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A Fry-up at Smiths of Smithfield

SOS frontageAlign Centre

I'm wandering around Smithfields at 8 in the morning in search of sustenance. I can still smell the blood from the market, but that does nothing to quell my appetite.

I've narrowed it down to two choices: The Hope and Sir Loin or John Torode's Smiths of Smithfield. Daddy or Chips? My heart is saying the H and SL, renowned for its legendary breakfasts of double egg, double bacon, double sausage, liver, kidneys, mushrooms, black pudding, baked beans and fried bread, all washed down with a Bucks Fizz or pint of Guinness (lax licensing laws in this neck of the woods). My head is saying that my heart must be on some kind of kamikaze mission, and so SOS it is.

The room

Industrial warehouse chic aside, Smiths is surprisingly welcoming. I pick a table in the window and look at the menu. And then kind of wish I hadn't - they've used that schtick of pricing everything in "pounds and 1/2 pounds" which jars me immensely - why not say "2/6" or "4s.3d." while you're at it?

I plump for the Number 3 Breakfast of "Bacon, Egg, Beans, Sausage, Mushrooms, Black Pudding, Tomatoes, Bubble & Toast" for "7 1/2 pounds" or £7.50 as it's known to us less rarefied folks, and try to ignore their coy abbreviation of bubble & squeak.

SOS menu

There's a good complement of condiments on the table, which is reassuring, although I'd quite like a bottle of Tabasco as well.

There are also postcards promoting Torode's new gaff in Spitalfields, The Luxe. Stupid name. And are we meant to pronounce it "Loox" or "Lux"? Grrr.


Shortly, my Number 3 Breakfast arrives and, apart from the "bubble", I'm not terribly impressed by its looks. The sausage and bacon seem noshworthy enough, but the cross-section of black pudding is a bit bigger than a poker chip and the egg is the size of a golfball. What manner of stunted chicken laid this one?

Worse still are the slightly shrivelled but still patently raw tomato, and the bread which may have been shown a picture of a toaster at some point. I'm grumpy before a morsel has reached my mouth.

Full Breakfast

I slice into the poached egg. Smallest yolk in history. I take a bite and suddenly I feel immeasurably sad.

The whole thing's waterlogged; it's clearly not been drained properly and it tastes like brackish melancholy.

A very small egg

Next to me there's a couple - the girl calls the waiter over and says "My fried egg is hard. Can you make me another?" The waiter apologises and goes to take her offending egg, but she blocks him and says "No, I'll finish this one - just bring me another". I'm half-awed, half-appalled by her chutzpah and glumly swallow the other half of my dinky egg.

The sausage at least lives up to expectations, the bubble and squeak and beans are a squishily comforting combo and the black pudding is a brief meaty pleasure. The bacon is salty and flabby, I don't bother with the bread and tomato, and the mushrooms make no impact at all.

Did you know he wrote books?

Despondent, I look around me. Strange tomes accost my eyes proclaiming that "John Torode's Chicken". Part of me itches to topple the stack, but ennui has set in.

The staff are lovely and cheerful and you couldn't ask for better service - but I feel like I need to pay up and get out before I dissolve into disappointment.

Smiths of Smithfield frontage

I think I'm beginning to understand why else this place is called SOS.

And it isn't just because the website tries to bury you in livestock.

sos web animals

Smiths of Smithfield
67-77 Charterhouse Street
London EC1M 6HJ
020 7251 7950

Smiths of Smithfield on Urbanspoon


Hollow Legs said…
Oh deary me. That tomato looks purely miserable. I don't bother going for fry ups unless it's at my local greasy spoon, they seem to do it best, and for £5.
Jones said…
"it tastes like brackish melancholy." - love that, you want to copyright it before I nick it ;) Shame you didn't have a nicer meal, but all the times I've been there it's been pretty much just how you've described it. Always thought it such a shame that the food lets it down, it could be a really brilliant brunchy place if someone in the kitchen could just be bothered.

I can vouch for the Sir Loin by the way, although not been for a couple of years now. Make sure you've not got anything important lined up for the next 24 hours though.
meemalee said…
@Lizzie - It's my own fault, I know - greasy spoons always win. I went to Simpsons in the Strand for their Seven Deadly Sins once and was equally disappointed.

@Jones - Aw thank you - I am rather proud of it :)

I knew I made a mistake by not going to the pub!
gastrogeek said…
I went to SOS about a year ago and we had to wait for 45 mins for a table. My eggs benedict was really good but Joe's fry up was pretty much as you've described. Great write up! :)
meemalee said…
@gastrogeek - The wait at lunchtime is ridiculous. FoodUrchin and I tried to get in on Friday (I know, glutton for punishment) and we gave up and went to Smithfield Tavern instead.
chumbles said…
Another great write-up. Horrible looking plate of food, there's a local cafe that does a lot better for less near where I live, but I guess where you were the choice was rather limited! Although the porters at Smithfield must go somewhere?

Best fried breakfast used to be at the Super Sausage at Potterspury on the A5 going north of MK. Occasionally I used to get up early and go and have breakfast there (2 hour round trip!). Oddly, a few miles further up the A5 was Jack's Hill Cafe which was the second best! Both are still going
Food Urchin said…
Shame that your brekkie turned out naff. What with the waiting times for tables, it seems that Toady needs to get his act together and iron out the problems at SOS.

