So, given that, it's only natural that I eat breakfast out on a regular basis, and when I see 'Breakfast Served at all Times' I can't help myself emulating the comedian Steve Wright and ordering "French toast during the Renaissance".
Today the venue is Quadrato at the Four Seasons in Canary Wharf. For well over a decade I've eaten in Quadrato and know it extremely well - it has always been a trusted source of a good meal, especially in truffle season. Walking into the restaurant is like walking into a friends house - the doorman welcomes me back, takes my coat and I'm seated immediately with efficiency and charm. The decor is clean, functional, hotel-esque, and hasn't changed materially in 12 years. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but what was shiny and modern twelve years ago, is now just a little dull.
The waitress immediately asks if I'd like a juice - there are three on offer: orange; grapefruit; and cranberry. Usually Quadrato has a juice of the day, but either this has been dropped for the day, or forgotten about. I order a grapefruit juice and a cappuccino.
As you would expect in a Four Seasons Hotel, the breakfast menu is extensive. As I'm in the furthest enclave of the City, and folklore states that Mr Benedict was a Wall Street investment banker, I decide to honour him and order the Eggs Benedict. I have had it here many times, and it has historically been my favourite. I was surprised this time not to be asked how I'd like my eggs, as this has always been a nice feature of the restaurant. It demonstrates that they are making the dish for me, personally, and yes, they care how I prefer them.
My grapefruit juice and cappuccino arrive in good order, and my Eggs Benedict arrives a little too fast for comfort. Now, I don't consider myself an expert, but over the years I've eaten this dish in many different restaurants and countries. Here the presentation looked great, the product looked appetising, and I was looking forward to the dish.
There was quite a lot of Hollandaise. I began to realise that this was hiding the lack of ham I'd expected between the egg and English muffin. What I did encounter was such a thin slice of ham that it deemed it pointless and tasteless. However there was a surprisingly and relatively large quantity of very wet and soggy spinach. Just to be sure, I ask the waitress if this is the correct order and she confirms that this is my Eggs Benedict and not the Florentine (typically with spinach). I plow on, determined to put my spinach phobia aside. As I pierce the egg an unreasonable quantity of water is ejected. Worse still, the egg itself is undercooked, just a small white bag of fluid, adding to my general depression and making the muffin even soggier than the spinach. I'm left reminiscing about all of my past Eggs Benedict, as if bereaving an absent friend.
Disappointed, I leave half the breakfast untouched, and I'm not asked why. I pay the bill, my coat and bag arrives with speed and I leave...
In my view a perfect Eggs Benedict should have a muffin which is crisp on top and fluffy throughout. The ham should be of sufficient quantity that you can discern which type of ham it is; and the egg should be fresh and firm. The egg yolk should have enough oozing viscosity to drip over the ham and muffin, but not to permeate the bread. It's important to maintain the various textures of the food. The hollandaise should be creamy and exhibit a level of acidity which pokes your palate and gets your juices flowing. And nowhere, other than possibly somewhere in the kitchen drawer, or back in Florence, should there be spinach.
On my way to my next meeting I grab a croissant, and needless to say, I have a bad day.
Update: We were contacted by Four Seasons almost as soon as this piece went onto Urbanspoon, keen to find out where they went wrong.
Four Seasons Hotel