Is it ever too early to start drinking? This is the question I asked myself as I walked into Little Bat in Islington to review their newly launched brunch menu. Would someone look at me funny if I ordered a cocktail at 11am on a Saturday morning? This little spot on a residential street in Islington is the sister venue of Calooh Calley and what started life as a cocktail bar, now serves up eggs, pancakes and bloody marys from their DIY trolley.
The décor is quirky to say the least, it looks a little like an antiques shop with random articles dotted throughout the room and then some tables lining the walls at the front, a large bar in the middle and some tables at the back. Incidentally, if you’re planning to take photos of your food, and let’s be real, we all are, I suggest sitting at the back where the room is flooded with natural light. They also have flowery wallpaper and who would say no to a photo of a cocktail in front of this gracing their Instagram feed.
As you would expect, the menu is split into sections that include nibbles with your drinks, small plates, mains and of course the sides where some avocado will cost you £3.50 which may seem expensive but I have seen far worse in London. One thing to point out is that you’re going to struggle if you’re a vegan. Whilst this doesn’t affect me, an increasing number of people will be impacted by it and I was a little surprised to see that the brunch menu wasn’t offering anything. There may be a separate menu but I didn’t ask.
Things kick off with some truffle popcorn that you can smell before it even leaves the kitchen. This goes down a treat with ‘Driving Miss Daisy’, my mocktail made from seedlip garden, apple & nettle shrub, bitters, citrus and soda. Who knew that nettle shrub could taste so good? Next out are the roasted cauliflower and smoked cheddar croquettes with chilli relish and the beetroot houmous with zaatar flatbread. Before I get to describing the food, I want to know why everyone has a different way of spelling hummus and what is the real way? The hommus is an extraordinary shade of pink yet doesn’t taste like beetroot and although I can’t quite figure out why, I am not complaining because it tasted fantastic. The zaatar bread was crunchy and whilst it was more a loaf than a flatbread, it was laden with zaatar and oil and sesame seeds and I loved it. I imagine someone somewhere of Middle Eastern descent will be screaming that this isn’t authentic but I don’t care, paired with that humus (I am running out of ways to spell it), it made the perfect starter and a pleasant change from a yogurt bowl that most brunch places like to serve.
Our lovely waitress suggested I go for the chickpea and potato parmesan truffle rosti with some spinach, hollandaise and a poached egg. Due to it being a religious day, eggs were off the menu so I don’t have a glorious #yolkporn shot for you. The rosti itself was soft and full of flavour, with hints of salty parmesan coming though in every bite. Given that the popcorn was so strong, I failed to pick up the truffle, but in a way, I am glad because it was great as was. The hollandaise could have done with a squeeze of lime, yes, I know I am being petty, but given the competition in terms of brunch spots, it’s important.
My dining partner opted for the brioche french toast with banana, butterscotch, mascarpone and hazelnuts. It’s like this dish was made for Instagram. It had a golden shine to it, it had height, it had a perfect quenelle of the cheese and the perfect crumbling of nuts across the top. Again, the egg situation meant I couldn’t eat the toast but I pinched a sugar glazed banana, slathered it in butterscotch, topped it with some nuts and went for it. I have zero regrets. All of me wanted to order a plate of bananas and butterscotch sauce but eating excessive amounts of that bread earlier meant that I was full, I had been defeated by Little Bat.
I love the fact that the menu is so varied and unlike your typical brunch offering. The cocktails are something special, but you already knew that was going to be the case. I would recommend the elevenses, it really is very clever. I think the menu just needs to be a little longer, it needs a few more options for those who don’t eat eggs. Apart from this, I think Little Bat is still an undercover gem that will surely have its moment in the spotlight.
This meal was provided free of charge by Little Bat