2603 West 16th Ave
Brunch is served on Saturday & Sunday from 10 am – 3 pm.
It’s not often that the traditionally smaller, daintier and more modest meals that higher end and more status-conscious restaurants serve up satisfy my Saturday morning brunch cravings. More often than not, my school and work-related hangover and my literal hangover both demand something heaping, sauce-drenched and that isn’t served alongside cloth napkins and water poured into wine glasses. My already established negative bias towards establishments who’s serving staff don’t refer to me as “sweetie” or “sugar” and that don’t have their daily specials written by, what looks like a left-handed kindergartener or a well-established doctor, on a dusty and scratched up chalk board was more than partially responsible for my not-so ecstatic attitude towards one particular late weekend morning brunch outing. After half of our brunch brethren dropped out for various dog-walking and baby-tending reasons, the last man standing suggested that he and I try out a tiny bistro that had never been more than a bleep on my brunch radar, but was somewhere where he slung sausage, scones and scrambled eggs for a period of time. Despite my slight disappointment in not being able to patronize one of my favourite breakfast and brunch diners, I managed to drown any hunger-induced feelings of loss in the knowledge that, regardless of the portion size, I would soon be enjoying some form of eggs sitting on top of starch and covered in some kind of buttery sauce. Whether or not the fact that I decided to show up to a place which takes your coat for you at the door in the same clothes that I slept in as a form of brunch protest was up for interpretation.
Located slightly off the beaten path and in the heart of upper Kits, Trafalgars is a modestly sized bistro that serves up weekend brunch, weekday lunch and dinner and which claims to be “Vancouver’s greenest restaurant.” Considering the fact that the walls were the same colour as middle-school tea-stained newspaper and there was enough dark wood panelling to rival any Irish pub on lower Granville, I assumed that they didn’t mean that literally. Trafalgars is known for their impressive recycling and composting program, through which they have managed to prevent all of their organic waste from ending up in the landfill and also for their dedication to using mostly local produce and ingredients in their kitchen. Truthfully, factors like that don’t usually have an effect on my ultimate decision on where to spend the happiest morning of the week, but it’s still nice to know that even though I may have been a total inebriated jerk the previous night, I would’t be a total environmental and social jerk that particular morning.
We arrived at around 11:30 on a Saturday morning to a completely empty restaurant aside from one table in the corner which seemed to be occupied by an eerily silent and seemingly fresh-off-of-an-argument couple. For all intensive purposes, we practically had the place to ourselves. After a delightfully adorable reunion between my brunch companion and his former co-workers, we were seated and I finally got to voice my snarky concerns about the emptiness of the place. Either brunch was a less-than impressive event there, or the prices were so outrageous that no self-respecting twenty-something who would choose to wear a sweatshirt that smelled of gin and a pair of leggings with a newly discovered hole in the crotch could possibly afford it. Turned out, neither was the case. Unlike most other brunch haunts in the city, Trafalgars takes reservations. Also, because they only serve brunch on the weekends and starting at 10 am, their brunch rush hits a lot later than most others, which I was about to bare witness to as noon came and went.
Maybe it was the linen table cloths or the freshly deposited paycheque that was just lingering in my account, but I hit a certain point in the time between sitting down, opening up the menu and being asked what I would like to drink where I threw financial caution to the wind. I had come to terms with my brunch-related Stockholm syndrome and accepted that I wasn’t going to stay under my usual and strictly self-enforced $25 limit for brunch. If there’s a better way to blow your brunch budget out of the freaking water than by ordering severely marked up alcohol, I haven’t found it. Thankfully, because I was dining with a bistro celebrity of sorts and with someone who had befriended the person slinging the suds, our first round of mimosas were generously taken care of for us.
