Of all the Food topics discussed at length in the last couple of years all over the world, brunch has perhaps been the most polarizing (a couple examples here and here). I’m all for it when the formula is respected – a sweet and savory offering that caters to a variety of tastes, good coffee, a fun atmosphere (since typically this meal is taking place before the start of a new week, a historically dismal day), and a fair price. As an early riser, I like that I can go for a late breakfast and continue my day while sleepyheads roll in after noon to while theirs away.
When the craze infiltrated Paris, which I attribute in part to the influence of Sex and the City and a growing openness to Anglo traditions, it was at once parodied and emulated. No reason to reinvent the wheel, just pull the easiest and most cost effective elements from the borrowed concept, wrap it up in a fixed price package and tack on “Le Brunch” label and you’ve got yourself a trend. And it was initially amusing to see how ravenous Parisians were for the idea. Lines regularly snaked onto the sidewalk at Breakfast in America. Disgruntled and starved bohemians suffered through inordinate waits at Rose Bakery. Hungover or easily hoodwinked by a ‘deal’, a wide swath of the population fell prey to one of the most poorly executed meals in the city. It’s as if brain function collectively misfires on a Sunday morning and people find themselves willingly shelling out 25€ for a fixed menu of days-old bread, excessive doses of sugar, overdone savory options like burgers or runny scrambled eggs, bottom-barrel coffee and wimpy pancakes (for dessert!). No cocktail concoctions, no originality, no effort.
It’s true that some venture out more for the ambiance than the meal’s substance. But when scene predominates over the quality of the experience, the concept can glide quickly into gimmick. That’s largely what happened in Paris. So excessive became the outing, my friends and I started an at-home weekend brunch routine.
But it takes lousy interpretations of almost anything to shine a bright light on opportunity. A few restaurant owners in particular identified the shortcomings of brunch in the city and decided to act. They are by no means the only spots for brunch but they are among the places executing a smarter approach. At HolyBelly and Bespoke, the primacy of hospitality and service is a hallmark not only of their weekend brunch but their approach to running a business in general. That it’s maintained during brunch chaos only adds to their appeal. And on the menu, even bedfellows like eggs, toast, pancakes and granola get a reboot.
So what other spot am I referring to? Read on! I share all three in a story for Conde Nast Traveler, available HERE.
What makes your favorite brunch spot special where you live?