Sometimes in life, one needs to make concessions. For the sake of pleasing my large family, I – half unwillingly – accepted to go to my least favourite category of restaurant: the dreadful all-day/week breakfast/brunch restaurant.
You know this specimen of eatery, serving an impossibly-long menu of eggs, pancakes, waffles and French toast in endless permutations, and usually named using a play on words with egg or oeuf. L'Oeufrier, Eggsfrutti, Ben & Florentine and Allô! Mon Coco are all competing for the lamest name, but perhaps the one to start this trend is none other than Eggspectation.
This breakfast empire saw its first light in 1993 at its flagship downtown location on the corner of de Maisonneuve and de la Montagne, and has since expanded to other Canadian cities, the United States and a handful of Asian countries. I was happy to learn the no-reservation policy did not apply to larger groups, allowing us to skip the modest line of hungry patrons outside; whew!
For my first visit in nearly twenty years, I could not tell if anything had changed inside. It's been far too long, plus I tend to block out unmemorable experiences. One thing is for sure: I cannot for the life of me figure out the branding and décor here.
For instance, why is there a harlequin peeking from behind the outside logo? In addition, what do the flags of the world dangling here and there signify other than "we ran out of ideas"?
For today – given our ten-person party size – we were seated at a table upstairs, which was more quiet but lacking in heart and soul as compared to the ground floor. Our table was not the only one spanning three generations of a family; the sounds of children were certainly heard today!
To be clear, I do enjoy a good breakfast or brunch. My issue with this type of restaurant is their mediocrity across the long menu, not to mention the price point. You can easily reach the vicinity of $20 for a plate more-or-less composed of cheap, basic staples such as eggs, toast, home-style potatoes and – if you're lucky – less than what would constitute a serving of fruit.
With an offering extending way beyond brunch into salads, poutine, sandwiches, burgers, pasta and steak (why?), is it possible for a restaurant to excel at all of this? It may be cliché to answer no, but the proof today was in the pudding. My eggs Benedict - if you can call it that - with crab cakes – if you can call them that – was a complete miss.
For starters, the "poached" egg was not runny one bit; in fact, it was a perfect hard-boiled egg. Second, the crab cakes were dark and burned; so much so that my mom mistook them for burger patties. You cannot call yourself "Eggspectation" if you can't poach an egg! Other missteps were sad and dry tenders on the chicken ‘n' waffles and a sloppy, unappetizing bowl of mac ‘n' cheese. "Eggstraordinary" pasta? Please!
"belgian waffles & fried chicken breast tenders topped with fresh arugula & drizzled with olive oil ‘n' lemon juice vinaigrette"
"english muffin with smoked meat & swiss cheese, topped with poached eggs & hollandaise, served with lyonnaise potatoes"
"classic crab cake with poached eggs topped with hollandaise & green onions, served with lyonnaise potatoes"
"omelette filled with smoked meat & swiss cheese, served with lyonnaise-style potatoes & a pickel"
tagged: YOU MAKE ALL THIS?
Although we occupied a table on the upper, less bustling floor, our waiter did have to deal with a handful of large-ish tables. He certainly had his hands full; and while he remained friendly and polite, plates did not arrive at a desirable pace.
A solid five minutes separated the first dish from the last one to appear. I would have eggspected a well-established operation such as Eggspectation to better navigate situations like this.
tagged: OVERWHELMED STAFF
I can understand the appeal of a place like Eggspectation when it opened nearly thirty years ago. The concept of an all-day breakfast was novel at the time and the brunch scene was nowhere near what it is today.
But with institutions such as Beauty's or L'Express, ethnic varieties such as Arthurs or Barranco and envelope-pushers such as Barley or Perles et Paddock, why would anyone choose – let alone line up for – something as generic as Eggspectation? Today's sorrowful display was bad even for the low standard of big-box breakfast chains.
I may have conceded this time; but in the future, I will be sure to put up a fight!
Montreal restaurant and bar reviews brought to you by two regular guys who like to eat and drink. We will go anywhere and we will say it like it is.