A few weekends ago (slow write-up, I know!) I headed south to Balham to meet a group of friends for a leisurely Sunday brunch. While I've often cycled through Balham on the Cycle Superhighway 7* on my way to visit my grandfather in Wimbledon, I've never stopped there before, so it was nice to get a chance to explore a new area. We headed to Tartine Artisanal - a pleasant cafe just a few minutes stroll from Balham Underground Station.
It wasn't too busy, and despite being in a large group we were seated straight away, on a long table in the chilled-out downstairs room. The relaxed, scruffy-chic decor and comfy leather sofas made it the perfect place for whiling away a rainy Sunday morning, and there was plenty of place to spread out and make ourselves at home.
The brunch menu was good, offering all the usual dishes - full English, Eggs Benedict, pastries - along with some more interesting options such as Croque Monsieur/Madame, as well as a fantastic selection of milkshakes and smoothies (with names like "Mandarin Pleasure" and "Raspberry Heaven", who could resist?)
I went for the Tartine Full Breakfast - bacon, eggs (I went for poached), grilled tomatoes, sauteed potatoes and button mushrooms. I have to say, I wasn't overly impressed with my choice: the poached eggs were especially bad - rubbery, with an over-powering vinegar flavour and a solidified yolk (so nothing for dipping....sad, sad, sad). The rest was OK, but the portion size was fairly small and there wasn't quite enough food to satisfy me or my fellow 'full breakfaster', somewhat defeating the point of a fry-up breakfast.
However, despite my disappointing experience, some of the other options did look really good.
The eggs royale came with a thick layer of salmon, plenty of buttery hollandaise and a generous helping of chips. In fact, this usually 'light' brunch option turned out to be a lot more substantial than the full English!
The winner however, was definitely the Croque Madame: served with salad or fries (fries being the obviously choice for a morning-after brunch), this was a good-sized dish (my friend came no-where close to finishing, so the remainder was passed around...to the benefit of the rest of us!).
With fried egg (runny yolk, just as it should be!), oozey-gooey layers of melted cheese and tasty ham on perfectly crunchy toast (avoiding the icky sogginess you often get with toasted sandwiches...especially when you're scavenging them off your friend's plate at the end of a long meal!), this had everything you could wish for - if I ever go back here, I know what I'll be ordering!
*In my opinion, the best way to get from North to South London: it only takes me slightly longer to cycle from Angel to South Wimbledon (with the Cycle Superhighway running from the City all the way to Colliers Wood) than it does on the tube, and makes for a significantly more interesting journey -not to mention a good work-out!