One of the comforting and reassuring promises that was made to me when I was teetering cowardly on the fence about whether or not a Trafalgars brunch would be able to satisfy my disgustingly-large diner craving was that we could load up on appetizers. Although their main brunch menu consists of strictly breakfast items (aside from an extravagant-sounding lamb burger), their appetizer menu offers up a little taste of lunch and dinner with dishes such as lemon and olive oil confit tuna ($13) and pacific fish cakes ($12). We opted for the bistro fries ($9) which were tossed in truffle oil, parmesan and herbs and triggered that Yolk’s nostalgia for me and catered to my you-can-never-have-enough-startch-at-brunch personal belief and motto. Because they didn’t have an overwhelmingly crunchy exterior, the fries seemed to dissolve by themselves and left behind a fragrant hint of truffle oil that lingered in my mouth and in my belches for the duration of the day. When deciding on the components of my bourgie and fat-filled brunch spread, I wasn’t aware that Trafalgars, by default, placed a basket of baguette and butter on each table during brunch, just like they do during lunch and dinner service. As small and seemingly trivial as that touch was, it was definitely something that I would like to see at more establishments during brunch as a communal alternative to the often neglected and ignored toast wedges that are served along side most breakfast dishes. It also was the first indication that maybe we underestimated just how filling that meal was going to be.
Even though Trafalgar’s brunch menu isn’t extensive, it covered all the bases of a well-rounded weekend offering. From a basic breakfast spread to their own take on french toast, the menu offered something sweet, something savoury and something cooked directly in bacon fat. My brunch companion decided to throw his caloric caution to the wind and order the, ever trendy, chicken and waffles ($16) topped with a comforting roof made out of bacon to compliment the bacon fat used to cook the waffles themselves. That small extra artery-clogging touch was just enough to push that dish over the edge as one of the most filling, most satisfying and most dream-worthy examples of everyone’s new favourite sweet and savoury combination.The only criticism that my brunch companion could manage to spit out in between massive mouthfuls of buttermilk fried chicken and pillowy waffles was that it was a little light on the syrup. As is the case with all breakfast sauces, just ask for an extra side.
When my eggs benedict was placed down in front of me, despite the fact that I was comfortably full from the mimosas, bread basket and bowl of bistro fries that came before it, my same portion size-prejudice definitely came into play. Looking at the largely empty and sparse plate, I couldn’t help but think about all of the generous and plentiful diner-sized breakfasts out there that were just waiting to be enjoyed by people just as hung over as I was. However, even though the “poached eggs and hollandaise” at Trafalgars was one of the most modest-sized bennies I’d ever seen, it was also, by far, the most deceivingly filling. In place of an english muffin, the poached eggs and hollandaise were served on top of two incredibly crispy and almost overwhelmingly dense potato latkes and your choice of ham, pulled pork, gravlax or spinach mushrooms and cream cheese ($14-$15).
After barely finishing the first half, I quickly realized that all of the pre-gaming, pre-eating and pre-whining that did was completely unnecessary. The hockey puck-sized latkes were a meal in themselves and more than compensated for the lack of potatoes or hash browns on the side. My eggs were poached a textbook medium soft and, although I didn’t necessarily agree with the numerous claims about Trafalgars being home to the absolute best hollandaise in Vancouver, it was still nothing to turn my nose up at. Although the obvious buttery taste and lack of zesty lemon in the hollandaise combined with the overwhelming amount of butter in the latkes made for an extremely heavy meal, it was still a fantastic brunch dish and offered up a plethora of tastes and textures and some of the best ham I’ve had in the city. If you do decide to take on this deceivingly hefty meal, just be sure to not spoil your appetite in greed anticipated disappointment beforehand like I did.
Despite any preconceived notions you may get from looking at their dinner and set menus, Trafalgars isn’t going to break the bank by any means when it comes to brunch. Although it may be at the higher end of what us weekly and all-too-frequent brunchers are comfortable with, it is possible for your cheque to stay at a reasonable amount if you forgo the excess breakfast bubbles and incorrectly-anticipated appetizers. Offering up deceivingly filling and satisfying portions of well-done usual brunch fare, this modest bistro just outside of the major brunch neighbourhoods is an excellent choice for those who appreciate the convenience of a reservation and who want to escape the overwhelming hustle and bustle of those typical crowded weekend brunch haunts.
Atmosphere & Service:
Dish to Try Next Time: Challah French Toast – dulce de leche caramelized BC pears, chantilly cream ($13).
Ideal Time to Brunch: Before noon on the weekend.