Once upon a time, brunch was simply a meal between breakfast and lunch. A feast for those of us offended at the thought of surfacing before noon at the weekend; or just too greedy to withstand three or four hours without a meal.
Now, in 2018, brunches are nearly all bottomless, boozy, gratuitously over-indulgent affairs: encouraging us to guzzle a whole weekend’s worth of alcohol before midday. Bottomless brunches recently came under fire as Carluccio’s outlined plans to serve brunch with unlimited Prosecco for £26. With sittings as early as 10 o’clock in the morning, the bottomless Prosecco offer lasts for 90 minutes. It’s not a competition, but that logic suggests copious amounts of fizz would need to be gulped to justify the cost.
But brunches needn’t be excessively boozy to be enjoyable. If a restaurant’s food is only tolerable under the influence of alcohol, somebody needs to have a quiet word with the chef. Eggs, in some degree, are absolutely crucial in search of the perfect brunch: a galleon of sparkling wine is not. One such brunch (gratifying without a torrent wine) is served at Strazzanti – a Sicilian pop-up currently utilising the unoccupied space of seventeen 0 seven, an Italian restaurant closed on Sundays.
Founded by three Sicilian sisters – Emilia, Nina and Sofia Strazzanti – the Sunday bakery and brunch pop up encapsulates the sisters’ passion for Sicilian produce, showcasing modern renditions of authentic Sicilian food, built on recipes passed through generations. Visiting on a bright Sunday afternoon, the space is cosy but flooded with natural light – festooned with black and white portraits and picturesque pastries available to eat-in or takeaway. Dorchester-trained Emilia Strazzanti is also at hand, recommending various dishes from the menu.
Brunch begins with a glass of fresh blood orange juice and a pistachio cornetti, made using pistachios sourced from Bronte. Filled with a rich pistachio frangipane and pistachio cream, the cornetti is marginally similar to the French almond croissant, albeit less flaky, sweeter and arguably superior. Strazzanti’s Sicilian Arancini is another delight. A cricket ball of risotto is breaded and deep-fried, harbouring a filling rife with cheese, glossier than the less authentic iterations generally found in the UK.
‘Nonna Strazzanti’s Eggs’ are the jewel in the menu’s crown. Loosely following a recipe passed down from the sisters’ Sicilian grandmother, the dish is available in three different interpretations – one from each sister. Comprising eggs cracked and gently poached in a slow-cooked tomato sauce (Sugo), the dish is served with crusty sourdough from E5 Bakehouse. Emilia’s version is embellished with sausage spiked with wild fennel (the most natural, transcendent pork enlivener) and showered with salty Pecorino cheese which counters some of the tomato’s sweetness and complements the egg’s crucially runny yolk.
To finish, Strazzanti’s gluten-free cakes are unsurprisingly popular, with the chocolate and hazelnut variation similar to a chocolate torte, yet smattered with crushed hazelnuts and unequivocally light. Like all of the best Sicilian food, the cooking at Strazzanti is generally simple but well-executed; ingredient-focussed and inherently enjoyable.
Strazzanti Sicilian Bakery & Brunch pop up can be found at seventeen 0 seven, 23 Warren Street, London, W1T 5LX – open every Sunday until July.