Anthony Bourdain once famously noted that brunch was the worst meal to eat out, mostly because it was a ripoff based on his knowledge of actual food costs (plus the use of the week’s leftovers) vs. inflated menu prices, plus the fact that “access to unlimited mimosas seems to invite a crowd inclined to all varieties of douchery.”
After 11 years of living in New York, I do believe this is likely to be true: the cost of eggs, bacon, and toast, or even a fancy kale grain bowl, really is not as high as what you’d pay over brunch in the city — likely anywhere from $15-25 as crazy as it sounds. You are most definitely getting ripped off and I have never for a second doubted it. Brunch is more a time to socialize and get together with catch-ups with friends, family, and/or visitors and guests. It’s not as much of a time to really eat gastronomically life-changing dishes or even great food. A handful of restaurants in New York can be an exception to this, but overall, unless you are eating dim sum or non-traditional western style brunch, the value and quality are never high.
I’d say this general rule does not apply to Melbourne, or maybe even Australia in general. Overall food quality and freshness are very high here, and every time I have eaten out at a breakfast/brunch spot, I’ve been really impressed not just by the food we’ve ordered, but also just by the overall menus. At a typical New York City brunch spot, there may be one or two things at most that make me look over the menu and think, wow, that actually sounds creative or tantalizing; I want to order that and that. Usually, though, I end up resigning myself to the least worst thing and getting that. In Melbourne on a brunch menu I’ve reviewed, there’s usually at least 5-7 things I’d want to order and eat that sound fun, creative, and/or unique, and it’s a challenge for me to select just one, so I hope Chris will choose something off my short list so that I can try something else I want to eat, too. That’s another benefit of having a life partner: you can always share food. We always swap plates halfway through so that we can have more variety.
We had brunch at Town House in the Hampton suburb of Melbourne today with Chris’s friends, and this is a sampling of the dishes on the brunch menu. If you don’t think this sounds delicious or creative, you must either be really boring or just plain suck:
Knafeh French Toast: Brioche stuffed with sweet Arabian cheese and coated with kadaif, orange, and rose compote, charred grapes, lime mascarpone, and fresh berries
Lamb and cauliflower hash: Slow roasted lamb shoulder, roasted cauliflower, crispy kipler potato hash, charred corn, peas, pistachio, kale, pomegranate, tahini yogurt, fried eggs on toasted sourdough
Flamenco eggs: Andalusian baked eggs, sliced mushrooms, chorizo, pimento, braised chickpeas, almond pesto, feta, herbs, dukkah, poached eggs on toasted zaatar bread.
Drool. Just typing out those descriptions made me feel hungry and want to go back. There were about ten things on this menu (out of a total of 15 dishes) I could have easily wanted to order. I ended up ordering the Benedict because eggs benedict in Australia is always the best. And what made it different? It was the amazing crispy edged pork belly slices with a soft, melty center, apple-fennel mint salad, plus the delicious crusty sourdough it was served on. I always end up eating more bread in Australia because it’s just so good, crusty, and fresh here. Even the supermarket breads taste better than what we have on average in the U.S.!