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Brunch bunch

The Coastal Cafe packs them in for a reason: The food is wonderful.



The Coastal Cafe is busy, as always. My two friends and I have dared to go for a weekend brunch, arriving just after 10am hoping that we'll find a tiny window between market-goers and late-risers.

The Coastal is, after all, tiny. You can count the tables on your fingers, and they are so closely situated that it almost feels like family style seating. It's nothing short of serendipity and triumph that lands you a table when you walk in the door. It's easy to see why---the restaurant is pretty, sunny colours dominating the modern space. A shelf full of cat pictures adds easy charm.

The staff are smiling when we walk in, warmness and affability in the face of a harried environment. There is a table open, so we descend like wild animals, quickly tossing our coats on the chairs to mark our territory. The menu is on a chalkboard behind the counter. The door to the kitchen is open, and the sizzles and clangs of an action-packed kitchen add flavour to the loud hum of conversation.

I order the Forager ($10.75) and a café latte ($4). My friends order the Durty South ($10.75) and Granola Head ($7.50) with a side of toast ($1.75) and maple sausage ($3). They get an Earl Grey ($1.75) and an Americano ($2.75) respectively.

Just after we order, the rush begins. There are, at any time, a half-dozen people milling about in the open space in front of the counter. The flurry of incoming customers makes time pass a little more quickly, but also makes us feel fidgety. After only a few minutes, a server weaves his way through the crowd with our coffees, and it feels like only a short wait before another makes her way over with our food.

The Forager is a huge omelette, a golden half-moon dotted with green herbs. It looks overwhelming, but is airy and light. Sauteed mushrooms folded in the middle, earthy and lush, are delicious with the bright, clean taste of the herbs. Brie from the accompanying Monte Cristo has melted into a puddle on the plate next to the eggs, adding a creamy richness to each bite. The sandwich itself, made with a rich, tender brioche, is fantastic. I'm disappointed there is no ham---it's not mentioned on the menu, but the name suggested some---but it's not missed for long. Some tasty hash browns and slices of orange and kiwi round out the plate.

The Durty South plate is just as impressive. A pile of baked red-eye beans sets the stage for tender pulled pork, a dense slab of sweet potato cornbread and two eggs, drizzled with a sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. The eggs are cooked perfectly, the rich, runny yolks adding a delicious depth to the plate. It's the perfect brunch, meeting breakfast and lunch directly in the middle.

Granola Head is a totally different experience. It looks, and tastes, like dessert. The tender baked apples and granola taste like apple crisp. The cinnamon-dusted yogurt makes it feel less like a sweet, but it's the savoury addition of the side order of maple sausage that really brings it back into the realm of breakfast. We finish our food long before our coffee. We feel pangs of guilt as we sit and finish them, but we also don't want to abandon them simply because our plates are empty. But, as we did before our food came, we feel a little bit twitchy because of the vultures circling overhead, waiting for tables.

Coastal's charm is built on the intimacy of the space and the thoughtful and refined small-batch menu. But that also creates a bit of a high-pressure environment for diners. In my opinion, it's an easy trade-off.

Although I might stick to weekday mornings in the future.

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