Top of the morning
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.