Benjys Restaurant, Earl's Court
157 Earls Court Road
020 7373 0245
by Terry Teagleton
A fried English breakfast has to my mind one of two essential purposes - to line the stomach in preparation for a day's drinking; or to bring the comforts of stodgy, chewy grease to a body which has spent a yesterday drinking. We are here today for the first of these reasons and this caff - the first we came across on leaving Earl's Court tube - performs its task more than adequately.
Benjys gives the impression of a proper no-nonsense London establishment. The laminated menu supplies just three main breakfast options, a terse list of extras confined only to the absolute essentials (no fancy-schmancy hash browns here and even, to my great disappointment, no black pudding) plus tea, coffee and orange juice. In view of the profligate ingurgitations ahead of me, I opt for the builder's breakfast with extra fried mushrooms. Steve foolishly just has chips - a decision which is ill advised not for the lack of substance (Steve is a better drinker than me and anyway has already eaten) but because of the penny-filching minimum food cost of £3.90 per person in the menu's smallprint which will now catch him out.
Our food arrives in short order. The sausages are close to perfection - neither soggy nor dry, their unidentifiable contents pleasantly coating the mouth in greasy goodness and sliding effortlessly down the gullet. The same sadly cannot be said about the bacon, which has been incinerated almost into nonexistence and then, bizarrely, hidden *in between* the egg (on top) and the beans (underneath) as though the chef was rightly ashamed of his endeavour. The egg itself is uninspiring - not badly cooked, but one presumes produced by a chicken with little interest in life; and the beans are as beans are as beans always are - the great ubiquitous invariant of the breakfast plate.
Most of the other components are proficiently delivered but require little comment - there are chips, mushrooms and toast. The one remaining piece of the assembly is however noteworthy; it is the tomato. Benjys have eschewed the standard fried vegetable for an uncooked plum tomato forked out of a tin. I love the effrontery, the sheer chutzpah, of places which do this - we all know how cheap it is to buy a value tin of plum tomatoes from Tesco and how little effort is invoked in the opening of said tin and fishing out of said tomatoes, and yet it is a solution which Just Works, often better than a fried tomato which is frankly difficult for even the best of breakfasteers to make exciting. As I bite into my raw plum tomato a jet of bright red juice is sent spurting out right onto Steve’s shirt, adding to my general sense of satisfaction with the world.
The place is certainly popular, with intrepid tourists out of Earl's Court hotels rubbing shoulders with standard greasy spoon denizens - drifting urban wastrels and labouring men - to almost fill the place. But despite this the lone waitress manages to take orders and deliver plates of food and free refills of tea and coffee promptly and with a breezy professionalism. As we slowly finish our final coffees and get ready to pay and leave, I reflect that in spite of its several quirks Benjys has succeeded - it has produced a solid, ample, unashamedly physical fry up; a fry up to engage oneself with, to take one's time over - in other words, the very breakfast I needed.