Brunch has become a buzz word for many people at weekends and the opportunity to take time out of their busy schedule and sit down and enjoy some good food and a decent cup of coffee. This has led to an explosion of restaurants opening their doors to this new breed of customers, with some offering highly imaginative menus in the battle to win hungry punters business.
One such establishment grasping the opportunity with both hands is Manuka, which has made quite an impression since it first opened its doors as a fledgling restaurant on the Fulham Road, a few yards from the bustling Broadway, and has added another string to its bow with the launch of an attractive and appetising brunch menu.
The hard working duo of Joseph Antippa and Tyler Martin would be the first to admit there is still a way to go with their ambitious enterprise. However, I enjoyed one of the best meals I have had for a long time when I visited for dinner not long after Manuka opened towards the end of last year, and vowed to return for brunch and a decent Flat White coffee - once they had installed the gleaming new coffee machine they were eagerly waiting for.
Well the machine is now up and running and I can report that Manuka does serve a mean Flat White, so good infact that I enjoyed two with my brunch. It also passed the test with flying colours for my Kiwi partner Fiona, who is rather passionate about her Flat White. Clearly joint owner Tyler, who hails from New Zealand's North Island, has taught the barista well as she made perfect cups on our visit, helped by the tasty Union hand roasted coffee they use.
For the uninitiated the Flat White developed in Australia and New Zealand in the 1980s and should always incorporate latte art, at least if prepared by a properly trained barista. It is similar to the latte and the cafe au lait although smaller in volume and more velvety in consistency having a higher proportion of coffee to milk. It should also be served warm rather than pipping hot, which is still the downfall of many Flat White's served in this country.
We had worked up quite an appetite after an hour long early morning walk and our taste buds were tantalised by the mouth watering brunch menu – which is clearly popular with the locals as most of the reclaimed retro tables in the relaxed and compact restaurant were already full.
I was tempted by the French toast with bacon, banana and honey (obviously the Manuka variety) but in the end could not resist the lure of a Full Breakfast (£9.95) while Fiona went for the Eggs Benedict with Straw Chips (£8.50).
Savouring our first Flat White and the warmth of the sun beaming through the front window we had a taster of avocado and feta on sourdough which was a perfect match, and delicious way to get us ready for the main event.
Sourcing only the best fresh produce is very much part of Joseph and Tyler's philosophy and that came through strongly with my breakfast. Every component was well cooked and delicious, from the meaty and herby pork and leek sausage, thick and flavoursome smoked bacon, flavoursome black pudding to the perfectly runny fresh free range eggs.
Add some mushrooms and tomato and it was a triumph on a plate – my kind of quality fry up.
Fiona declared herself in 'Eggs Benedict heaven' as the poached eggs, thick tasty bacon and well balanced hollandaise sauce really hit the spot. She loved that the Benedict was served with bacon rather than the more traditional ham and from the meagre taste I was allowed, the hollandaise had the perfect amount of lemon to cut through its natural richness.
There was by now a real buzz from people enjoying the brunch fare in the cosy atmosphere of the restaurant, so we decided to linger a little longer before heading back out in to the chill with a second Flat White – which again did not disappoint.
With Joseph's front of house charm and attentiveness to his customers and the culinary skills of Tyler and his small team in the busy open kitchen, Manuka has a distinctive neighbourhood charm about it and looks as though it is winning the locals over with its excellent brunch fare.
Brunch is served Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 10am-3pm.