Thursday, 19 June 2014

M1lk is good for you...

Weekend brunch is my favourite mealtime of all time. Ever. Without question.

Yup, with ridiculously enormous papers strewn around me like the foundations of an ink covered fort, the unavoidable last minute scrabble in the depths of my handbag for an (almost always) inkless pen to fill the two clues I have any idea about in the cross word, sipping endless cups of rich, creamy flat whites; a few hours of glorious coffee and bacon fuelled rapture after a week of keyboards, boardrooms and boredom, is the absolute ultimate.

 Add the chance discovery of the utopia of what all weekend breakfasts should be in a cafe just a scenic ten minute stroll from my front door and you will begin to understand the enthusiastic manner in which I leap out of bed and into my converse of a Saturday morning. M1lk (note the trendy ‘1’), is the place. A Balham institution that sees queues longer than the line for the clean(ish) toilets at Glastonbury week upon week; it is a mecca of pillowy buckwheat pancakes, smoothies in oh-so-trendy milk bottles and a menu full of foraged, seasonal ingredients that I have not even the faintest idea how to pronounce.

On the corner of Hildreth Street market (where they buy all the seasonal fruit for their delicious pint o’smoothies), the light and breezy, delightfully mismatching cafe is strewn with tropical prints that hang on wooden pegs from a string across the huge windows, and is without fail, totally packed. With a bar scattered with icons of the virgin Mary, vintage books and slightly creepy looking doll’s heads, tempting yuzu and pistachio cakes and coconut flecked, fist sized lamingtons on candy hued cake stands; it is cool. Achingly so, a dead giveaway being the top-knotted waitresses that clearly have to pass a written exam on the history of Reebok classics and the theory of wearing your trousers just short enough to be questionable.

But, although the staff have without doubt been instructed on the trendiest way to describe the weekly changing pancake special (usually making an unannounced bob down next to the table, using lots of superlatives and peppering everything with a few essential ‘ok, guys’), it still manages to steer well clear of ‘try-hard’. I mean, when describing pancakes topped with such delights as blood orange jam, hazelnut popcorn brittle and vanilla bean mascarpone, a little bit of enthusiastic chirping is most definitely allowed, short trousers or not. Add to that elderflower clotted cream, green almond crunch, camomile flowers, nutella caramel and nesquik mascapone (say whaaa?!), and I think it’s fair to say that this place really is deserving of the well rehearsed speech.

It is the best. I have tried avoiding the queues and heading elsewhere, but to be honest, much like heading to the seriously less-clean loos at Glasto, it will undoubtedly lead to massive disappointment. If entirely devoid of any loo-roll related crises. Hopefully...

But seriously, how can you turn down rich, nutty americanos from the Workshop Coffee co., made in an aeropress and served with a miniature milk (sorry, M1lk) bottle of, well, milk? How could you judge that the winding queue of trendies and buggy toting yummy mummies is not worth the legendary ‘Convict’; a toasted proper English muffin stuffed with Burford Brown egg, Noen’s & Sons sausage patty, homemade poacher hash and hangover sauce is worth missing out on? Occasionally (and foolishly) compared to the notorious egg and sausage McMuffin down the road, don't even contemplate skipping the queue and missing out on this beauty. This is a McMuffin fallen from heaven. 

Last weekend, as my perpetually hungry boyfriends and I ventured the few minutes South to partake in our weekly M1lk ritual, I went for one of those tongue-twisting concoctions that make the pre-ordering nerves akin to waiting to be called in to your year 9 French oral. “Turkish baked eggs (I got that bit ok...) with...” and here is where I proceeded to jab at the distressed brown paper menu like a true Brit abroad (well, I am a Clapham girl now, after all). I got there in the end, but for this purpose must resort to inserting words copied straight from the menu, and still without any indication of what “kriskrainer and labne...” might actually mean (Could be a hot new DJ duo headlining the BBC introducing stage at Glasto , for all I know)...

As it turns out, my cast iron skillet of neon-orange yolked baked eggs arrived strewn with buttery, garlic rich sautéed spinach, an elegant blob of sharp Turkish yoghurt, salty hunks of fried sausage and strewn with a whimsical scattering of wild flowers. Word of warning here, by the way- from the sourdough with goats cheese and red clover honeycomb to the burnt butter eggs Benedict, many dishes come with a girly flourish of freshly foraged flowers much to every instagrammers delight and many the burly boyfriend's (including my army commando one's) dismay.  Said boyfriend, avoiding the rose petals and remaining ever the off-piste orderer (he fits in so well), went for charred English asparagus with miso butter and crisp, panko coated deep fried Burford Brown from the seasonable, forever evolving specials board.

As always, it was totally and utterly, 100%, grade A gorgeous. My side of the table, super soft eggs contrasted beautifully with the slightly sharp, creamy yoghurt and meaty mouthfuls of sausage was right on the money (which, I might add here, is not on the cheap side, but totally worth it). The asparagus, lightly charred and the perfect partner to the aromatic, salty miso and crispy shreds of nori, did what M1lk does best- showcasing foraged, seasonal and wonderful British produce in exciting, interesting dishes that never fail to be perfectly cooked, seasoned and enthusiastically delivered by the scrunchie wearing staff.

Wickedly good. And certainly not the place to implement my boyfriend's recent request that I try writing a less than totally positive review for a change. Yup, unfortunately (for him), M1lk, with all it's butternut, feta and sage baked eggs, burnt butter hazelnut cakes and edible sweet pea garnishes, is never going to be the place to bring out the negatives. It is just too. Damn. Good. 

Maybe my quest for pessimism will have to resort to that McMuffin after all...

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