I usually hate weekend brunch. Because of the late-morning opening, there’s invariably a line of folks who, once seated, tend to order mimosas, dally over eggs benedict, endlessly refill coffee cups, engage in long conversations and generally just linger long after the bill has been presented—all prolonging your wait. Also at brunch, the usual breakfast menu is souped up, jacking up prices.
But even a curmudgeon like me must make an exception for the Deane House, in a recently restored historic building near downtown Calgary. First, they take brunch reservations, which pretty much eliminates the wait. Second, the service is casual but professional.
Third, prices are Calgary reasonable for the quality and imagination of the food. Yes, there’s a croque madame for $22, featuring duck rillettes and a local duck egg. But maybe the best dish on the menu, poached eggs on a bed of potato rostii and winter squash, is $16. And a smoked Arctic char eggs Benedict is $18, and char is never cheap.
But what truly makes the meal reasonable and the experience exceptional is the setting. The house is situated along the banks of the Elbow River and surrounded by a block of lawns and “edible” gardens, giving the space room to breathe, much like its sister restaurant, River Cafe, on Prince’s Island. Add to that the charms of a 1906 house, with its collection of distinctive rooms and vintage furniture.
Sitting at a table in an enclosed, wraparound veranda bathed in light sifting in through large windows, it’s a place on an early spring morning I don’t want to leave.
806 9 Avenue S.E., Calgary, Alberta
Weekend brunch 10 am, lunch weekdays 11 am, dinner 5 pm daily
I hate weekend brunches. It’s when restaurants dust off their smoked salmon eggs Benedict, banana-stuffed brioche French toast and lavender lattes. It’s when the server tries to upsell you on mimosas or Bloody Marys. If you’re not careful, your breakfast bill can easily double.
I also hate seeing something on the restaurant’s online menu that I’d really like to try when I’m passing through on a weekday but discover is only available during weekend brunches.
Mostly, I hate the hours. I understand the appeal of a 10 am weekend opening for folks who have worked hard all week, want to sleep in and maybe read the paper before meeting friends for a leisurely brunch. When I’m on the road, I’d rather be eating breakfast at 7, or earlier, and then be on my way.
But with that 10 am brunch opening, there’s no early getaway, no avoiding the crowds and lineups that are inevitable at any popular breakfast joint. And the thing is with brunch, people want to linger over their food and chat. Staring a hole in the back of their heads while they slowly sip their third coffee refill, amidst empty plates, and ignore the bill—and you shuffle from foot to foot in a sweaty winter coat—rarely does anything other than raise your blood pressure.
So if you see someone with an anguished look in the weekend brunch lineup, that would be me.
The irreverent Urban Dictionary has several definitions of brunch, including “Typically reserved for snobs and biddies who like tea and jam” and “It’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.” I can’t repeat the rest.