Café du Lac
2350 Lakeshore Boulevard West
Brunch for two with all taxes, tip and coffee: $30
If Toronto wasn’t already known as a brunch town, just wait until people really start feeling the recession pinch. Already considered much more economical and family-friendly than dinner at a high-end restaurant or a business lunch, brunch is poised to be the main weekly meal out for many families. No matter how tough times get – there’s still not many people who can be bothered to poach eggs at home.
This brunch popularity is already evident at Café du Lac, where families filled almost every table during our visit last week. Unfortunately with but one server for the entire room, the smooth relaxed brunch mood was a bit lost in the confusion.
Things start well enough and we’re set up with coffee and water while our order is taken. The menu is short and to the point, with a selection of crepes, omlettes, and bagels as well as French toast, and we select a couple of dishes and sides that we think will best represent the Quebecois theme.
And then we wait, and wait. Our overworked but cheery server comes by and tells us our food will be up in a minute. Then returns about ten minutes later, profusely apologetic, to tell us that she forgot to enter our order at all, and that the kitchen is working on it now. Oops.
To be fair, the place is jumping. She’s got a table of 6, another party of 9 arriving, and a variety of deuces and 4-tops. Our food finally arrives and looks great but there’s still a few mix-ups. My side of bacon is on the husband’s plate, and the homefries that come with his order are MIA. As is his toast.
My crepes with fresh seasonal fruit ($8), one of three crepe options on the small menu, are beautifully arranged with a selection of (not especially seasonal) berries and kiwi, but are ice cold. I know crepes are difficult to keep hot, especially if they’re being made individually and don’t have a hot filling or hot sauce, so I’m not terribly upset, but it’s still disappointing. They’re nicely cooked otherwise; thin and light and not at all rubbery.
The husband’s Western omelette ($10) is decently fluffy. The accompanying creton (traditional Quebecois pork spread mixed with onions and spices) is um, well, it’s pork fat, which is great for those who like the stuff but it may not be to everyone’s taste. We disagree on the homefries though, with one vote for bland and one for nicely crunchy on the outside. I’d bet they were fried in pork fat, but that would be a silly thing to do if they ever wanted to see a vegetarian in the place again. The baked beans taste straight from a can.
Most disappointing of all is Café du Lac’s reliance on single-serve pre-packaged condiments. Every table has a bowl of plastic containers of milk and cream, giving the otherwise cozy and classic space a bit of a diner feel, although the kids at the next table are having a grand time stacking the things and then knocking them down. Toast comes in a basket with plastic containers holding pats of Lactancia butter (which, to be fair, is from Quebec) and single servings of Smuckers jam. Smuckers?
Now maybe with only one server on the floor for a packed room, there is no time to dole out pitchers of cream for coffee or fill ramekins with some fabulous Quebec jam, but it’s these little things that make a difference. If Café du Lac is all about promoting the terroir and foods of Quebec, Smuckers doesn’t really seem to fit the bill. I know they make decent jam and preserves in Quebec, I’ve tried them at Taste of Quebec in the Distillery. Which makes me wonder why Café du Lac hasn’t sourced some of their products to serve in the restaurant. It seems like a logical arrangement.
Our server ultimately comps one of our meals because of the mix-up, a gesture that more than makes up for the wait and confusion, but I don’t know if that alone would bring me back. The point of eating out, especially when money is tight, is to enjoy a meal you likely wouldn’t have at home. I can get Smuckers anywhere; it doesn’t warrant a trip to Mimico.