For me, Mother’s Day has always been synonymous with brunch. My mom liked
nothing more than the luxuriously indulgent feeling of being spoiled. It was
a fleeting respite from the constant banging of pots and pans and the mopping
up of sticky juice; from having to rack her brain, trying to whip up
something, anything, that everybody’s taste buds would deem tolerable; from
the constant demands imposed by five needy offspring and one even needier
husband. Even the daily rituals of dodging flying cutlery and ear-splitting
yowls of “I hate you,” were put on a brief hiatus.
So taking her out for brunch was our way of saying thank you, and we got to
eat dessert for breakfast—always a bonus. It wasn’t just brunch, it was
This year brunch was on the agenda yet again, just not on Mother’s Day. That
extends the whole celebration thing, or at least the no cooking thing, to a
couple of days. Mom gets a lovely brunch on a plain old Sunday and still gets
to participate in the whole Mother’s Day hoopla as well. And avoiding
crazy-busy restaurants and the hordes of people that descend on them on
Mother’s Day is always a good thing.
Mom was on extra-good behaviour this year, so my family and I decided to
splurge and brunch in style—in the Empire Ballroom at the Hotel
MacDonald. And since my dad is her designated driver, we let him join us
The Empire Ballroom, like the rest of the Hotel MacDonald, can only be
described as elegant, luxurious and positively sumptuous. From the moment
your feet transport you down the wide, stately hallway until you arrive at
the elaborate archway where a neatly dressed host or hostess is waiting to
whisk you to your table, everything feels special. Not stuffy, not
overstated, just open, spacious, airy and special.
A very genial hostess greeted us and treated us to a brief tour en route to
our table. Just past the coats, we came face-to-face with a room full of
tables laden with food. One whole impressive room, dedicated to food.
After breezing past the baskets overflowing with fruit danishes, mini buttery
croissants, chocolate brioche and some baby muffins, we encountered a
glorious tray of fresh fruit. After a brief glimpse of the elaborate
make-your-own-salad section came various cold meats and an assortment of
seafood, including steamed mussels, smoked salmon and a heaping bowl of
There was a slight gap between the tables before we reached the bread nook,
complete with an assortment of breads, buns and jams, as well as some butter,
the soup of the day and a toaster. Past the fresh fruit smoothies was a tray
of imported cheeses, along with more bread and some crackers. And as we
passed the omelette station, we got a pleasant nod from the omelette chef and
his big white hat, standing with spatula in hand, ready to whisk and flip
whatever creation our moods demanded.
In the middle of the room, taking centre stage, was tray after tray of the
“hot food.” At the end of that neat little line was the carving station,
sporting a maple-glazed loin of pork with a cinnamon au jus. Another chef in
another big white hat stood nearby.
Finally, we were led through another elaborate archway and into the Empire
Ballroom. White linen-clad tables, each with its own little space and adorned
with a simple yet striking tulip, were scattered throughout the room.
Residing grandly right in the middle of the room was a multi-tiered dessert
paradise, with cheesecakes and puddings and tortes and petite fours and more
fresh fruit and oodles of sauces and whipped cream and even fancy little
glasses of multicoloured Jell-O.
Fresh orange juice and coffee made the rounds, as did a couple of
lattés ($3.75 each) for the slightly spoiled coffee drinkers in the
Once we attacked the buffet, service was polite and efficient; empty plates
didn’t languish long and coffee cups always managed to stay filled.
The quantity of food was impressive, but the quality varied. The cold items
seemed to fare better than the hot—not surprising, considering nothing
benefits from languishing inside a warming tray. The breads and pastries, the
fruit, the salads and the cheeses were all impeccably fresh, however, and
there were even a few fresh raspberries to be found. The made-to-order
omelettes and scrambled eggs all drew raves, as did the pork loin at the
And while the eggs benedict, the ocean fisherman’s pie and the baked tomato
and spinach cannelloni with blue cheese were good, they all suffered a tad
from warming tray syndrome.
The desserts were rich and sweet and tasted as impressive as they looked,
especially when coated with a dribble of dark chocolate sauce, a splash of
milk chocolate sauce and a dash of raspberry sauce before being finished off
with some vanilla anglaise and a dollop of whipped cream.
For $48/person ($39 for seniors, $24 for kids), this brunch is definitely an
event. It is grand, spacious, enjoyable and oh-so-indulgent-and-relaxing.
Thoughtful little touches abound, like the vat of warm plates that welcomes
you to the hot food selection. There are no line-ups, and you never lose your
sense of personal space. In the land of brunch buffets, that’s saying
For that much money though, I expected minor little annoyances to magically
disappear, and they didn’t. The coveted blueberry-banana smoothie was hard to
come by, and the jug was empty more often than not. When we got tired of
waiting for the tardy jug to refill itself and asked about it, we were told
the kitchen was simply “too busy” to make more, now we will be forever
tormented by its unfulfilled promise of greatness.
But mom was happy and we got to eat dessert for breakfast—what more
could you want? V
Sun (10 am
– 2 pm)
Hotel MacDonald Sunday Brunch
10065 – 100