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Breakfast at the Wolseley, AA Gill

22 May 2008 by

Breakfast at the Wolseley AA Gill
Quadrille, £12.99
ISBN 978-1-84400-444-7

It's surprising to discover, given the phenomenal success of London's grand Continental-style café, the Wolseley, that there hasn't been a cookbook brought out to underline its branding - until now.

And there are two things to be said straight away about the new book: first, it concentrates on one aspect of the Wolseley's trade only - breakfast second, it's written by the Sunday Times‘s renowned (some might say feared) critic AA Gill.

Focusing on breakfast is eminently sensible. It's the service that defines the Wolseley - anybody who's anybody in London "does" breakfast at the Wolseley at some stage, so it's educational to see what is regarded as essential fare on their morning menus.

The book kicks off with a short history of the building in which the restaurant is located. Given that we're reading paragraphs penned by the famously acerbic Gill, the tone is strangely muted. And this is the case throughout the book, with his cutting wit remaining hidden until he writes about food itself (lamenting mass production of croissants, for instance, into "flabby fast food comestible").

Gill introduces five central chapters in the book (on viennoiserie, eggs, English breakfast, fruit and cereals, and hot beverages) with snapshots of corresponding service and a sprinkling of history where appropriate (for instance, the Austro-Turkish origins of the croissant in the 17th century the disputed origin of eggs Benedict - New York or London?). These musings are followed by recipes.

There is nothing in the recipes that a good pastry chef will be surprised at. However, if you are looking to up the ante on your breakfast offering, there are germs of inspiration, examples of best practice to measure against.

It's good to see, alongside the usual pastries, things like crispy bacon egg roll, haggis and duck egg, waffles with caramelised bananas, and prune and elderflower compote while in the "Tea, Coffee and Hot Chocolate" chapter, there's the inclusion of that Italian and Spanish staple, a drinkable chocolate fondant, alongside a more regular recipe for hot choccie.

An interesting volume, then, but not necessarily an essential item for the bookshelf.

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