Top of the morn­ing

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - TRAVEL & INDULGENCE - PENNY HUNTER

It is said to be the most im­por­tant meal of the day, and never more so than when you are trav­el­ling. A hearty break­fast sets you up for a full day of sight­see­ing. Skip this meal and by the time you’ve reached the front of the queue at the Uf­fizi, you’ll have ditched all thoughts of Car­avag­gio and be dashing to the near­est cafe.

When it comes to re­fu­elling in the morn­ing, noth­ing beats a ho­tel buf­fet break­fast. So much choice, so much … just, so much. At my last en­counter with such a smor­gas­bord, in Lom­bok, din­ers did lap af­ter lap of the plat­ters and steam­ing cloches, clasp­ing empty plates and over­whelmed by the ar­ray of cui­sine of of­fer, from Mex­i­can and Ja­panese to In­done­sian and Scan­di­na­vian. Par­ents were so flum­moxed by the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process that their chil­dren were sneak­ing ice-cream cones with sprin­kles for break­fast while the grown-ups me­an­dered aim­lessly from the omelette sta­tion to the cold meats.

Not that we adults aren’t par­tial to naughty break­fast in­dul­gences. Head to Mu­nich’s fa­mous Lowen­braukeller, for in­stance, for a tra­di­tional Bavar­ian kick-starter of weis­s­wurst and cloudy, creamy wheat beer, and you could find your­self still sit­ting there at lunch time.

My fam­ily has long re­ferred to buf­fet break­fasts as Gruf­falo break­fasts, which harks back to a time, many years ago, when the kids loved read­ing Ju­lia Don­ald­son’s won­der­ful chil­dren’s books. It was on a hol­i­day in Thai­land where we wit­nessed one re­sort guest, of fear­some ap­pear­ance (with “knob­bly knees” but for­tu­nately no “pur­ple prick­les” down her back), bla­tantly pil­ing a pyra­mid of pas­tries on to a plate and re­turn­ing to her gue­stroom. “That lady looks like a Gruf­falo,” my young daugh­ter pointed out rather rudely. She was right, and buf­fets have been Gruf­falo break­fasts ever since.

On a re­cent morn­ing wan­der through Ho­bart’s Farm Gate Mar­ket, we were pre­sented with a ver­i­ta­ble buf­fet on the city foot­paths. In among the stalls sell­ing Snow White-per­fect ap­ples, glis­ten­ing black­ber­ries and jars of chut­neys, we had a choice of sour­dough dough­nuts, corn cakes, grilled bratwurst, paella and Bruny Is­land oys­ters.

Some­times, though, it’s the sim­ple break­fasts that are the most mem­o­rable. Such as slurp­ing beef noo­dle soup in a bustling pho restau­rant in Hoi An, Viet­nam, as the chef kept watch over her bub­bling vat of stock, a mys­te­ri­ous flavour-packed broth that would later prove im­pos­si­ble to recre­ate at home. We re­turned rev­er­ently to that road­side eatery every morn­ing of our stay.

Or chanc­ing upon the crepe mak­ers of the Bastille Mar­ket in Paris on a bit­terly cold morn­ing. Never had the sweet and sour union of sugar and lemon tasted so good.

And then there’s the sim­plest of break­fasts, so com­mon across Asia: rice, green veg­eta­bles and a piece of fish with a lib­eral sprin­kling of chilli. That’s the kind of dish that can sus­tain you. That’s the kind of dish that sus­tains most of the world. No need for buf­fets — or Gruf­fa­los.

Susan Kuro­sawa is on as­sign­ment.

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