A very English breakfast

Full English Breakfast

A shrivelled lady in her seventies, back severely arched and supported in her chair by a pile of cushions, sits just inside the entrance.  There’s a scent that’s hard to place but is reminiscent of a nursing home. “Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.” We are soon greeted by a lady dressed in an elegant black waist-coast who asks our room number in a heavy Slavic accent, checks that breakfast is indeed included in our rate and takes us to a table in the middle of the room. A small army of staff in similar black and white uniforms offer us tea, coffee, juice and ask us how we like our eggs.

A simple guide to making your run-of-the-mill 3 star hotel feel upmarket:

1. Dress the staff in smart uniforms

2. Instruct them not to smile at guests

To one side of us, a couple who are probably in their eighties. She is busy on her iPhone, oblivious to both her husband and the toast which is cooling with every passing minute of neglect. “Oh look George,” she exclaims. “There’s a 20% chance of showers at 10am, but it goes up to 30% by midday.” George’s mind is elsewhere. On another day he might be distracted by Magda the smartly-dressed waitress, but today he is perturbed by the bowl of grey liquid (or is it solid?) in front of him. He stabs it uncertainly and says, “Is porridge supposed to be this sweet?”. His wife doesn’t raise her eyes from her phone.

At the other side, a younger couple order fried eggs to go with their buffet. He sits back from the table, one leg across the other and his shorts revealing pale flesh that hints at this summer’s first daring foray away from long trousers. He holds the Daily Mail spread high and wide, blocking his view of both his wife and the breakfast table. Occasionally he drops the paper slightly to share a pithy revelation; something about the undeserving on the Queen’s birthday honours list triggers a memory of a story he saw yesterday on the internet. His wife meanwhile feeds off his reading scraps, flicking half-heartedly through a magazine that fell as he opened his paper.

Behind them a similar scene plays out. This time though the man is reading his Daily Mail on his tablet. He remains silent as he studies the sports news. With no supplements to entertain her, his wife looks down at her plate and pokes her fork unconvincingly into a solitary sliver of bacon.

The waiting staff live up their title, hovering as we work our way through our breakfast. I have barely put down my fork and am just beginning to chew a final mouthful of sausage and baked beans when a waiter pounces a little too eagerly, like a penguin grabbing his first fish of spring. The waiter and my plate are gone before I have a chance to salvage the sauce from the beans, which I was saving to mop up with my toast.

We leave the room and pass once again the single lady, hunched over her plate. She appears not have touched her food since we last saw her.

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Freelance travel writer

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