Brunch lovers, rejoice.
I probably receive more requests for breakfast and brunch suggestions than anything else. Except complaints about my lack of burger posts. I'm only one girl, people!! One girl on a waitress' salary!!
Okay, so you are looking for brunch. You want to sit and relax. You don't want to cook your own waffles, you don't even want to watch someone make your omelet in front of you, with your own chosen ingredients. You want to sit and have someone take care of you for a change. If you're anything like me, you are still recovering from the worst night in restaurant land (Saturday) and the Sapphire martini you consumed to erase the memory. Now, every time I've written about how miserable Saturdays are in the restaurant business, I always get emails asking why they are so terrible. I hardly ever write about work, but I'll fill you in now, since so many of you have asked. Ask any server (who's done it for awhile), and they'll tell you the same thing: I'll happily take a Tuesday over a Saturday eight days a week. Here's why: normal people go out to eat during the week. Weekends are saved for special occasions. Weekdays are for regulars, weekends are for tourists. Weekends are for guests whose eyes pop at the prices on the menu, even though they are clearly printed outside the restaurant, to save us all from this uncomfortable situation. Saturdays are long. Really long. You're more likely to work with people you don't like (not me, of course, I love everyone), because all week long you've been able to convince management to get this or that person to take the night off, either so you don't have to deal with them or so that you can make all the money. On a Tuesday, you can wait on 4 good tables and make $200 without breaking a sweat. Saturdays, you run your little tushy off (seriously, I wear a pedometer: slow Saturdays average 7 miles) and at the end of the night, you have $175. Saturdays typically don't end until around 12 or 12:30 am, and then, when you get finally clock out and replace your Danskos with your Simples, hike up the street and order your post work cocktail - just when you think you've eluded all of your coworkers by going to your usual secret Saturday night martini spot, they hunt you down and find you, determined to pick over that little thing which irritated them at 7pm. It's enough to spoil even the finest gin & olive combo my favorite bartender can shake up.
When I worked in the corporate world, I remember Fridays being similar. Unlike my bosses, I wasn't allowed to cut out early; I had to stay until the bitter end and frequently put out the fires they left smoldering in their wake. I remember friends calling and wanting to go out, but all I wanted to do was drive home as fast as possible and hug my sofa for four hours.
Wow. I don't even remember why I'm here.
Oh! Of course! Brunch. So, the only thing worse than getting up early enough for brunch is getting up early enough to work brunch, which is why you should always overtip your brunch server. I'm talking, 30%. I can guarantee you: they do not want to be there. At all.
Okay, so now we've covered how to tip at brunch. Let's talk about how to eat.
Columbus suffers from a lack of brunch spots (here's the point where you can feel free to email me - if there's some superb brunch spot I don't know about. NO buffets - I know I know, the Worthington Inn, the Hyatt on Capital Square, blah blah blah. I am a server. I want service on my day off), so when I heard that the new owner of L'Antibes was going to offer brunch - a $15 prix fixe brunch, no less - I simply had to check it out. It was made even better when a trusted foodie friend went and said it was, indeed, incredible. L'Antibes menu is small and well-considered. There are a few things which make brunch great: fantastically prepared eggs, boar bacon (one of the finest of the bacons), and butter. Lots and lots of butter.
First of all, L'Antibes does not yet have a Sunday liquor license, so there will be no mimosas with your brunch. I see this as a benefit: I've had too many brunches which turned into $150, hours-long affairs (some of which, I kid you not, went right into dinner), so it was kind of refreshing to know that I would go to brunch and spend precisely $15, plus tip. No temptation. Coffee and juice are included in the price, which features 2 courses, plus a small fruit cup for dessert. A pretty fine deal, if you ask me.
First course option is a cheese plate or toast points with creme fraiche and ligonberry jam. All four of our party opted for the cheese plate, which consisted of about one ounce each good goat cheese and two cream style (Brie-like) cheeses. All were good. The main course allowed for the option of poached eggs with Hollandaise and puff pastry, quiche du jour (there were vegetarian and meat options), lobster potato gratin with egg, or French toast. So few offerings, but solid. Really solid.
Our friends chose the poached eggs with spinach & Hollandaise. Of course, everything is good when covered in Hollandaise. The eggs were perfectly poached to pour their golden yolks over the plate; friends thought the Hollandaise was too butter and not lemony enough. I took a bite and got a big hit of lemon early, but it did finish with a really buttery flavor - who am I to complain? I hardly ever have the opportunity to eat Hollandaise (I prefer to portion my calories to more than one meal), so I'm probably not the best judge. I still thought it was good:
Husband chose the quiche with wild boar bacon, which will change all previous notions regarding quiche. This was ethereally, impossibly creamy, solid yet light - an almost creme-brulee-like texture. It really left you with nothing to say. There was no overcooked egginess, a lightly browned top, just a tall, almost quivering wedge of deliciousness. It almost looked like a cheesecake when we saw one walking past; I'm not sure the picture does it justice, as it was about 2 inches tall:
I (wisely) selected the lobster and potato gratin topped with a sunny-side up egg (pictured at the top of the post). Wow. The gratin consisted of small cubes of waxy potatoes and lots of sweet lobster chunks, topped with bread crumbs and the aforementioned egg. The sweet and savory lobster flavor was so intense, I surmised the potatoes might have been poached in lobster stock. I appreciated the chef resisted the urge to subdue the flavors with tons of heavy cream, something I might have expected in a gratin. I'm sure there was lots of butter involved, but overall, the effect was not overwhelmingly rich, just intensely lobstery and delicious. And, of course, I will eat anything covered in a fried egg, especially here, where the gratin relied on the egg yolk for a little richness. It was heaven
Dessert was a small and refreshing dish of sliced seasonal fruit, coated in just a pinch of vanilla syrup.
Service was very efficient, quick, and knowledgeable; a little formal, which is fine with me. It adds to the value.
I was in the old L'Antibes space once, and thought it was a little austere - our friend compared it to the worst banquet room in a cheap hotel - but the new owner, Chef Matthew Litzinger (who, by the way, came out to visit all the tables and see if we liked everything), has spruced the place up a little bit. They have even added a little bar in the smaller dining room, which seems to be a charming place to enjoy a snack and a nice glass of wine.
So, for all of you whining about the dearth of good brunch spots, run, don't walk to L'Antibes. Don't expect an endless buffet or a gut-busting, belt-undoing platter of gravy-covered standards. But, should you leave feeling a little moreish, don't forget that Jeni's is right around the corner...
By the way, L'Antibes has also begun serving lunch. It might be the only place in town where one can have duck liver pate on their lunch hour. Sounds perfectly fine to me. Look for a L'Antibes revisit in the very near future.
Info: L'Antibes (which, by the way, is pronounced lahn-TEEB, not lahnteebS) is located at 772 N. High Street (although it faces Warren) in the Short North. 614.291.1666.