Food on social media is a double-edged sword. It can tantalize and inspire, like when Clerkenwell Boy posts endless montages of picture-perfect brunches or THOSE donuts; or it can be a sad, washed out train wreck of ill-lit food, which may or may not have looked appetizing before it was attacked with an iPhone – we may never know. In both cases it can be equally as torturous to take in such images. Personally, I had been waking every weekend to such torture in the form of M1lk’s Instagram feed, filled with mouthwatering descriptions and carefully styled photos of their pancakes. Never the same from week to week, I watched a parade of these beauties pass before my eyes: “buckwheat pancakes with bananas, caramel, toasted almonds, Nesquick mascarpone”; “buckwheat pancakes with blood orange jam, hazelnut popcorn brittle, vanilla bean mascarpone”; “buckwheat pancakes with banana, Oreo mascarpone, almond macadamia brittle, Nutella caramel”; “buckwheat pancakes with burnt apple, milk marshmallow, lemon verbena, lavender”. Clearly, there’s a mad genius locked away down there in Balham, churning out these pancake combos like no one else in London. My will power failed me last weekend and I decided it was high time to go check out what was going on all the way out in Zone 3.
Set back off the Balham high street, M1lk looks like a work-in-progress from the outside, with the name splashed in neon pink paint across the old “Almas” signage. When we arrived at noon on Saturday, brunch was in full swing inside with a small queue outside. One of the waitresses came out to take our names and the number of people in our party, saying it would be a short wait before we got a table. She told us that if we wanted, we could order a coffee from inside while we were waiting. Inside it was all hustle and bustle, with the sounds of frying coming from the kitchen, the hiss of milk being steamed on the La Marzocco Linea, and the murmur of conversation. I ordered flat whites for Rob and I to enjoy in the queue and grabbed a copy of Kinfolk from the magazine rack. I was pleasantly surprised when our drinks arrived not in takeaway paper cups, but in proper ceramic cups. It made standing in the queue feel a bit less like waiting and more like we were already starting our brunch – just standing instead of sitting. Shortly after, we were sat outside, given menus to peruse, and told that when we were ready, we would just need to order at the till.
It was a short, simple menu, but that didn’t make it easy to order. Everything sounded amazing. In the end, my ongoing search for the best eggs Benedict/hollandaise sauce in London led me to order the “Young Betty” (“poached eggs on woodfired sourdough, drycure bacon, burnt butter hollandaise”), while Rob was tempted by the vegetarian brunch staple of corn fritters, called “Sweet Maria” (“sweetcorn fritters, grilled halloumi, avocado, kasundi, lime”). And do you think we were going to go all the way down there without getting those pancakes? Of course not. The topping of the day was forced rhubarb, Chantilly cream, and candied ginger.
After ordering, I lingered inside for a moment to ponder over the delicious-looking cakes and plump Lamingtons on display on the counter, and to admire some downright drool-inducing dishes being plated (like “The Convict”, which seemed to be a posh and actually tasty version of a McMuffin). Despite the brunch rush, our food came out quite quickly, and believe me when I say it didn’t last long. The hollandaise was probably the best I’ve had in London – wonderfully seasoned with just the right amount of lemon tang – and the eggs were the poached to perfection. I can’t tell you how Rob’s corn fritters were because when I looked up from my own dish after a minute, they were completely gone. But the glazed, happy look in his eyes told me everything I needed to know. The pancakes were amazing and moreish, and sadly over too soon. If we weren’t already stuffed, I’m sure that nothing in the world could have stopped us from ordering another plate.
Feeling sated and happy, we went to close the tab, trying not to think too hard about how much it could cost after three coffees, a smoothie, three mains, and a side of mushrooms. Once again, M1lk pleasantly surprised us: for two people eating like locusts, it only amounted to £30.
At the risk of sounding too much like a cheerleader for M1lk: GO. GO NOW. Each weekend you have without M1lk in your life pales in comparison to a weekend where you could have M1lk in your life. Their pancakes are phenomenal (and gluten free!), the coffee is silky, sweet goodness (with beans from London’s own Workshop and Koppi roasters “all the way from Swedenland”), and it’s one of the best brunches in London at a cheaper price than many others. You’d be mad (madder than whoever is coming up with those outrageous, fantastic pancake toppings) to miss out on it.