Those who know me, probably realise I’m not much of a ‘taster’, classing myself as more of a ‘drinker’….the idea of spitting fantastic booze away after just a brief taste fills myself and my particular compadre – “the liver”, with utter horror.
To this end I thought it would be an extremely good idea to eat a hearty breakfast first. Something to soak up that booze and save me from the worst effects of all the self inflicted excess.
I’ve always fancied eating at Automat in Mayfair, the American diner. I hear it mentioned on and off pretty regularly, and I remember seeing pictures of the gorgeous interior when it opened. Checking their website, I noted that they open for breakfast from 7am and that their menu is pretty extensive – covering all of the classic American breakfast options pancakes, waffles, French toast etc. Lovely.
I booked a table for myself, and a couple of other food bloggers attending the wine tasting. So far - so good.
The night before threw up an interesting dilemma. For various reasons, my dining companions had to drop out one by one. Until I was left with a stark choice, cancel the table…. or dine alone.
Dining alone is not something I’ve ever done really, at least not in the sense of booking a table at a restaurant, turning up and being seated – ordering and eating alone. It’s entirely new to me, and if I’m honest the idea filled me with some trepidation. But, a quick poll on Twitter found that many of my fellow foodies often dine alone in restaurants, in fact some stated that they really enjoy the chance to eat, people watch, read the papers or a novel and relax. This information left me brimming with newly found confidence; I decided to press on, cross this mental boundary and experience solo dining. I was going.
Strolling through St James Park, on a grey drizzly morning and clutching a paper to read with my breakfast I made my way up to Dover Street feeling fairly serene, in fact I was really looking forward to it, my jitters of the previous evening completely forgotten. Spying the yellow awning of Automat, I entered – was greeted warmly and shown to a fantastic table…. a booth to myself in fact, which allowed me to view most of the restaurant which was fairly busy with well-heeled diners enjoying their breakfasts (This is Mayfair after all).
A note about the interior….it’s bloody gorgeous! All wood, dark leather booths, chrome, black and white geometric tiles…a fantastic and very atmospheric study in how to get it right, I loved it. This combined with the Glenn Miller big band style music playing softly in the background made it feel like I’d stepped into a 1940’s detective novel. Perfect.
Sipping a rather decent coffee, I studied the menu. Bearing in mind what I had planned for later with regards to pickling myself at the Bibendum tasting…the choice wasn’t actually that hard. “Automat Big Breakfast” strained out from the page, as the rest of the menu lost focus entirely. Made up of sausage, egg, bacon, mushrooms, tomato and topped off with fillet steak (that’s right – steak! and U.S.D.A. premium non hormone treated Nebraskan corn fed beef at that), it was practically ordering itself. All I had to add was my choice of egg (scrambled) and how I wanted my steak (Medium-rare) and we were good to go.
Whilst waiting, I people watched, read the paper…updated twitter….I didn’t once feel uncomfortable dining solo, in fact it felt quite liberating in some way…..resisting the urge to explore this newfound and strange dining freedom further by stripping naked, my breakfast arrived just in time. Wow.
Now that’s what I call a breakfast. A heap of beautifully moist scrambled eggs, a huge tomato cooked just so until it was soft, but not mushy. Crisp bacon, a nicely browned sausage, a pile of mushrooms and finally the Fillet Steak.
Cutting into the steak, spot on medium rare as ordered, I proceeded to demolish the breakfast in pretty short order. The sausage, the bacon and the steak were all of beautiful quality – as you would expect for a breakfast that costs £15 I guess. I absolutely loved it, clearing the plate, sighing happily and loosening the belt a notch or two…. I slumped back in the booth utterly stuffed and considered the verdict.
I can easily say this was without a doubt one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever eaten, anywhere. Perfect, but combined with the beautiful interior and the feeling that your in a film noir detective flick. Priceless. I can’t recommend Automat enough. At these prices it’s certainly not an everyday choice, but as a treat now and again. Definitely.
But the real test… How did this breakfast prepare me for a full day of ‘tasting’?
I got to Bibendum at 12…and left at 7pm.
I ate nothing else all day.
I drank enough alcohol to send the late Olly Reed running for cover – and I felt fine, bit tipsy perhaps but totally A1.
Automat – (and Bibendum wine) I salute you both.
33 Dover Street
Telephone: 020 7499 3033