Advertisement

Josh Barrie's bacon and eggs: Café on the Hill, Brixton

Burger on a breakfast: not a crime (Christian Adams)
Burger on a breakfast: not a crime (Christian Adams)

This week I was served a burger patty with my full English. I can’t have read the menu properly; always so focused on ensuring the baked beans are swapped for something else. Usually an extra sausage, but in this case, hash browns.

Was the burger unpleasant? Not really. One up from those served from food vans outside branches of Wickes but below those found in old fashioned pubs in places like Bromley. Spoons level, essentially. Still, the quality of the beef wasn’t my concern.

There was no real issue from a culinary perspective. A burger doesn’t offend next to sausages, bacon, fried eggs and crispy potatoes. I just found it startling and unexpected. And to that end I became moderately upset for about two minutes before pulling myself together and tucking in.

I was in an outpost called Café on the Hill in Brixton, a blink-and-you-miss-it spot, roundly illustrative of London roads that do little other than exist. It was fairly empty when I visited, which felt a shame — small, independent food businesses are having a torrid time of it — and although the menu was clearly conceived by somebody untraditional and possibly high, the breakfast was sound: eggs fried in those metal discs for ease — wobbly, yolk still runny; thick bacon and the cheapest of rusk-weighted sausages; glistening mushrooms of a buttery persuasion; hash browns that I think must have been twice fried, possibly even thrice. Thank you Heston.

 (Josh Barrie)
(Josh Barrie)

And then, midway through my second sausage, I remembered: having a burger on a fry up isn’t as uncommon as some might suppose. Why should it be, after all? Who really cares. There are staunch conservatives when it comes to the full English and they must relax.

How do I know this? Years ago, while trying to get into newspapers, I took a job cooking in the makeshift canteen of a building site. It was just me in a Portakabin, kitchen at the back, tables and chairs everywhere else, and I’d do breakfasts and lunches and then head off to the pub to serve or drink or both. By far the most popular item on the menu was the bacon and egg baguette in the morning, a jacket potato with tuna mayonnaise for lunch. I put up a whiteboard on the wall so they could request various dishes and ended up making a fair amount of shepherd's pie, fishcakes, and lasagne.

I also remember some of the guys asking for a burger patty with their fry ups. Not often, but sometimes. And fair play to them. I’m glad my breakfast this week reminded me of that time. It was quite lonely, cooking on my own in the back of a freezing shed, only seeing people for 30 minutes in the morning and the same amount of time later on. But I have fond memories, writing for pittance and for whatever publication would take me in the downtime, eating — gracefully — free fishcakes all the while.

91 Brixton Hill, SW2 1AA, cafeonthehill.co.uk