So, I know breakfast isn’t traditionally a thing in France. Here we tend to think of meals as something leisurely, social, and often with at least a couple courses. Breakfast doesn’t really fit into that on most days, especially workdays. It’s usually coffee and/or a pastry and might be something done at work or on the way there.
Additionally, brunch (pronounced “broonch” in French) became a “thing” in Paris some years ago. Various restaurateurs were paying attention to weekend trends and thought that they too could charge 25-30 euros for very ordinary food served in large portions. There’s a method to this madness. People do associate value with larger portions. But then, people started to associate Holybelly with this trend, even calling it a “brunch place” in articles or reviews about the place. “Why don’t you guys do a buffet a volonte?” What??? When the first person ever asked Nico this, he was really taken aback. “Do you not know what we are trying to do here at Holybelly?,” he thought. But as I thought about this more I realized that many people are just looking at trends and asking an innocent question. So, why is it breakfast for us, not brunch? I’ll give you three reasons.
Breakfast is its own meal
Nico and Sarah spent plenty of time in Melbourne where they fell in love with the cafe culture. That’s part of the inspiration behind all you see today, spread across two cafes. It can be sweet. It can be savory. It can come in traditional sizes (HB5) or in small plates (HB19). It should often be accompanied by the best hot beverages available, be it coffee (roasted locally for HB5 or in Sweden for HB19) or tea that’s prepared with respect. It’s often about eggs or pancakes, and should conjure up warm feelings in your stomach when you say “breakfast” and a smile on your lips when you hear it.
Nico and Sarah aren’t trying to convert the French. The Gaulois are a proud people with definite ideas about meals and what is appropriate when. All they are doing is continuing to make the case: breakfast is a meal, it’s a meal with a lot of history, and it’s the perfect way to start any day of the seven that HB is open.
Don’t Mess with the Mise
Brunch is a fictional meal. It has elements of breakfast and elements of lunch tied together often for the sake of “bottomless” mediocre mimosas or cut-rate bloody marys. This means that the staff have two different sets of mise to prep and draw from when cooking during that shift. That in itself is not a dealbreaker…
But, brunch is also often spread out across a fairly broad menu. This makes it harder for the kitchen staff who then have to be switching gears often between different types of meals. Holybelly have never bought into this. Whether it’s breakfast or lunch the focus is on a smaller, more limited menu: deliver a few dishes well-executed over and over rather than a large menu which leads to delivering good, but not great, plates.
Anyone cooking on the line can tell you that part of hitting the zone, flow, whatever you like to call it, is cooking some of the same dishes over and over, aiming for perfection every time. When the pattern is scattered across dozens of dishes it’s easier to lose focus, and when you lose focus, you lose that perfect dish that the team wants to serve to you. Whether the team is serving you breakfast or lunch here at the Belly, they will give their best, always.
Holybelly Aren’t Selling Leftovers
Nico and Sarah have always said #itsgoodbecausewecare. It’s an honest and simple philosophy. They want you to smile when you see that bacon set across those pancakes smiling back at you. Someone sourced those ingredients who cared. Someone prepped the mise who cared. Someone cooked it who cared. Someone served it to you who cared. It’s not just about maximizing profit and putting together Friday and Saturday leftovers into something edible. Holybelly is serving our best every single day. It’s not about dumping a buffet on you or unusually large portion sizes to make you feel better about paying more than you should for “brunch.”
Tell people to come to HB for our pancakes. The eggs. The bacon. The coffee. The smiles. The decor. The small plates on offer at HB19. But please, please don’t tell them to come for brunch. That’s not served here. Ever.