The Union Jack – Winchester, VA

So Much More Than Breakfast!

By Deb Cornwell
Photos by Josh Triggs

It is a typical English day. Pouring down rain. But I’m not in the Cotswolds, I’m in Winchester. After such a lingering winter, this Friday April rain just seems rude. “Could you, would you, please prepare the Full English Breakfast?” Not quite a pleading, but I was suitably pathetic to elicit a “Yes.” “And may I have a glass of Prosecco?” “Of course.” Union Jack General Manager Susan Touchette says, “If we have the ingredients on hand, we’ll prepare the full breakfast any time.”

Full Breakfast is the actual name of this particular meal. It is a term that is understood all across Great Britain, Ireland, and the Commonwealth, if not in the United States. Full Breakfast also has some popular nicknames including A Fry Up and, eh hem, A Full Monty. Throughout the British Isles, the Full Breakfast is popular and, like me, many people order it in place of lunch or whenever they want to do that breakfast-for-dinner thing. Nowadays, it is rarely served daily as it is usually reserved for weekends, specials occasions, and vacations.


The Full English Breakfast at Union Jack is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and all day on Sundays. It’s the perfect comfort food for such as my rainy day. Union Jack offers a typical Full English Breakfast: two fried eggs, house-cured English back bacon, sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, and toast.

As if that groaning list isn’t enough food for a full English breakfast there are other popular dishes for breakfast add ons or entrees. Not all of these are available at Union Jack, but it’s fun to look at some common breakfast choices: bangers, black pudding, scones, crumpets, kippers, bubble and squeak, jolly boys, kedgeree, and about 30 other dishes make up typical English breakfast fare. In England, this Full Breakfast might also start with orange juice, cereals, and stewed or fresh fruits.

For the Union Jack breakfast, the traditional back bacon is on the plate. It’s not a crispy bacon but a thin pork loin slice that is pleasantly chewy. It might seem strange to have sautéed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes (say tow-MAH-tow in your best British English) and baked beans for breakfast, but it works well. The beans aren’t sweet either; it’s a nice savory touch. With the addition of two perfectly fried eggs, jam, and toast, my meal is just what I wanted.

What should one drink with a full English breakfast? Tea, of course. A cuppa or a whole pot is found on every British breakfast table. The kettle is always on at Union Jack. Coffee is also served.

Wait, what? Black pudding, you say? Don’t be alarmed. From the above list of usual add ons, Union Jack offers scones with their Devonshire Tea, bangers, and, yes, black pudding. Black pudding is also known as blood pudding. It isn’t pudding at all as we understand it. It is sausage made with animal blood. The pudding part may be loosely construed from the process of making a thick “pudding” from the meat, blood, and grains that congeal within the sausage casing. It’s a delicacy that is loved by many Brits and others who grew up in cultures that use this technique. The culinary-curious can order an expertly prepared black pudding at Union Jack.

Although the origins of the full English breakfast are murky, it is generally accepted that the repast began in early rural England as hearty sustenance to brace workers through a long rigorous morning until lunchtime when a Ploughman’s Lunch might be consumed.

Union Jack offers one of the finest Traditional Ploughman’s Lunches possible. With three-year aged cheddar and bleu cheese wedges served with onion, sliced apple, fresh fruits, hard boiled egg, mixed greens, tomato, cucumber, Branson Pickle and bread, this is surely a bit upmarket from what a field worker in Olde England might have, but it is a deliciously satisfying combination that will carry one to late afternoon tea or an early supper.

A lovely Devonshire Tea is available at Union Jack on the weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Named for the Duchess of Devonshire, thought to be the 18th century creator of afternoon tea, Union Jack’s version is an irresistible treat with scones, clotted cream, strawberry preserves, and a personal pot of PG Tips. Touchette says the freshly baked scones might be chocolate or orange cranberry or lemon raspberry.

Centrally located on Winchester’s Historic Walking Mall across from the old Courthouse-Civil War Museum, Union Jack was established by Winchester-area resident Debra Johnson and her English partner, Richard Oram. Johnson worked in the local school system and was the proprietor of the Stone Soup Gallery.

Oram is a cabinetmaker by trade, and did all the re-fitting to transform the old Union Bank building to the Union Jack Pub. The memorable interior of the 1878 building includes 20-foot tall ceilings and a 50-foot long bar. Since our last visit on these pages to Union Jack, Johnson has spent a great deal of time photographing and documenting the history of the building and has successfully listed the building on the National Register of Historic Places.

“There is a lot going on in Old Town Winchester, and in the warmer months, our front patio is the perfect place to dine while “people watching” and taking in the events of the day,” observes Touchette. The Bluemont Concert Series, Taylor Pavilion Concerts, and Friday Night Live are just a few downtown events. Check Union Jack’s website for Pint Nights to enjoy special release and craft beers as well as Paint Nights where your participation fee includes creating your own painting.

Once upon a time, the sun never set on the British Empire. With that in mind, it explains the British love of world travel, adventure, and exotic food. So, really, it is not unusual for a British restaurant to embrace world cuisine. BJ Howett, kitchen manager/chef, is given the freedom to explore cuisines, and Touchette says they encourage her to be creative. “She might do Mulligatawny, an English version of an Indian soup with rice, chicken, peppers, apples, carrots, and curry, or fantastic egg rolls or something with shrimp or scallops.” Union Jack stays true to its English roots, but spicing it up keeps things interesting.

The care that goes into the food and service at the Union Jack Pub also goes into the environment and into the community. Certified as a Virginia Green organization, the Union Jack Pub pledges that they eliminate the use of polystyrene and minimize disposables, recycle, and reduce waste. Touchette says, “Our continued Green Efforts allow us to make donations to the Angel Trust Fund at the Winchester Medical Center and the Laurel Center’s building fund. The pub holds events in October to raise additional funds for the Angel Trust. It’s important for us to give back to the community.” On a final note, that glass of Prosecco was pleasantly smooth with no harsh bite, and it’s on tap. It’s a glass of sunshine. When I left, my day was a little brighter in spite of the rain.

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