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The breakfast club

BREAKFAST has been creeping in to business culture for years. But let&rsquo;s be honest &ndash; a couple years ago the preferred way of discussing important work matters was over beef bourguignon, a cheese plate and a couple of bottles of Burgundy. Those who opted instead for morning meetings were known as &ldquo;power breakfasters&rdquo;. Now, thanks to the year of economic turmoil in which business culture has changed forever, the long, boozy lunch has stopped making quite as much sense. Lunches take time, and once you get back to the office, your brain might not be working quite as well as it was beforehand. They&rsquo;re also expensive. This isn&rsquo;t to say that nobody is lunching, but it is to say that breakfast has rapidly gathered popularity as well as sophistication.<br /><br />New restaurants are catching on to the craze. Lutyens, Terence Conran&rsquo;s new one on Fleet Street, is a serious dining room. Nevertheless it lost no time in offering breakfast in its elegant bar. Eight, the brand new members club in Moorgate, will be offering breakfast from September.<br /><br />Price-wise, breakfast knocks the pants off anything else in terms of value. A giant bacon sarnie costs &pound;4 at Smiths of Smithfield in Farringdon, while yoghurt with lavender honey costs &pound;2.75 at super-swanky Prism. At the excellent Searcy&rsquo;s at the Barbican, you can start your day with a duck egg sandwich for &pound;2.50 &ndash; or go all out with bacon, eggs, toast, fresh orange juice and coffee for &pound;6.95.<br /><br />Sean Gavin, general manager of Coq D&rsquo;Argent at No 1 Poultry, says: &ldquo;Breakfast is a growing market for us. When we first opened, we were all lunch, very little dinner and no breakfast. Now breakfast is just as popular as lunch and growing all the time.&rdquo;<br /><br />Gavin attributes the meal&rsquo;s popularity to the fact that &ldquo;people want to have a meeting before the working day starts. We&rsquo;re all working longer hours now,&rdquo; he says, &ldquo;and breakfast is a way of combining another meal period with the working day.&rdquo;<br /><br />Coq D&rsquo;Argent reflects a trend among City breakfast spots by making its menu as flexible as possible. &ldquo;People are more picky about breakfast than they are about lunch,&rdquo; says Gavin. &ldquo;So we&rsquo;ve evolved the menu so that they can create their own.&rdquo;<br /><br />The great thing about breakfast is that it can still impress &ndash; even be decadent (Coq D&rsquo;Argent offers caviar and champagne) &ndash; but lacks the potential to get out of hand. And the City has plenty of decadent, stylish and &ndash; most importantly &ndash; delicious offerings for any taste, be it low carb, low fat or all out.<br /><br />So where&rsquo;s the best place for that pre-work meeting? Read on for our pick.<br /><br />BREAKFAST PLACES<br /><strong>COQ D&rsquo;ARGENT<br />No1. Poultry, EC2R 8EJ, Tel: 020 7395 5000</strong><br />The swankiest of the lot thanks to its fabulous view, this bastion of City style has a remarkably modest breakfast menu, price-wise, with the likes of mushroom pancakes with poached egg and hollandaise, and smoked salmon and spinach Benedict for &pound;6. Mixed viennoiserie is &pound;4 and healthier still, Greek yoghurt and honey is &pound;3.50. For those looking to glam up their meeting, champagne is offered by the glass from &pound;9.75. Breakfast served 7:30-10AM.<br /><br /><strong>BONDS<br />5 Threadneedle Street, EC2R 8AY, Tel: 020 7657 8090</strong><br />The restaurant in the boutique Threadneedle Hotel is quiet and stately, with what many people swear is the best eggs Benedict in the world. The Cumberland sausages and Alsace bacon are also superb. The atmosphere is relaxed and the room is elegant, but the prices are just a bit too high for someone whose expense budget has been slashed. Breakfast served 6:30-10:30AM.<br /><br /><strong>LUTYENS<br />85 Fleet Street, EC4Y 1AE, Tel: 020 7583 838</strong><br />Terence Conran&rsquo;s recently opened French-Irish trendster does serious food and wine, but wasted no time in setting up its breakfast, which is served in the bar area. As gastronomic trend demands nowadays, you can expect a well-sourced spread of British favourites. Sharpham Park Muesli and the Ayreshire bacon roll are safe bets, but the more adventurous might be tempted by corned beef hash with fried duck egg, or lambs kidneys. Breakfast served 7:30-10AM.<br /><br /><strong>PRISM<br />147 Leadenhall Street, EC3V 4QT, Tel: 020 7256 3875</strong><br />Prism is a seen-and-be-seen classic for lunch and dinner in the City. Housed in the former Bank of New York building, the restaurant offers expensive modern European food, but breakfast is mercifully good value &ndash; the new menu has elegant touches such as eggs Benedict with smoked haddock and bagel croque madame/monsieur for around &pound;8. Breakfast served 8-10AM.<br /><br /><strong>SMITHS OF SMITHFIELD</strong><br /><strong>66-67 Charterhouse Street, EC1M 6HJ, Tel: 020 7251 7950</strong><br />Home of some of the best bacon in London, SOS is a bang-on-trend breakfast spot &ndash; always heaving with suits and creative types &ndash; though not a formal one. The meal is served in the warehouse-style ground floor, and the food is wholesome, hearty and naughty in equal measure: porridge with honey, the famous Richard Woodall&rsquo;s bacon butty &ldquo;on thick crusty&rdquo; and thick cut ham, two eggs and chips are all superb. Breakfast served 7AM-4:30PM.<br /><br /><strong>THE MERCER</strong><br /><strong>34 Threadneedle Street, EC2R 8AY, Tel: 020 7628 0001</strong><br />Just up the road from the Bank of England, this is a favourite spot for well-executed, on-trend brasserie food and is always heaving at lunch. Breakfast is well-balanced, with an unusual amount of healthy options &ndash; a smoothie section offers hardcore fruity health and the restaurant has its own house muesli. Richer options include Yorkshire pikelets (home-made buttered crumpets); grilled calf&rsquo;s liver and Scottish kipper. Breakfast served 7:30-10AM.