There is something deliciously lazy about a Sunday morning. The day stretches out in front of you full of promise, yet there is no urgent need to do anything. You wake up without an alarm shrieking in your ear and even though you are awake, there is no need to get up just yet. You read the Sunday newspaper and no one frowns if you only concentrate on the comics and lifestyle section. Brunch was invented for a Sunday, when you can laze over a meal without feeling guilty and feel your whole body de-stress bit by bit. Or at least that’s how it is for me.
This last Sunday, we woke up late and decided to head to Cafe Madras, because it was nearby and after a year in Paris, I had a strong urge to rekindle my love affair with a South Indian breakfast. But it was not to be as we eyed the large crowd waiting outside the cafe and drove around in circles looking for parking. If there is anything that can destroy the leisurely feeling of a Sunday morning, it is the daunting prospect of waiting for your brunch while worrying that your car might be towed away. So we turned around and headed towards town, which we knew would be blissfully uncrowded on a Sunday.
I had wanted to check out Le Pain Quotidien for a while now and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. As soon as as I saw the bougainvillea-framed entrance and walked in to the smell of freshly baked bread, I knew we’d made the right choice. The interior reflected the warmth and decor that LPQ displays worldwide and having eaten at their cafes several times in Toronto and Paris, I felt instantly at home. The warm wood finish, the inviting communal table, daily specials written on the blackboard – everything felt instantly familiar. However, unlike other chain establishments, nothing seemed forced or gimmicky. Even the servers were cheerful and nice in a way that made you feel they meant it, instead of reciting welcome spiels by rote.
We began with coffee (my brain doesn’t switch to full gear until the first cup) and my cappuccino came with perfectly frothy milk, but unlike some places, it wasn’t so milky that you wonder where the coffee is. The complimentary serving of crisp biscotti was much appreciated and I was happy to see my friend immediately dunk his into my coffee. (My biscut-dipping habit – a leftover from ParleG-dunked-into-chai days – always brings amused stares elsewhere.) Meal off to a good start, we perused the menu, which consists of a good selection of brunch items. Torn between a choice of waffles, quiches and tartines (open-face sandwiches), we finally settled on a brioche french toast and the day’s breakfast special of eggs benedict.
The french toast arrived golden and moist, set with custard that was not too eggy or sweet – just the way I like it. The bananas roasted in their skin made a nice addition. But the eggs benedict stole the show – the whites were nicely set and the yolks oozed out lusciously when the eggs were cut – the sign of a perfectly poached egg made even better when accompanied with the toasted fresh bread, salty ham and tangy Hollandaise. The eggs could have done with a little salt and pepper, a minor gripe that the fresh mills on the table instantly solved. The servers were around to ask us if we had a nice meal, helpful but not hovering.
The sight of the breads – arranged in their round and flour-dusted glory – had made my heart sing as I entered. So it was natural that I should want to buy one on the way out. But I was told that I’d have to wait for 15 minutes as these breads were “not fresh enough” – a gesture that I appreciated from a place called “the daily bread”. I had to try something else, but the croissants looked woefully awry. (A friend whose judgement I trust had already warned me away from them.) Although none of the desserts really tempted, we settled on a chocolate mousse cake and a lemon tart for takeaway. Well, appearances can be deceptive because the lemon tart had a buttery crust and was filled with creamy lemon curd that was light and fresh, not cloying. The cake was a little on the dense side and could have been better, but it was saved by the dark chocolate that was not too sweet.
All in all, brunch at LPQ was a warm and comforting experience – just as brunch should be. I want to go back to try the lunch offerings, but for that day, I was immensely satisfied. As we left, I could not help but smile at their ‘bread time stories’ – if you haven’t already, be sure to pick it up the next time you go. With the adorable story by my bed (signed and dated by me and my friend as a souvenir of a lazy Sunday well spent) and this view of my beloved city, I closed my day with a light heart and a contented sigh. I had come home.