GRIFF RHYS JONES

‘The ba­con at ho­tel break­fasts is a unique, slightly crispy, curly crav­ing. Oh God, I’m drool­ing…’

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - Front Page - GRIFF RHYS JONES

Mrs Jones is sav­ing money (a wise idea, given how I spend it.) Tak­ing on the great un­vis­ited cities of Europe, she has re­fused to tick the “break­fast in­cluded” box on the on­line book­ing forms be­cause “it’s an ex­tra thirty quid”.

At home, my break­fast con­sists of four cups of cof­fee and a por­tion of ir­ri­tabil­ity and Mrs Jones nib­bles at a bit of toast. Why pay for that? Madrid, Vi­enna and Stock­holm are rammed with in­ter­est­ing cafés any­way. Why have break­fast at the ho­tel?

And yet … the early-morn­ing buf­fet at ho­tels these days is a stag­ger­ing ex­trav­a­ganza – and I pre­fer a chain ho­tel, if I’m hon­est. I re­ally don’t mind those oily eggs hard­en­ing un­der the heat lamp. In fact, I like them. I love ho­tel ba­con, too, the kind where the edges have gone a lit­tle curly and the salt has worked its way through a heap of rash­ers, pre­pared at 5am and slowly de­com­pos­ing ever since. I have to ra­tion my­self. The outer-edge ba­con takes on the con­sis­tency of deep-fried bil­tong. It’s a unique, slightly crispy, curly crav­ing. Oh God, I’m drool­ing…

The fur­ther afield you go, the more var­ied the se­lec­tion. In­ter­na­tional ho­tels at tourist nodes pro­vide the Amer­i­can or Bri­tish cooked op­tion, but Scan­di­na­vians like to eat pick­led fish, so ev­ery­where of­fers that too. Or was it the Dutch who brought

maat­jes to the trough? Who wants to eat her­rings in a mus­tard sauce at 8am? Well me, ac­tu­ally. Bring it on. Com­pote too. Sev­eral types of Ger­man cheese. Melon. A few slices of pineap­ple. Those ex­tra­or­di­nary plates of halved pas­sion fruit in Brazil. Keep load­ing up the plate, no mat­ter how small.

There are prob­lems with the cof­fee, ob­vi­ously: the stewed black dish­wa­ter in glass bowls on top of mini heaters, or the stuff in those sus­pi­cious sil­ver jugs com­ing straight out of the kitchen, made out of cater­ing Nesquik and fit only for pick­ling socks. I al­ways be­friend a wait­ress and make sure she gets me a steady stream of espres­sos, with a “spe­cial” cap­puc­cino to start.

Mind you, be­friend­ing can prove dif­fi­cult. I was work­ing in Manch­ester once and stayed in the Lowry for nearly two months. Ev­ery morn­ing be­fore film­ing at 6am, I was the only per­son in the restau­rant. Each time, the head wait­ress would ask me for my room num­ber and in­quire if I had ever eaten break­fast at the ho­tel be­fore.

“Yes,” I would re­ply. “I ate here yes­ter­day.”

Not a flicker. She would pick up a menu and gaze around the empty restau­rant as if en­gaged in an ab­struse cal­cu­la­tion, be­fore lead­ing me to ex­actly the same ta­ble. De­spite my toothy smiles, she never var­ied the chat. “Will this do?” “Er … yes.” It was Ground­hog Day. The grub was ex­cel­lent, mind – as it has been fur­ther from home. The ho­tel I stayed at in Yan­gon (Ran­goon) in Burma was un­be­liev­able. Its break­fast spanned the globe via the cir­cum­fer­ence of a huge colo­nial din­ing room. They be­gan in In­dia, with a se­lec­tion of cur­ries, veg­etable and fish; next came China, with noo­dles, soups and a fetch­ing ar­ray of dim sum bas­kets. There were strange squidgy things from Ja­pan, a raft of smoked fishes and crisp breads, nuts of all na­tions, por­ridge and steamed con­gee, and all this be­fore you en­coun­tered the pas­try di­vi­sion, the Amer­i­can break­fast, the omelette maker and the trop­i­cal fruits and make-your-own smoothie counter.

But my No1 break­fast heaven came on re­turn­ing to Lon­don af­ter two weeks of pri­va­tion in the Greek is­lands on a bare­boat char­ter. Pass­ing through Knights­bridge, I asked our minibus driver to stop out­side the five-star Man­darin Oriental ho­tel. I herded my friends and chil­dren up the steps and into the un­crowded restau­rant for an all-in­clu­sive break­fast.

We fell upon the buf­fet: del­i­cate pas­tries, eggs in béchamel sauce, ex­quis­ite smoked salmon con­coc­tions. It re­mains the very best way to en­joy the sump­tu­ous­ness of this, the most re­fined of proper ho­tels – and, at the time, it cost just over thirty quid. You have to push the boat out some­times, don’t you?

To read more of Griff Rhys Jones’s travel writ­ing, see tele­graph.co.uk/travel/team/griff-rhys-jones

‘Who wants to eat her­rings in a mus­tard sauce at 8am? Well me, ac­tu­ally. Bring it on’

Griff can’t re­sist a chain-ho­tel break­fast

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