It’s hardly surprising that bottomless brunches have taken London by storm. (If the promise of boundless booze doesn’t excite you then you can stop reading now. And we can’t be friends.) Unlimited alcohol does have its downsides though; I’ve stumbled away from more than one venue bursting with carbs and Bloody Marys, but not Skylon. Skylon’s Sparkling Sundays, booked via Bookatable, are a much classier affair, darrrrrling.
Situated on the third floor of Royal Festival Hall in the Southbank Centre, Skylon is a riverside restaurant with a cracking view of the Thames. You can see Big Ben and the London Eye and everything, which makes it one of the best brunchtime views in town.
The interior is very classic…in a good way! I enjoy an exposed brick wall as much as the next bruncher, but there’s something to be said for gleaming silver salt cellars and starchy white tablecloths. I know it’s not as fashionable, but sod it, sometimes it’s nice not to have to eat off a plank.
Skylon is divided into two: the main restaurant serves modern British cuisine and the grill offers more informal cooking and a relaxed atmosphere. The two are separated by an impressive raised cocktail bar, adorned with bright climbing plants, bird cages and retro light fittings. Tasha and I lucked out and got a table right next to the huge windows in the main restaurant, which I’d absolutely recommend asking for.
There’s plenty on the Sparkling Sundays menu for pescatarians (and hardcore carnivores, like Tasha), but the veggie options are pretty limited. Luckily, the choices I did have were delicious ones. The menu is presented very simply, with entire dishes named ‘Rabbit’ or ‘Pork’ or ‘Mackerel’. A little unusual, but it helped me zone in on the ‘Spring Vegetable’ starter with ease. It centered around a pea panna cotta, which was unlike anything I’ve had before. Deliciously light and creamy, my brain kept thinking ‘DESSERT!’, but it was delicately savoury. I did suffer some starter envy when I saw Tasha’s smooth asparagus soup, even if it did have smoky bacon stirred through it, which apparently made it outrageously tasty.
I followed my pea pudding with Jerusalem artichoke and pear barley risotto, topped with a slow-cooked duck egg and wild mushrooms. The risotto itself was unctuous and rich, but the duck egg sent it way over the top, oozing golden yolk all over everything in a manner that was almost indecent. Alas, I couldn’t detect any artichoke, which was disappointing as its one of my favourite vegetables.
Tasha had the the duo of pork with apple purée, salsify, rock samphire with pork jus. It was elegantly presented for sure, and reportedly delicious: well-cooked and tender. The plate was undeniably pretty but I thought it also looked a little sad. I know this is a posh restaurant, but a little complementary carb on the plate wouldn’t go amiss. Some hasselback potatoes, perhaps? A cheeky swirl of truffle mash? No? Okay, fine. (Tasha liked it as it was. Maybe it’s just me being a carb monster…)
While we were filling our faces, the prosecco was flowing with abundance. I really can’t fault the waiting staff at Skylon in this regard; there’s nothing more embarrassing than paying for an unlimited drink with your meal, then being made to feel like you’re harassing the staff and being greedy. We didn’t finish a single glass before it was topped up again. Several members of staff seemed to be patrolling the tables at all times, on a tireless search for an offensively half-filled flute. I respect that level of vigilance.
Perhaps they topped us up a little too much, because by the time dessert came we’d forgotten all about being Instawankers all over our plates. By we, I mean Tasha, who ordered the raspberry jelly, sorbet and crumble, and milk chocolate cremaux, and forgot to photograph it for me. Useless drunk old sow. It was apparently bloody lovely though, judging by all the cooing. I once again has the envies, because my chocolate and pecan brownie with coffee Chantilly and salted caramel ice cream was somewhat lacking. It was certainly presented well when it arrived, but the ‘brownie’ felt like more of a mousse, and didn’t deliver the hard chocolate shot I was craving.
The meal was brought to a close with some complimentary macaroons and dark chocolate truffles. They continued to pour the wine while we laboured over these last few bites for another quarter of an hour, which was a nice touch. It is both rare and lovely to feel as welcome at the end of the meal as you are at the start.
The Sparkling Sundays menu at Skylon is £25 for two courses of £30 for three, plus an additional £15 for bottomless prosecco (and rest assured that it is truly bottomless).
Including service the bill topped a tonne, so it’s definitely a special occasion venue. But that view combined with limitless bubbles really does make it feel special.
My advice: stick to the two courses, save yourself a fiver and nip down to the Southbank Centre food market afterwards. There are more sugary delights down there than you can shake a stick at, and the hustle and bustle of it will bring you back to earth nicely!
Skylon, Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Rd, London, SE1 8XX
Author: Carla Juniper
Carla is a proud Putney-dweller and newly-minted vegetarian. She loves pickled beetroot and experimenting in the kitchen, especially when accompanied by a very large glass of wine, which is known to aid creativity and culinary prowess. In her spare time she uses her degree in Illustration to create bespoke digital portraits (you can check our her work here).
She also sucks at the flying trapeze.