The ubiquitous Sunday Brunch – Seriously, what’s not to love?
A leisurely flute of champagne with á la minute eggs benedict to start? Or perhaps it’s freshly shucked oysters drizzled in lemon juice, or a slice or two of smoked Scottish salmon from the extravagant buffet that gets you into the chilled Sunday mood? A hearty plate of freshly griddled Belgian waffles topped with luscious berry compote and rich chocolate slivers is always popular, followed naturally by grilled lobster, steak and eggs or a thick slice of garlic roast lamb with crunchy veggies and jus served over a soupçon of mellow jazz. Maybe it’s the fresh strawberries and marshmallows plunged in the chocolate fountain that you crave or the mature cheddar and pickle? Whatever you favour, the weekend just doesn’t seem complete without a laid back Sunday brunch: Seriously, what’s not to love?
The concept of brunch, a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch, can be traced back to the tradition of upper-class British hunting luncheons. In between rousting the foxes, the hunt would gather for a decadent early lunch complete with a multitude of meats and egg dishes all washed down of course with plenty of alcohol.
The first written reference to the Sunday brunch was seen in the 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article, Brunch: A Plea written by Guy Beringer and later reproduced in the famous British periodical, Punch. In it he described the need for a lighter more relaxed meal, a brunch for those who had perhaps overindulged on Saturday night; a meal of substance that would combine the best of breakfast and the traditional British Sunday lunch into a single mega-meal.
He argued that by eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday mornings, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers and would generally promote human happiness, “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting.” Beringer wrote, “It’s talk-compelling, it puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings…. and sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
By the late 1920s the brunch had reached America, where it quickly gained the approval of the social elite, starting, surprisingly, in Chicago. With increased wealth and an emergent middle class, Sundays had developed into a time to unwind and spend with family and friends over an often decadent brunch and a cocktail or two, a trend that spread globally in the post-war years. This was a time before transcontinental flights and many famous businessmen and movie stars of the time would often stopover in the Windy City on their journeys across the country. On Sundays, the influential trendsetters of the day, actors like John Barrymore and Clark Gable, would be seen brunching at the famed Pump Room of the Ambassador Hotel and from there the popularity of the new dining experience exploded.
Today the Sunday Brunch remains one of the most popular culinary events in the weekly diary and one that has evolved to fill almost every niche. Many of the best hotels and restaurants through the region offer sensational brunches that showcase the considerable creative talents of their chefs and promote the merits of their restaurants. With brunches designed specifically for families and lavish speciality brunches, to the most decadent offerings featuring cocktails, fine wines and champagne, the choice is quite remarkable and one that continues to define the Sunday dining experience. Here are just a few of our favourites from around the region.