I’ll freely admit it. I’m a creature of habit. I was introduced to Fresh Basil in Belper around ten years ago and I started going regularly about seven years ago. It’s a really friendly and knowledgeable place so I’m guessing my lack of imagination which resulted in me being known as “sausage on brown with brown” man is something of a disappointment to them. To explain, they do do a very good sausage sandwich on a brown roll with brown sauce which is rather excellent a a takeaway breakfast with a very good black coffee. There aren’t many places open early that can deliver and to have somewhere that does so with finesse is worth mentioning. As a small point, the coffee is as important to me as the sandwich. So many places let themselves down with rank average coffee.
For a few years now Fresh Basil has displayed a banner proclaiming Derbyshire’s best breakfast and I have spent those years heartily agreeing without ever trying the specific product. I didn’t realise until last weekend that this refers to the full English rather than the venue. My daughters treated me for my birthday to lunch at Fresh Basil and so I tried the best breakfast.
I’ve spoken before about how unrepresentative the Full English Breakfast is of British daily life. To try it once in a while is a good experience though. To try the best in a Derbyshire is worthy of mention. The challenge with the Full English, in my opinion, is to make it tasty but not overpoweringly filling so that it leaves you with a shortlasting “food baby” and a greasy taste in the mouth.
I’m pleased to say the best in Derbyshire achieved that and fully serves the title. Let’s start with the bacon. Really good dry cure bacon is incomparable with the shrinking, water-filled nonsense that many supermarkets sell. Fresh Basil serves nice thick bacon which feels like pork – tasty and substantial. One of the reasons I have the sausage bap here is that the bacon is too meaty for a bacon sandwich in my opinion. It’s wasted in a breakfast sandwich but looks after itself here.
The sausages are herby and peppery without being too seasoned. With a touch of brown sauce they carve neatly into slices which are perfect little mouthfuls. Again, the meat content is high and I would use these as an ingredient in a pasta dish or as a feature in a main course like the French do. Just a couple of small links but that’s all you need.
The black pudding is sensational – George Stafford’s according to the menu – with a nice dry texture and an earthy and grainy taste. It has been cut as a wedge off a large slice rather than small rounds off a traditional round link. I know this may split the readership but I think black pudding (a blood sausage if you aren’t familiar with it) is a wonderful product but there are a lot of ‘pasty’ versions with an imbalance of fat to blood which creates a cloying texture.
The fried egg is still runny, the beans are contained in a ceramic pot so that those who don’t want to partake don’t need to. The fried tomato is well cooked through and has been seasoned well. The seedy toasted bread was excellent and didn’t need butter. The only disappointing part of the plate, to my taste anyway, are the mushrooms. Not left in liquid which is the ultimate failure but just not tasty enough for me. I prefer mushrooms fried down with some butter and not of the button varieties – much less healthy though.
In summary this was the finest Full English I have ever had in a cafe (and the vast majority of hotels I have opted for it in too). It works because it contains carefully chosen ingredients cooked well without overpowering in quantify or texture. There’s a reason why it keeps winning…