1585 Dundas Street West
brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $34
“Hey, did you know Lula does brunch?” my husband asked, waving a colourful postcard that he had found on the sidewalk at me. “We should go!” And so we do, because we like brunch and because we’ve always wanted an excuse to go to Lula. As our musical tastes encompass jazz but tend more to west coast swing than salsa, and because we come more from the “unscrew the lightbulb” school of dance than anything so complicated as having to remember steps, there’s never been a really compelling reason to go there. Except – duh – the cooking of Chef Derek Crinson.
On a humid Saturday morning, we’re the only people in the place other than the server and presumably some kitchen staff. The front café room wins my affection immediately, all brightly painted colours and gauzy pink sheer curtains and brilliantly patterned tablecloths. It’s adorable, with big French doors thrown open to the street. The main lounge in back is huge and dark and has a massive screen showing soccer. It’s a great space and I will find a reason to come back for a show, but I’m truly glad we’re eating in the more intimate café.
Our server is the epitome of polite and refined while still being personable; formal but not too, friendly, but not pushy. He plays old jazz albums on a turntable in the corner in between taking our order and bringing our food.
The menu at Lula is small. Compact. Well-tuned. That is, there is nothing superfluous here, with 5 breakfast mains and 5 sandwich or salad options. We pass on the standards of blueberry and oatmeal pancakes ($8) and the traditional breakfast plate ($7) in favour of something with a bit more South American flair.
The hungry husband orders the tres huevos ($9), and based on the menu description (roasted roma tomatoes, sweet peppers, onion and cremini mushrooms lightly tossed in virgin olive oil with chorizo sausage and back bacon. Topped with three fresh, lightly scrambled organic eggs, over easy), we’re expecting something along the lines of a huevos rancheros. What actually shows up in more like a fritata, or what Montrealers might know as “mishmash”, as the bacon, sausage, mushrooms, etc are all mixed in with the eggs. The first bite I get seems undersalted, but another forkful with some of the meat reveals a perfect balance. The bean and corn guiso hides underneath like a spicy surprise with each mouthful.
As I’m not really in the mood for eggs, I go with the jump fried goat cheese ($9), a breaded chevre medallion served on fresh bright mixed greens (I’ve been having bad luck with restaurant salad recently, so the lack of slimy greens was delightfully noted). A really pretty mango, pineapple and ancho chili salsa complements the smooth goat cheese quite nicely, the acid of the pineapple picking up the slight tang in the cheese. The avocado wedges come drizzled in a mild salsa verde, and the tiny bit of heat paired with the smooth and mellow avocado is brilliant in the summer humidity.
We add a side of fries ($3.50) to share, because sometimes a salad really isn’t enough, and despite them being frozen (with all respect to Jamie Kennedy and chefs who make gorgeous hand-cut fries, sometimes frozen fries are really exactly what is required), they’re sprinkled with an interesting chili spice mix, and we finish the whole plate.
Other items of note; really good coffee. Lula uses fair trade organic coffee and despite being oddly priced ($2.38/cup), the refills are generous and the flavour is strong and dark. Also, colourful cloth napkins. I don’t know why this delights me so much, but the arrival of pretty cloth bandanas in place of starched white linen makes me really happy. Of course, we don’t use them because we don’t want to get them dirty (how the heck do you get lipstick outta those things without bleach?), but the feeling of being at a really fun party makes the whole meal even better.
The verdict on Lula – loved it. And they’re open daily from Tuesday to Sunday, so I can even sneak up here for a weekday brunch on my own. I can’t wait to check it out for dinner. My husband should pick stuff up off the sidewalk more often.