LONDON — In a world increasingly eaten up with chain restaurants, Tom's Deli in the Notting Hill section of London is a welcome relief to a hungry traveler.
It won't necessarily be a relief to your pocketbook (the prices are a tad high), but Tom's has one of the best breakfasts (about $18) in England, and its eggs Benedict are, in the words of that Nicole Kidman flick, "to die for." Speaking of Nicole, even she has dined in a booth at Tom's, as has Brad Pitt.
Notting Hill (remember the Julia Roberts-Hugh Grant movie with that title?) used to be a seedy neighborhood dominated by bikers. No more. Notting Hill is now quite gentrified, which is, of course, good and bad. But Tom's remains a constant. It sprang up on Westbourne Grove in 1990, when just about its only neighbor was what the Brits call a petrol station.
Tom's is owned by Tom Conran, who owns several other cool London eateries.
Conran has an impeccable sense of design: Tom's is one cool-looking place, but even that has a down side. In addition to pinching the pocketbook, the lines at Tom's often snake out the door. The wait, however, is almost always worth it.
American tourists revel in Tom's "really good English cooking," as Jo Mazzotta, Tom's general manager, told us. But Tom's also offers a lavishly stocked deli, full of fresh food and delicacies from all over the world (one example: terrific cheese from France, starting about $2 for nearly a quarter-pound). But as Mazzotta says, "We're famous for our breakfasts," which are punctuated with some of the best hot, black, steaming, flavorful, delicious coffee (about $3.70) I've ever had.
"When people come here," Mazzotta says, "it's not just to have a cup of coffee but to have a chat and talk about their problems."
IF YOU GO:
Tom's Deli, 226 Westbourne Grove, London; 011-44-20-7221-8818; www.tomconranrestaurants.co.uk