Originally, the “Elite” Brunch Club was supposed to visit the legendary Von’s Bistro (819 Bank Street) in the Glebe, our November event.
Unfortunately, as we would discover that Sunday (November 29, 2009), many of the more popular eateries that serve Sunday brunch do not take reservations. It is first come, first serve. Besides Von’s, this includes Jak’s Kitchen (479 Bronson Ave), Benny’s Bistro (119 Murray St.), and Stoneface Dolly’s (416 Preston Street).
When I discovered Von’s did not take reservations, I asked the restaurant over the phone if they could even accommodate our numbers (8 minimum, 10 maximum). A male voice said they could, so long as someone comes early to reserve seats. Brunch club member Izzy (@spoonsie) volunteered. She arrived an hour early to warn the restaurant of our impending arrival. During that hour, Von’s owner and a waiter took turns coming up with tentative offers to accommodate us and then seated new arrivals in what would have been our seats. At first, Izzy was told the restaurant could accommodate us. A pair of tables would be made available. Then, two tables in opposite ends of the restaurant could be made available. Then, only one table could be made available. Then, Izzy was told we could sit around the bar. Finally, the restaurant could not accommodate us at all.
As brunch club members began arriving en masse (and on time), we gave up. The waiter actually came out to apologize to us when 8 of us gathered together in front of Von’s window to decide what to do. She said we could wait another 15-20 minutes for the original tables we were promised (but could not guarantee) or we could go elsewhere. She pointed out the Arrow and the Loon (99 Fifth Avenue) usually has lots of available seating. They did, so we chose to gather remaining members there.
Now, I understand higher end brunch is only profitable for eateries if turnover is high. Even then, margins are small. Brunch is a way of generating buzz for a restaurant, introducing it to new patrons so they may return for dinner. I understand the kitchen and much of the front of house staff more than likely worked the dinner service the previous Saturday evening. After last call, the remaining patrons leaving, and clean up, it is often early morning Sunday (1:00 to 2:00 am). This leaves a scant handful of hours to sleep before returning to the restaurant to prep for Sunday brunch. As food writer and former chef, Ivy Knight, once described, “Brunch is Hell.”
My question, if you notice your dining room is turning over quickly and you prefer to seat smaller groups of patrons, why entertain accommodating a larger party? This is what Jak’s would tell us during the following brunch event. That waitress even did her best to get us a pair of tables, letting us reserve one table first. When she realized the brunch rush had started, she told us it was impossible. We paid for our coffee, tipped (enough for one cover), thanked her, and left.
That said, the brunch club still met for November and we had quite a bit of fun. The brunch at the Arrow and the Loon was average, but the company made up for it. This event would be the first Andrew and Biff (@biff_da_bear) joined us!
Biff is a very busy bear. When he’s not working search and rescue on a ski hill, he bakes. He blogs. He tweets. He travels. He takes pictures. And, he writes restaurant reviews. Andrew is his handler.
Regarding the Arrow and the Loon’s brunch menu, it serves the usual suspects: pancakes, eggs, ham, sausage, bacon, home fries, french toast, fruit, and combinations thereof.
I ordered a “Tony’s Own” Eggs Benedict ($11.99), a restaurant special:
As per the menu description, my “Tony’s Own” came with smoked salmon, spinach, portabello mushroom, and goat cheese. Strangely, after the waiter saw me take pictures of my dish, he insisted on pointing the mushroom (the dark strip across the hollandaise) was mushroom and not bacon. I thanked him and dug in.
The poached eggs were cooked runny. The spinach was not quite wilted. The hollandaise had not split. Everything was served on a slightly soggy piece of toast. While not badly executed, the dish was served lukewarm. The eggs and smoked salmon had just about come to room temperature.
Jenn ordered “The Works” Omelet ($10.99):
This particular omelet is called “the works” because it is made with mushroom, onions, peppers, bacon, sausage, and ham.
Jenn found the omelet rather overcooked on the outside and dry throughout. It seemed, to accommodate so many fillings, the omelet was cooked for some time on each side to ensure the center was done. She also found her toast somewhat stale and cold.
My thoughts: the restaurant does not normally accommodate such a large group for brunch. When we arrived we found the pub largely empty. In order for us to be served at the same time, some dishes may have cooled.
Total: $28.22 (after taxes, before tip, and including one coffee)
When it comes to pub-style brunches, Sunday brunch at the Arrow and the Loon would more than likely be better in smaller groups.
We had better at the Lieutenant’s Pump (361 Elgin Street), our recommend for middle-of-the-road brunch.