London is not really a 24-hour city. Not like Berlin, Beirut, New York. Being wistful in a pub, then bar, then club, then café isn't a passage likely to prove forthcoming. Rather, London is sudden, more about going home at 2am and being contemplative eight hours later as Pizza Hut is ordered. The mood might call for a run at Gladiator, or possibly Titanic, hangover depending.
But there are a handful of ways to do London, extended. One is to follow The Box with Bar Bruno. You begin anywhere. One of Soho’s distinctly old and romantic places, the likes of I Camisa, Bar Italia, Trisha’s (open again, happily), Kettner’s, Gerry’s, Quo Vadis, L’Escargot, Ronnie Scott’s, the Coach & Horses. Then onwards to delirium.
Those unaware should know The Box is a silly cabaret club that closes at 4am. Bar Bruno is a greasy spoon that opens shortly after. It is a mere minute’s walk from Walker’s Court to Wardour Street and so one moment you’re watching a leather-clad contortionist pull the unmentionable from a stripper, the next sitting down to a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich. Perfect before heading home to bed in preparation for Leonardo DiCaprio’s untimely death.
I should add that Bar Bruno doesn’t need to be enjoyed in this unruly manner. It’s glorious at any time, in any state. Sweet relief from people so desperate to be seen in the right places.
Frank, who started there in the Seventies, his titular uncle having founded it a decade or so before, will be there at the pass; the kitchen will be frenetic; tables few but one will always become available, somehow. Probably because it’s Soho and if you ease in carelessly enough something good will always come to pass. Even if what is good are only two perfectly formed poached eggs.
I sometimes ask Frank to slip a folded omelette into a soft bap. A ciabatta, generally. He will do this if you ask politely, and to compliment expert bacon with a squirt or two of ketchup is recommended. You can have brown sauce if you like, keep your hair on.
As at any credible and considered greasy spoon, the sausages are not complicated, but shiny cylinders
Service is always friendly. The walls are original wooden panels, the seats a dark green leather and the menu boards chaotic. Around you will be characters and plenty of tourists. Chances are one or more of them will be sitting down to a classic fry up: utterly perfect; an easy, delicate amalgamation of all that is simple and faintly nourishing in a traditional British-Italian café.
As at any credible and considered greasy spoon, the sausages are not complicated, but shiny cylinders. The bacon, as I mentioned earlier, is cooked well. Are there particulars? Yes. Frank instigates a soft, flappy fried egg, not in any way crispy-edged or curling. Cooked tomatoes are halved and grilled face down to bring about a deep flavour. Bubble (and squeak, said Remy, off of Ratatouille) is served in little patties, an ideal platform, therefore, for one of the ghostly eggs. Hash browns are served as standard on larger orders, which I wholeheartedly support.
To dine at Bar Bruno is to tip one’s hat to history. To understand that these are the cogs in the machine. It is a space free of hideous technology, of so much ignorance and impudence that ravages the world today. Ultimately it is a safe space. For me somewhere I am less likely to run into somebody unbearable, of which there are so very, very many. Within that breakfast hour, or lunch, or early tea, it is a soothing festival of pork. A perfect antidote to the pork of hours before.
Fry ups from £10. 101 Wardour Street, W1F 0UG, @barbruno101