And give up the lapdancing too.

(Today's word verification is mints - does my breath stink that much?)
The Ample Cook said…
Christ on a bike, those mushrooms look awful. And I'm sorry that bubble looks pale and flacid. It should be dark and crispy. Under cooked tomato and over cooked egg?

Shame on you Mr Torode. You need to employ someone who can cook or GET BACK INTO THE KITCHEN.

Feel better for that.
Mr Noodles said…
SOS is the reason why I get agitated when I watch Masterchef. I can often be found shouting at the TV - "Oi Torode sort out own gaff" ! The last time I went here, the steak tasted of nothing despite allegedly being hung for 4 weeks.
knit nurse said…
What a shame. And such an unappetising heap of food. My partner maintains that beans should NEVER touch egg on a breakfast - a badly-arranged breakfast can provoke panicked cries of 'Emergency! Employ the sausage dam!'

I'm glad you pointed out the mushrooms, I thought they were just large beans.

As for the luxe, it's probably 'luxy'.
meemalee said…
@chumbles - I do believe the porters go the pub eg Hope and Sir Loin or the Cock Tavern. I was a fool. A fool.

@FoodUrchin - If he'd lapdanced I would have forgiven him the breakfast. No comment on the word verification although the other day, Kavey's blog gave me "schit".

@TheAmpleCook - The bubble was a bit underdone but it was still pretty tasty.

@Mr Noodles - I always get agitated when watching Masterchef. Not had steak at SOS but I 've had the pork belly which is okay. Good salsa verde.

@knit nurse - The bean egg conundrum is one I have never come across, but I like the concept of a sausage dam.

The mushrooms do look like large beans, don't they? No wonder I can't remember them.

Yeah, "luxy" is probably about right. Torode called vanilla and beer sauce "vanilla and bear sauce" last week.
The Grubworm said…
What is it about supposedly good restaurants and breakfast - it's always a bit hit and miss. I wonder if Torode is doing a Ramsey?

I remember having brekkie at one posh hotel and being told that I couldn't have a poached egg instead of a fried one. Poor show.

Still, makes for a great blog post: "tastes like brackish melancholy" is top drawer - and totally accurate to boot. And you got "Daddy or chips" in there too. Genius.
meemalee said…
@The Grubworm - It's weird how so few people can do a proper poached egg. There was actually an episode of MasterChef where one of the contestants was forced to chuck away one after another because he'd cocked them up.

Yeah man, daddy or chips ...
Gastro1 said…
Great post every floor in SOS has it's own level of disapointmnent :-)
Gastro1 said…
Then again 90% of the meat in Smithfield is the same can't believe some notable eateries even boast they get their meat from there :-)
meemalee said…
@Gastro1 - It truly is. So where do you get your meat from, Dino?
meemalee said…
@Gastro1 - D'oh - O'Sheas! I did know that, honest.
ginandcrumpets said…
I like my fry-ups best when they're from my local greasy spoon and they cost £3. I want my tea orange and in need of sugar to make it palatable, my sausage to be mostly bread, my toast to be white, plasticky stuff drowning in butter and a big pile of chips because they do chips with everything. It's a bit wrong but posh fry-ups are never as satisfying – they're all sanitised and no good.
The Grubworm said…
@meemalee - hang on a minute - isn't Torode on Masterchef?
meemalee said…
@ginandcrumpets - My husband hates posh fry-ups too - he says they're missing the point ;) Give him a fried slice and he's happy.

@The Grubworm - Indeed - the irony.
Kavey said…
Ha ha on the "schit"! A comment on my blog post, perhaps?!

Looks like SOS is definitely NOT worth a visit. I did get the Chicken book to review recently. See my recent Pie post!
meemalee said…
@Kavey - Certainly not - everyone knows that the word verification is a judgment on the person making the comment :p

I loved your pie post - but then I do like Weebl and Bob too :)
@Knit nurse - your husband is correct! I too employ a sausage or if need be toast dam if my husband puts my beans too close to my egg! I once refused to eat breakfast as he sloshed it all together - the horror!

Re SOS - Am glad now when we went a many Sunday's ago it was full, and we had to go to the Fox and Anchor instead as the food there was amazing, including the wonderful goose fat chips -yum!
meemalee said…
@I heart cupcakes - Ooh, Fox and Anchor! Right, that's going on my list too - thanks for the tip :)
The chips alone were worth it for me. And my hubby was rather chuffed with his hunk of steak :)
meemalee said…
@I heart cupcakes - Now I definitely have to go there!
Mise En Place said…

That's a pitty - we ate on level two there recently and really enjoyed it.. Amazing Pork belly. But for a fry up you really can't beat a greasy spoon I suppose!!

I also recently interviewed head chef Tony Moyse (hopefully he didn't make your breakfast!) thought this might interest you and your readers
Haveforkwilleat said…
When were down in London, SOS was always where we headed for breakfast, until the last time where we thought the food quality had gone down hill and they served us a "Septic eye" fried egg. We've never been back since.
meemalee said…
@Mise en Place - Thanks for the link to the interview!

@haveforkwilleat - Septic eye fried egg? Ewwww :)