In an effort to use up some annual leave, I booked the day off work on Friday. My plan was to go for a run, go for brunch and then chill out. The day ended up becoming a lot busier than that but I did at least complete the first two objectives. My brunch destination was Milk (formerly known as M1LK) in Balham, which I've been wanting to visit for a while. I don't often end up going that far south and I had heard rumours of huge queues for the café's weekend brunch, so I thought a weekday — even a sunny Friday in the summer holidays — might be a better bet.
Milk occupies a bright, airy space on the corner of Bedford Hill and the lovely pedestrianised Hildreth Street, which is also the home of a branch of Blackbird Bakery and Brickwood. All of the outdoor seats at Milk were taken when I arrived just before noon, but I found a seat inside near the counter. It was pretty busy but no one had to wait very long for a table. The décor is very rustic-chic, with exposed-brick walls, tables that wouldn't be out of place in a Scandinavian farmhouse kitchen, and a gorgeous white-accented Spirit Triplette espresso machine.
It was too warm a day for a black filter coffee, so I ordered a piccolo (£2.50) instead, which meant I got to test out the Spirit — well, the barista did; I just drank the end result. The coffee was an espresso favourite of mine (and of many others), Workshop's Cult of Done, whose rich, chocolatey taste works well in a piccolo. My piccolo was well prepared, with rather good latte art on top, and tasted great. I almost ordered a filter coffee anyway to try the single-origin Koppi coffee from Sweden, or one of the gorgeous-looking smoothies, served in milk bottles, but I had several other coffee dates that day and didn't want to peak too soon.
The menu offers everything you could want from a brunch menu and more. I was seriously tempted by the fillet o' fish sandwich and the Sweet Maria (sweetcorn fritters with all sorts of awesomeness), but I saw someone else's Young Betty and knew I had to order the dish, which included poached eggs on Brixton sourdough with burnt butter hollandaise sauce and dry-cure bacon (£8.50). You can ditch the bacon or swap it for salmon or buttered spinach, but my perfect brunch always involves bacon.
The food was delicious, beautifully presented and just about the right size for an early brunch. The bacon and the sourdough were both good, but it was the brown butter hollandaise sauce on the poached eggs that really won me over. The sauce was creamy and with an excellent depth of flavour. Needless to say, Young Betty didn't last very long!
Milk is a great place for a coffee, relaxed brunch and now even for dinner. The staff are friendly and the food and coffee make it well worth the trip down the Northern Line. They don't take bookings, so do go early if you don't want to face a long wait at the weekend.
Milk. 18–20 Bedford Hill, Balham, London, SW12 9RG (Tube: Balham). Website. Twitter.