Sweet and savoury brunch recipes – including an easy alternative to eggs Benedict

Brioche with bacon, fried egg and chilli-roast tomatoes recipe
'Brunch pressurises you into being your wittiest, most sociable self' says Henry - Haarala Hamilton

When we were little, my siblings and I used to muse about the kind of person we wanted to marry. My brother had the clearest image. He would always say, ‘I want to marry a girl who’ll catch the toast.’

In reality, our breakfasts were rushed and usually eaten on dark mornings. Nobody felt chirpy enough to pirouette towards the toaster. But by the time we got to school, Radio 1 blaring in the car, I would find myself thinking about the optimistic breakfasts that lay ahead where everyone would catch the toast.

These days long, sociable breakfasts – brunches if they’re at the weekend – have become the norm. Their popularity crept up on us.

Initially it was exposure to the laid-back vibes of cafés run by Aussies and Kiwis, at least in London. The late Bill Granger, called the King of Breakfast in his native Australia, did much to make it a meal of sunshine and hope. He had us flipping ricotta hotcakes, offering potato röstis with smoked salmon and jammy eggs, and nonchalantly drizzling passion fruit on our porridge (though probably not in Scotland).

He’s even been credited with ‘inventing’ avocado toast, a dish that doesn’t deserve the scorn it attracts. I usually go to Australian-owned Lantana – there are three of them in London – for brunch on my birthday and order the smashed avo with bacon, roast tomatoes, poached egg and chilli jam. Bloody delicious.

In America, brunch is the meal I look forward to above all others. The traditional offering is carb-laden and unhealthy, but I usually have bacon, pancakes and maple syrup the day I arrive.

The range of dishes we regard as brunch-friendly has exploded, especially if you end up in an urban brunch spot. The best meal I had during a three-week trip to the States years ago was at Bar Tartine in San Francisco; the restaurant has since closed but the memory has stayed with me, so good was the food. Their brunch couldn’t have been further from the American standard. There was date butter for the seed-studded bread, various tartares of fish, vegetables and meat, smoked potatoes with black garlic and pickles.

Brunch wasn’t invented by an Australian or an American, but by a Brit in 1895. Author Guy Beringer wrote a piece entitled ‘Brunch: A Plea’, suggesting a meal between breakfast and lunch eaten in convivial company was the perfect antidote to a Sunday hangover. ‘It is talk-compelling,’ he wrote. ‘It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.’

The trouble is that brunch enthusiasts often regard it as the best way to get together in big groups to down endless prosecco with orange juice. We’ve become ‘over-brunched’. Although brunch is lucrative for restaurants (Anthony Bourdain once called it a ‘horrible, cynical way of unloading leftovers and charging three times as much as you ordinarily charge for breakfast’), it’s hard to create a menu that works from 10am to 4pm.

Diners – becoming more and more well-oiled as the day goes on – can be raucous and uninhibited and aren’t, understandably, popular with waiting staff. I hate being hungover during the day, especially on a Sunday, so I generally turn down brunch invitations to restaurants.

Brunch also pressurises you into being your wittiest, most sociable self. And most aren’t as good as those at Lantana. But you can do it well at home, with good food and endless coffee and juice (as well as booze for those who want it).

Buy the papers so reading, relaxing and chatting are encouraged, and you can leave performative cheeriness behind.