by Lauren Mote
Better have Breakfast in your own Bed
This morning, after having furniture delivered to our place, and countless loads of laundry later, we were bound to work up quite the appetite. Being that John and I have just arrived in Vancouver, we took up a personal recommendation to join the staff at the acclaimed Opus Hotel on Hamilton St. for brunch at the Elixir Bistro.
Upon entering, the decor looks of 1950’s Parisian Ritz-Carleton. Tin ceiling, velvet couches and a lovely lounge/garden room provide authentic bistro dining any time of the day… you wouldn’t know you were in Vancouver.
Upon sitting at our table in the garden room, our server cordially comes over and introduces himself, and we do the same in return. He finds out we’re new in town, having just moved here from Toronto a short time ago.
The menu has some nice brunch classics: eggs benedict, eggs florentine and pancakes served with lemon curd and blueberry compote. “Looks nice…” John and I say to each other. Little did we know that moments later this would become the start of the most disastrous brunch in history.
I started with ordering an Earl Grey tea, which arrived as an English Breakfast tea… ok, there is a huge difference between the two, seeing as the Earl Grey is a combination of flowery bergamot oil and black tea, and the English Breakfast is not; a simple mistake I guess. John’s double shot americano arrived with a perfect layer of crema, so he was satisfied. I asked our server to describe an item on the menu I had never tried before, the Mushroom Tartine. He said that the tartine arrives —blank– incoherent muttering— he made a lot of hand motions signifying that it’s “flat”. I asked him how the ingredients are presented, or what should I expect when it arrives, he said the marscapone was “set on top”; but marscapone is a spreadable cheese, not a crumbly cheese. A brief history lesson: a traditional tartine is served as an open-faced baguette, with the ingredients built on top, so I guess in way our server was correct to describe the cheese as being on top, however a brutal way to describe the dish. Instead, I chose the eggs benedict, and on our server’s suggestion, smoked salmon instead of ham; I have a stronge dislike for hollandaise on my eggs, so I requested that our server omit it from my dish. John ordered simple eggs over-easy, with sausage, roasted fingerling potatoes and multigrain toast.
John and I sat, talked about the days events, what we would have dinner at 1:30am when we both return home from work, et-cetera. It seemed an eternity had passed. I was starving! After 25 minutes, I asked the server where our breakfast was. Countless tables around us were already chowing down, and we were getting impatient. The food arrives. Our breakfast made “hotel continental breakfast” look like the work of an Iron Chef. My poached eggs are poached hard, really hard, I observed this right away. The salmon on top of the toasted english muffin looked alright, but I wanted my eggs. The plate had a few fingerling potatoes and a thin slice each of honeydew melon and cantaloupe. At least the kitchen didn’t put hollandaise on top of my eggs, but there was definitely hollandaise on my fruit! John’s “over-easy eggs” arrive “over-poached in a bowl”, with sausage, potatoes and fruit. We have no problem “eating mistakes” if it’s still cooked properly. We could not eat this. The server is promptly summoned and is told about the mistakes and the ill-preparation of our simple dishes. We explain that we’re in a hurry to get to work, so the dishes are re-prepared quickly.
About 5 minutes goes by, and John’s correct dish arrives. The eggs are correctly cooked, but the same plate of sides is used again, instead of new hot sausages, fingerling potatoes and toast; in fact, the sausage that John already had sampled a bite of the first time, arrived with the remake!! My dish does not arrive. I don’t know if I was more distrought that the food was not brought together, or if it was the fact that I was starving and had no energy. At this point I would’ve eaten the tablecloth. When my dish does arrive 7 minutes later, there is hollandaise poured all over my plate, and regrettably, I cannot eat it. I call the manager over at this point, who is actually the maitre d’ with a business card. I tell him I am not interested in a third re-make, I am just just put-off and not so hungry anymore. He offers to take care of the bill, as he should have.
We explain to him that both John and I work in the industry and unforeseen circumstances can occur, but this is ridiculous. Brunch is a cooks’ break… it’s simple, it’s eggs. The maitre d’ explains that the chef de cuisine is just coming on shift and that’s why this lack of care occurred in the kitchen. I don’t buy it. At this point John takes over because I am about to explode, and I was busy eating some of his toast, which was cold.
“… can you find anyone to work breakfast? Do YOU have breakfast at YOUR restaurant? Can you find anyone to work breakfast?” the maitre d’ repeats “defensively” to us. He asks where we work, John replies Cioppino’s and I say Lumière. The maitre d’ is slightly speechless. Is it because we work i the industry, or because of where we work? He encourages us to come back and try the restaurant again, and to make sure we ask for him upon arrival, to ensure “we get the love”. Typical behaviour after a complete catastrophe of food service, or any customer service as a matter of fact.
As we were leaving, the server came back over and thanked each of us by name, then requested that we have a nice day. We said the same in return, without the “over the top” thank you. Then the server said something truly bizarre, as if enough hadn’t been done already to destroy our experience at Elixir, “I stick up for Toronto you know…” as he’s grinning. I quickly replied, “Toronto doesn’t need it, stick up for Vancouver, especially this place, it clearly needs it more than Toronto does”. The manager makes a witty comment to the server to “pipe down” and then thanks us for understanding. We hand the server a $5 bill and say thanks.
Once we left, Starbucks was our next venture. I grabbed a coffee, and said to John, “you know, the funny thing is that you can get perfectly cooked eggs at Starbucks on a pre-made sandwich that is heated to order, but brunch at a French bistro requires pulling teeth…”.
All in all, I left hungry, I ate some of John’s breakfast, but even his wasn’t that great. I think I ended up having a coffee and a granola bar for my “famed Sunday brunch” that I was so previously excited for. I will continue to make brunch at home from now on, as I have done so in the past every weekend. Sometimes it’s better to have brunch in your own bed, rather then venturing out in the rain anyway,… is that what I have to tell myself so that I am at peace with bad breakfast? Maybe dinner at Elixir is a better option, but it will take some tender love and care to get us in there again.