Breakfast and brunch are the new ‘in vogue’ stars of the dining out world and in some cases they’re even upstaging the main event.
At Jack’s Point Restaurant on the outskirts of Queenstown they’re capitalising on this emerging new breakfast and brunch market. “It’s all price-driven now,” says executive chef Chris Scott, who believes the casual dining trend is taking over from fine dining.
“Gone is the boozy lunch on the credit card. It’s all about health as well, so that’s no longer appropriate. Corporates are watching their budgets,” he says.
Restaurants and cafes are taking the breakfast and brunch markets more seriously as a great revenue stream. “People are extending their opening hours and getting serious about the market during that part of the day,” says Chris.
Running a restaurant set amid one of the country’s most stunning alpine backdrops, Chris has plenty of scope to offer something that’s a cut above average at Jack’s Point. “We’ve got the space here and the market to be creative – to do something a little bit different and pave the way,” he says. He’s brought the ‘shared plate’ craze into breakfast serving up a set menu for $32, starting with cold options like muesli, poached strawberries and coconut yoghurt, moving through to smoked salmon or bacon and asparagus hollandaise. “The shared thing is huge. It’s more social, casual and interactive.” Potato and kelp waffle, with smoked salmon pickled cucumber and dill crème fraiche, and golden milk – organic cow’s milk with fresh turmeric, spices and honey – also grace his breakfast menu.
“People are taking breakfast a lot more seriously,” says Chris. Other chefs agree. With evening dining becoming more expensive customers are enjoying what they perceive to be better value, dining out for breakfast and brunch. The switch brings higher customer expectations and a more adventurous spirit with many customers also expecting healthier options.
Co-owner of Christchurch’s Hello Sunday Café Chris Penny says restaurants and cafes are cashing in on this trend, following overseas trends. “You don’t have to make all of your money and cram all of your trade into a few hours. Operators have discovered there’s a huge window between 7am and 2pm with a more consistent trade, says Chris (Penny). “People are buying full meals at a slightly lower price point, so they can afford to eat out more regularly.” It just makes better business sense for many operators, he says. “Brunch restaurants are doing well. In Melbourne, with its seriously awesome food scene, I know of experienced chefs who are selling up their fine dining restaurants and opening cafes,” he says. Breakfast and brunch chefs are also enjoying a more regular lifestyle. “My chefs have a life. They’re out of here by 3pm.”
He tries to switch up classics by incorporating some multi-cultural options, such as Shakshuka – Middle Eastern-style baked eggs, marinated feta, baked Turkish bread and spiced goat meatballs. “We roast our own muesli granola and keep the flavours interesting by adding fruit foams, gels and the likes of poached pears.”
Black Forest-style coconut cream sago comes with strawberries and other fresh fruit. Asparagus crepe with gremolata is a new summer favourite and the beef cheek hash brunch – beef marbled through potato, fried off and topped with an Asian-style sweet pickled cucumber and sriracha hollandaise – is a huge winner.
However, not everyone is keen to break from tradition with chefs reporting good old eggs benedict is still a Kiwi staple.
Avocado, particularly smashed on toast, is hugely popular with the lemon preventing any discoloration and allowing it to be prepared ahead.
“Anything with avocado is pretty popular,” says Auckland’s Meadow co-owner Myles Taylor. Customers are looking for a bit more fire too and Meadow’s Huevos Sucios – fried eggs, potato sucios, black bean salsa, cheddar, chipotle, chorizo and coriander – is famous with fans. Bloody Marys slide down nicely at the weekends, as does the smoked kahawai and potato omelette, with pecorino and tomato chutney. Myles has noticed that customers are keen to try different alternatives. “People want something light and fashionable when they go out for breakfast and brunch now.” Granola, served with almond milk, coconut yoghurt and mango sorbet is always a refreshing and healthy winner. “Eating out for breakfast or brunch opens up a lot more options and people aren’t just eating out once a week now – more like three times.”
Gluten and dairy free options are a must and operators say they’ve learned to make dishes flexible to accommodate these needs.
“We have a growing customer base of gluten and dairy free customers,” says Invercargill’s Industry Café co-owner Kate French. Vegan and Paleo-friendly options are also a must, so we cater for this and try, wherever possible, to create our dishes with these options.”
Industry’s location means the menu needs to follow food trends, but also suit the masses. Polenta and coconut porridge with berry coulis, caramelised banana and maple syrup is hugely popular. “It’s light and has beautiful fruity flavours,” says Kate. Beetroot and haloumi fritters are also winners. Stewart Island salmon is smoked on site and, along with blue cod and chips, is staple at both Industry and the owners’ other popular Invercargill café, The Batch. Co-owner Gareth Hamilton – an ex-Stewart Island fisherman – wouldn’t have it any other way. Decadent waffles with chocolate and hazelnut spread, strawberries, cream and raspberry coulis may not be for everyone but Southern Men still love a hearty feed. ‘The Bad Boy’ – free range eggs, locally-made beef and chorizo sausage, bacon, slow roasted tomato, mushroom and hollandaise on toasted ciabatta – and the Breaky Bun – pork and fennel sausage, with smoked bacon, free range egg, rocket and home-made tomato sauce – both leave the boys happiness filled.
At Hip Group’s Ortolana in Britomart, avocado on toast, charred, grilled asparagus and smoked fish and potato hash are the biggest breakfast sellers. Head chef Kevin Puyat is big on educating customers to eat seasonally. “If it’s not in season I don’t put it on the menu, which doesn’t always please my customers, but if it’s seasonal then we’re passing those savings on to them,” says Kevin. “We really focus on provenance here. I’d rather use locally-sourced heirloom tomatoes and support our local growers, than import mushrooms from overseas.”
He’s looking forward to matching fresh seasonal corn, feta and charred spring onion with the likes of house-made bresaola. For the sweet tooth, toasted bran loaf comes with sweetened vanilla mascarpone and macerated cherries – marinated for three days – topped with toasted hazelnuts and honey.
At Prefab Café in Wellington, co-owner Jeff Kennedy and partner Bridget Dunn have watched the breakfast and brunch market emerge, and take hold. Jeff – one of Wellington’s forerunners for daytime eateries – now turns out up to a thousand meals a day. ”There’s been an enormous social change. People thought I was mad and would go broke opening a day-time place,” says Jeff. “I think customers are looking at costs and think they can eat out for breakfast and brunch, enjoy healthy options and actually save on groceries.” Customers may be getting more adventurous, but there’s still a market on Saturdays for good old bacon and eggs. “It’s pretty ingrained. The children like our waffles with stewed fruit, yoghurt and bacon too.”