The Best Hotel Breakfast
Whilst it may receive the ‘safe’ accolade of “the most important meal of the day”, breakfast is seldom attributed any of the more exotic superlatives so oft-afforded its latterly-served counterparts, lunch and dinner.
Notwithstanding, whilst this is an unfortunate oversight, for the breakfast aficionado there is a subterranean pleasure to be derived. One similar to following a non-league football team beyond the third round proper of the FA Cup: never going to win but might surprise an arrogant few. Especially overlooked is breakfast’s range: from grains to fruit; from cheeses to meat; cold and cooked.
In Bavaria, it is not unusual to have Weisswurst for breakfast: anaemic-looking cylinders afloat in bowls of boiling water.
In our everyday lives, so annexed by work and tempered by time constraints, breakfast is either condensed into handheld, mobile solutions (‘breakfast bars’, immediate predecessor to meals in pill-form aboard space shuttles) or omitted entirely.
We overcompensate with coffee on arrhythmic trajectories towards lunch. Perhaps this is why the best breakfasts are Hotel breakfasts.
Furthermore, if we are in a Hotel, there is a good chance we aren’t going to work at all. And, even if we are, someone else will make us breakfast before we set. And, they can make breakfasts much better than we can even if we were to spend all day.
Moreover, it is our thesis here that the best Hotel breakfast – in Newcastle or, indeed, the world – is Eggs Benedict.
I could spend a great deal time extolling the virtues of the manifest product itself. There is texture of the poached eggs (such subtlety unachievable at home): themselves, proximity mines of flavour, with golden yolk at their kernels.
There is the balance of conflicting flavours: the brash, savoury-saltiness of the ham sutured by the dairy-creaminess of the Hollandaise; all buoyed by the ballast of the English muffins. Here there is paradoxical simplicity and sophistication at once. As with any famous dish, there are variations on the theme. More remarkable still are the conflicting accounts of Eggs Benedict’s origin.
In an interview in the ‘Talk of the Town’ column of The New Yorker from 1942, retired Wall Street broker Lemuel Benedict claimed to have invented Eggs Benedict in 1894. Ailed by a hangover, Benedict claims to have staggered into the Waldorf Hotel and, desperately seeking solace, ordered “buttered toast, poached eggs, crisp bacon and a hooker of hollandaise.” Famed maitre d’hotel Oscar Tschirky was so impressed with the dehydrated Banker’s creation that he added it to the Breakfast and Lunch menus; substituting ham for the bacon and a toasted English muffin for the toast.
However, Edward P. Montgomery subsequently claimed that Eggs Benedict was created by Commodore E. C. Benedict. In 1967, Montgomery penned a letter to The New York Times food columnist Craig Claiborne which included a recipe he claimed to have received from his uncle, a friend of the Commodore.
Whether you choose to pledge you allegiances with the beleaguered Banker or the culinary Commodore, we can all agree that Eggs Benedict is the best Hotel breakfast: both the dish and its story.
Available at the Waldorf, at sea and at Jesmond Dene House, Newcastle upon Tyne.