard as frisbees by the time they reach everybody," he says, "but we think we'll be fine with scrambled."

For those who don't want the pre-match tension to spoil their lunch, London restaurant Babylon is renting out its private dining room above its one-and-a-half-acre tropical Roof Gardens on High Street Kensington.

For midday games, guests can enjoy a three-course menu including fillet of sea bass with red pepper jus, marinated vegetables and crushed new potatoes with basil or pan-fried corn-fed chicken breast with courgettes, linguine, tomatoes and black olives. Prices start at £65 a head, including half a bottle of wine and soft drinks, for a minimum of 12 people.

We don't know who will get through to the later stages of the World Cup, and a Cameroon versus Slovenia final could see chefs reaching for their cookery books for a bit of inspiration, but no doubt someone, somewhere will figure out a menu to complement the occasion.

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