They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do in life. Well, a few weeks ago I completed my 13th house move in 4 years. I have now lived in 6 of the 32 London Boroughs, in 7 different post codes with a total of 15 different house mates. That’s a lot of stress. Luckily, I find the best way to target stress is to eat a lot of food.
I have just moved out of a flat share with a rather lovely group of people. This living arrangement saw me venture south of the river for the second time in my London life (the first was Southbank which is of course south of the river but it’s not like, SOUTH south!) which is something I never thought would happen, due to me being somewhat of a self proclaimed postcode snob. However over the previous years I had come to realise that some of the best places in our capital can be found just a hop, skip and a jump over the river, stretching all the way down to the mystical territories of Balham in Zone 3, none the less! Who knew?! Quite a lot of people, it would turn out…
This abode could be found just a 5 minute stroll away from Balham’s underground and rail station. Time Out last year described Balham as having “Understated affluence”, with plenty of “pedigree dogs, really nice schools and traffic jams caused by Ocado delivery vans.” while the Standard calls it the Yuppie Village that is the “gateway to the South.” No longer a poor man’s Clapham, Balham actually has a bit of everything you’d ever desire in a place of residency. I mean, it has a big Sainsburys AND a big Waitrose, what more could you want from life? Literally nothing, apart from maybe an M&S Simply Food, but there’s one of those round the corner at Clapham South so you’re sorted there too!
In addition to having all of your supermarket needs catered for, Balham is also home to a variety of fantastic quirky, unique and superb cafes, bars and restaurants, including two branches of my favourite restaurants in London, Franco Manca & Bodean’s. But this post isn’t about those two (I’ve already written about those!), instead this post is about a restaurant-cum-cafe that serves independently supplied ingredients that make up delectable brunch style dishes, freshly baked cakes and sweet treats, and speciality coffees.
It was the first day I ever visited Balham that I was made aware of M1lk. It was sold to me as one of those places I simply MUST try. It’s pretty much a Balham institution; almost everyone here regards it in such high esteem as being the best place to go for food on a weekend. You only have to look at the queues on a Saturday morning to see i’m not lying. Seriously, if you have the patience, you’ll be waiting for an hour before you get the chance to order your beautifully crafted brunch from the helpful and friendly staff within.
Me, i’m not a huge fan of queuing. I go out to eat when i’m hungry, and if I need to wait for more than 15 minutes between achnowledging those hunger pangs and satisfying them I turn into a hangry cow, pure and simple. So needless to say I never endured the weekend queues at this beautiful little cafe for longer than that time. So how did I manage to dine here, when these queues are just a right of passage for those living in SW12 who have a penchant for breakfast goods later in the day, I hear you ask? Well there are a few tricks; firstly, go when the weather is so horrendously dyer (we’re talking torrential rain, hurricane worthy winds and hail stones the size of golf balls) that only someone out of their mind would venture out for a decent cuppa coffee and a plate of eggs benny (nutcases: this is your moment!), “work from home” for a morning and pop in on a weekday, OR go in those few quiet days after Christmas, when most people are still comatose from one too many Quality Street in their parents front rooms back in the country side, and haven’t had the chance to make their way back to London yet. That is your prime opportunity. Not only will there be no queue, but you’ll also have your choice of any seat you like. THAT is how I managed to dine at M1lk.
So I guess the big question you’re asking is: is it really worth it?
Well durrh. Of course it is. It’s bloody brilliant.
I have returned to the same dish on every visit. The Convict (a probable nod to the Aussie owners) cannot be beaten in my eyes and will only set you back £7.90. A proper English muffin topped with dry-cure bacon, sausage, brown egg, poacher hash and their incredible miracle working hangover sauce (yes… hangovers are usually involved in these visits!) – this is then topped with shavings of light, fluffy cheese (can cheese be fluffy in a non-mouldy way? I guess so, because this is!) which slowly melts atop of this mountain of indulgent breakfast goodness. The bacon is thick and the sausage juicy. The hangover sauce is similar to a BBQ sauce but with a somehow creamier depth – it could be made from mixing mayo and bbq together, but that’s just my speculation. It’s delicious either way.
The Eggs Benny is a solid choice too (I’ve been known to sneak a few bites from friend’s plates now and again), and attractive to look at too! The burnt butter hollandaise is creamy, with just the right amount of tang and a satisfying, wholesome colour. Opt between the dry-cure bacon, salmon or spinach and pay no more than £9.50.
Drinks wise the coffee is a must have, obviously (it’s not actually a proper brunch otherwise, ya know!) and their Flat Whites, made with coffee by the Workshop Coffee Co. are just top notch. Following a recent expansion back in July (and the renovation of the rough and ready signage outside), Milk has become a lot more environment conscious. They now serve their coffee in paper cups, and provide a 10% discount to those who come with a resusable cup of their own. They even sell some in case you want to purchase one for next time.
If coffee isn’t your thing and you need a boost of vitamin C, their smoothies are the bomb. Choose from three; Lauren, Billie & Lois. I don’t know the stories behind these names but whoever the real life muses are, they must be pretty special to have three fantastic smoothies named after them. Lauren is my go to smoothie gal, with strawberry, banana and mango. A gorgeous blend of summery flavours, all served in a milk bottle, and I don’t care what you say, serving drinks in milk bottles is bloody cool. At least it isn’t jam jars!!
Balham has become one of my all time favourite areas for dining out. As well as Milk, there is also the Dee-Light Bakery on Ritherdon Road which serves incredible muffins, cakes and sandwiches, and the French Cafe next door which does some beautiful dinner dishes, though neither of these have the same kind of cult following as Milk.
Despite moving out of Balham, I will make sure I set aside the odd weekend to venture back down to this gorgeous area of London to enjoy a few brunch with my girlfriends here. As long as someone goes ahead to queue first!