Local Flavour Video

Local Flavour: Michael Zee of Symmetry Breakfast

28th June 2017

Video: Adam Park & Yousef Eldin
Words: Killian Fox

On a cold, rainy and entirely inhospitable morning in January, at 5am, Michael Zee slips out of his flat in the middle of Hackney and boards the number 277 bus. His destination: Billingsgate fish market, the largest of its kind in the UK, to pick up some maritime goodies for this morning’s breakfast.

This is not an unusual trip for Michael, nor is it an unusual hour for him to rise. For the past four years, he’s been getting up early to make breakfast for himself and his boyfriend Mark. Once he’s sourced the ingredients, prepared the food and arranged the two servings in perfect symmetry on his living room table – and before they tuck in to eat – he takes a photograph and posts it on Instagram. By doing this, breakfast for two becomes breakfast for 690,000, the number of people currently following Michael on his hit Instagram feed Symmetry Breakfast.

Since he launched it in 2013, the account has accumulated a bewildering array of breakfast spreads, with influences from all over the world: fruit bowls and orange juice one day, pork baozi and homemade soy milk the next. This morning, Michael has settled on a British classic: kippers with poached egg and tea. Sourcing the smoked fish isn’t the only reason Michael has lured us to Billingsgate at this unholy hour: he’s also keen for us to try the bacon rolls at Piggy’s, a long-running market caff and one of Michael’s top tips for Billingsgate newcomers.

Back at home, Michael talks us through some of the other neighbourhood food shops that fuel his breakfast enterprise[footnote]Since making this video, Michael and Mark have left Hackney far behind and moved to Shanghai [/footnote]. They include:


Turkish Food Centre

89 Ridley Rd, London E8 2NH; www.tfcsupermarkets.com
“Not just Turkish food, it covers most of the Middle East.”

Casa De Carne Boi Gordo

223 Mare St, London E8 3QE; 020 8986 4548
“A Brazilian butchers, he also stocks a lot of Portuguese foods.”

Hoang Nam Supermarket

187 Mare St, Dalston, London E8 3RH; 020 8985 8050
“An amazing Vietnamese supermarket, he also covers everything from Japan to Thailand to the Philippines.”


By now, Mark has surfaced and Michael is busy prepping the day’s most important meal. We linger to watch him get that all-important shot in the pale January light, then slink off into the morning in the strange awareness that half a day has already passed us by and the city is only now stirring into life. Such is the curious world of Michael Zee: by the time most of us are waking up and reaching for the cereal box, he’s already finished a nice, perfectly-aligned day’s work.

Follow Symmetry Breakfast: Instagram | Twitter | website

Buy Michael’s book: SymmetryBreakfast: Cook-Love-Share

Posted 28th June 2017

In Local Flavour Video


Video: Adam Park & Yousef Eldin
Words: Killian Fox

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