Can you remember the first time you took brunch?
I can’t exactly, but I’m certain I was a lot older than my daughter is now, ordering off the blackboard at V&H Café on Holland Road in Hove.
V&H Café is a multiple award-winning café that has, in its short, four-year existence, become something of a local institution favoured by some of our city’s most applauded foodies.
Its fans include 64 Degrees’ Michael Bremner, who chose V&H Café as the first stop on his gastronomic tour of the city with Great British Chefs.
Owners Verity and Harry opened the no-frills café in 2014 with the goal of providing a solid menu based on quality ingredients that diners can be sure of.
Their offering includes a generous range of gluten free cakes, fresh-pressed juices, salads, sandwiches, daily specials and their focus: good old-fashioned brunch. A hand-drawn map on the wall stands out in what is otherwise a comfortable yet utilitarian interior, detailing the many Sussex producers the pair continue to source from.
The list, I am told, is constantly being added to.
One thing they can’t get hold of from local growers, however, are the avocados they sell by the bucketload as part of their most popular dish. Their Instagram-tastic smashed avo on toasted sourdough is seasoned with spring onion, chilli, sumac and coriander.
Still, they get their stonking sausages and bacon from Westdene butchers; eggs from Five Chimneys Farm; smoked salmon from Springs Smokery and bread from nearby Flour Pot Bakery.
In fact, even aside from the comfortingly clear provenance of its components, my brunch at V&H Café is hard to fault.
When you can make a damn good fry at home, it can be hard to justify, and hard to satisfy, one’s breakfast cravings in a restaurant setting.
And yet, there is great pleasure to be had in sitting down with friends and family to have one cooked to order, how you like it, with no scrimping, in the knowledge that a Richmond sausage has never even ghosted one’s plate.
You see, times have changed since I first ate so-called ‘brunch’ aged 20-ish. As a student I regularly frequented greasy spoons, preferably for a number three with bubble and squeak, smoked bacon, eggs and baked beans.
Nowadays, I’m more inclined to go for an Eggs Royale, as I did today, built from a sturdy quantity of tender smoked salmon atop a nutty slice of sourdough and crowned with some perfectly poached eggs and a slick of homemade Hollandaise.
I reckon that’s also what a large proportion of Brighton & Hove-ites are after: an authentic breakfast from a clean, economical kitchen, cooked with precision.
And this, happily, is what V&H Café have nailed.
It sounds simple, but it’s worth remembering how easy it is to get wrong. When you bourgeoisify brunch, it can too often slip into the territory of being ostentatiously garnished, overtly strict, over-priced or under-sized.
But not at V&H Café, where my daughter enjoys two hearty gluten free sausages and a lake of warmly spiced home-recipe baked beans. My husband, a tower of black pudding and poached eggs on toast, built to his specification.
Three happy customers enjoying a well-priced, hearty breakfast with no hassle from staff or other diners, that cheerfully includes a string of families.
A beautifully turned-out coffee and to end on: out of the mouth of babes, who, at five-years-old, appreciates the personal touch in this neighbourhood cafe.
It’s nice to meet Harry.