One of the telltale signs that you have arrived in a civilized place is the ability to eat breakfast twenty-four hours a day. Failing that, a decent feed before 10 AM will do. There once was a time when you were hostage to the grand hotels if you wanted something more than fried bread and stringy bacon to start your day. Not that there's anything wrong with a big greasy fry up. The old California Café of fond memory was notorious for its Truckers Breakfast, and I have vague artery clogging memories of something similar at a café in Queenbeyan outside Canberra. At some point in its evolution, however, a city offers up more than basic bacon and eggs.
I can think of half a dozen places around Brisbane known as specialty breakfast providers, even if they're open until late at night. And I've had reason to sample more than a few of them for review purposes the last month. The Balfour down in New Farm stands apart for being part of the Spicers resort group. A high-end chain of retreats and spas, Spicers have been working on their culinary rep for a couple of years. The Long Apron, the in-house noshery at Spicers Montville resort, in the mountains behind the north coast, is one of the best restaurants in the state. The Balfour, an inner-city colonial property, and home to Prof. Boylan when he first visited, is justly famous for its breakfasts.
I'd recommend you book rather than just walking in off the street, because they have to keep most of the tables set aside for the in-house guests. When the Balfour first threw open its doors to the hungry general public this led to seething crowds of bacon fans spilling into the gutters as they waited on the street outside. That first rush has died off a bit, but it's still worth booking rather than just walking in and hoping for the best.
A rare Saturday without kids sport let me pop in for a review sitting this morning. No crowds in evidence. I think people have got used to the idea that you can't roll up unannounced and expect to be seated immediately.
We did secure a table with only twenty minutes notice, however. Most of the seating is out on the front and side verandas of the old colonial building, with gas heaters stationed here and there to keep everything toasty warm. There's a fair chance you'll end up on the deck, so you want to rug up in the colder months. This is quite literally possible because of the blankets helpfully draped over the back of the chairs.
There is a small hotel style buffet inside, but forget about that and just order off the card. I put my hand up for the big breakfast, something I don't do as much nowadays, mostly to get as many elements as possible on one plate. The Balfour biggie arrives with an elegant sufficiency of sausages – you'd be surprised the number of places that try to skimp on the sausages. The centerpiece, however, is a big slab of dark, glistening pork belly in place of the more traditional bacon.
The single poached egg is perfectly cooked, but it could've done with a little friend to share the love. Sautéed mushrooms and potato rosti provide a little bulk, along with lightly toasted and very crusty Italian pane. There are no weak links, with the mushrooms and the pork belly standing out as potentially spectacular features. I would've liked a bit more crunch in my crackling to lift this dish from the merely very good to the sublime. It was still pretty fucking good, though.
The omelette was better; a golden disk, light but densely layered with flavor from the roasted sweet potato, soft goats cheese and caramelized onion. It delivered a power packed hit of flavor without any of the heaviness of the carb and protein laden big fella. The coffees were strong without being bitter, and when they ran out of powdered chocolate they simply grated up what they needed from a block of dark couverture chocolate.
This is one of those breakfasts you'd have once every couple of months as a very special treat, unless you will looking to pack on a couple of kilos a week or you had about five hours of weight lifting planned. I don't. so I'll probably skip lunch.