Coincidences work in a funny way. Within a couple of hours of leaving Brook’s Counter and Table, delighted to have discovered another praiseworthy breakfast spot in West London, I came across a tweet that lamented Hammersmith’s lack of independent cafes worth their name.
Judging by the Broadway and King Street, offering little more than the usual array of chain coffee shops, you can’t blame the tweeter. However, there’s much more to the area than sub-standard high-street coffee, or scalding tea served with lousy wooden sticks for stirring (seriously, Britain. What do you have against spoons?). Try moving away from the station, and you’ll discover many worthwhile alternatives within short walking distance.
If you’re on the way to Central London, pop to Barons Court, and pay a visit to C’est Ici. If you’re heading North, you’ll most likely stroll along the Shepherd’s Bush Road; Brook’s Counter and Table is right there, a mere five minutes’ walk from Hammersmith station. Whether you want an uplifting breakfast before descending into Westfield’s circle of hell, or need a refueling snack after coming back from the shopping inferno, you can be sure to find the right treat to satisfy your hunger.
Even at its most packed, Brook’s retains a relaxed atmosphere, far from the hectic pace of more central high-street cafes. Furnishings are pleasantly neutral, suggesting no particular attempts to attract a specific clique of customers. Forget quirky vintagey wallpapers and minimalist hipster furnishings, and be in for mingling with a lively, diverse crowd. Groups of friends, chattering old ladies and families are all welcome to take a seat, whether they’re fulfilling a long-standing weekend ritual, or indulging in a special treat for both kids and grown-ups. Whatever your age, appetite or taste, Brook’s will do its best to never make you feel out of place.
This is the kind of cafe I’d expect to find in a smaller, countryside town; the atmosphere is so peaceful, you’d be forgiven for forgetting that you’re still in London’s Zone 2. When it comes to securing a seat, though, London’s rules still apply. As with many other London cafes, infamous for their long breakfast queues, you’ll have to get your timing just right: get there by 10.30am at the latest, or prepare to wait. If you’re the impatient type, and the weather’s warm enough, you can also opt for takeaway. The leafy Brook Green is just down the road, inviting you to go for a stroll while sipping your coffee, or have a cheerful breakfast in the park.
Prices are also no exception to London’s customs. I’ve been living here for three and a half years, and am still reluctant to pay more than £2.50 for an average-sized muffin, cookie, or slice of dessert; unfortunately, Brook’s sweet treats come in rather tiny portions, which hardly justify their price. Ditto for classic breakfast dishes, such as the smallish bowl of Greek yoghurt with compote that my breakfast buddy Emma got. At £4.50 a portion, I’d expect a sizeable helping, akin to Riding House Cafe‘s enormous Titchfield Muesli (which is, in fact, cheaper; never thought I’d say that about breakfast in Fitzrovia). While the cakes look fit to satisfy compelling sugar cravings, breakfast pastries are a much safer choice if you’re tight on the budget. Croissants, pains au chocolat and pains au raisin are freshly baked every day, and much more reasonably priced than other breakfast fares.
On my first visit to Brook’s, I went for a delightfully soft pain au raisin, filled with smooth, delicate custard; a cup of frothy cappuccino gave me the energy kick I’d been waiting for since waking up in the morning. Don’t let dimensions deceive you: the pain au raisin is as filling as many heartier breakfast treats, and won’t leave you hungry for more. Just in case it does, though, almond croissants also look well worth a try. You can never say no to an almond croissant for breakfast – although, when a pain au raisin’s the alternative, indecision may leave you staring at the counter for an awkwardly long time. Whichever you choose, know you’re in for a treat; you can always plan a second visit to satisfy any unfulfilled cravings.
Who said there are no praiseworthy cafes in Hammersmith, again?
Brook’s Counter and Table
140 Shepherd’s Bush Road
(nearest tube station: Hammersmith)
0207 602 0664
Open 8am – 6pm Monday to Friday, 8.30am – 6pm on Saturdays, 9am – 5pm on Sundays