Critique is an art form that requires a light touch, with a splash of irony and good humour to soften the blows.
Published May 5th 2014
The lusciousness of Eggs Benedict is a decadent excess that is so much more than poached eggs on toast. A rich Hollandaise Sauce is key to its success or failure.
This 19th century American creation began as two halves of an English muffin topped with ham, soft poached eggs, and Hollandaise Sauce. The original Eggs Benedict (EB) recipe has been claimed by both the legendary Waldorf Hotel and the famous Delmonico's restaurant in Manhattan. The following expose is a tribute to the totally awesome National Eggs Benedict Day on 16th April (in the USA).
Delmonico's original Eggs Benedict with ham (source abc.go.com)
The only classic French element to the dish is the Hollandaise Sauce, which is why so many of the supporting elements are often modified to suit local tastes. The ham is often replaced by bacon (Eggs Blackstone), spinach (Eggs Florentine), spinach and artichoke (Eggs Sardou), avocado or Spanish chorizo sausage (Huevos Benedictos), corned beef (Irish Benedict), Portobello mushrooms (Portobello Benedict), asparagus and crab meat (Oscar Benedict), or smoked salmon (Eggs Royale/Eggs Copenhagen/Eggs Montreal/Eggs Hemingway/Eggs Benjamin), and for totally outrageous excess, try foie gras instead of ham, and top with caviar, or shave a little truffle into the sauce. The sky is only limited by your imagination and your wallet.
HOW IS IT DONE ON THE GOLD COAST? My favourite is EB with smoked salmon, so I ordered this at the The Coffee Club on Cavill Mall. It was a generous serving, but the execution fell short. The poached-egg yolks were barely done, and they were drowning beneath an avalanche of thick, lumpy sauce.
The dish looked hurriedly constructed and the lack of garnish made it appear naked and unfinished. It tasted okay if you closed your eyes, but it needed more than a pinch of salt and cracked pepper to save it. Definitely not what the wall posters promised, and something closer to perfection is expected for the price.
The Coffee Club on Cavill: Eggs Benedict ($17.90) with smoked salmon ($1 extra)
I ordered the same dish from the menu at Level 77 café atop Q1. The plate looked attractive and well balanced, and held a promise of good flavour. The smoked salmon was fabulously salty and firm, and the poached eggs were perfection. Surprisingly, cooked spinach was included in the standard dish, eventhough it was listed on the menu as an option. Luckily I am a huge fan of Eggs Florentine, but the cook failed to drain the spinach properly which resulted in completely soggy toast.
The sauce was rich, smooth and abundant, but it lacked piquancy. It needed a little Dijon mustard to give it a kick, but the café staff had no such condiments on hand. They were keen to assist, but it took ages for the mustard to arrive from the upstairs kitchen.
Level 77: Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon ($15) with Chai latte ($5)
The price point was moderate at Level 77, but the trip to the top of the skyscraper makes it very expensive if you're not a local with an annual access card, or staying in the hotel. However, the view is spectacular.
At the BMD Northcliffe Surf Life Saving Club I ordered EB with bacon and a side of hash browns, and the result was perfectly poached eggs, toasted ciabatta, creamy smooth Hollandaise, wilted spinach, grilled tomato, and deliciously crispy bacon. It has been a few months since I had this big breakfast, and I was suffering from a serious hangover at the time, so I can't say whether the sauce was made fresh or reconstituted. What I do recall is that it tasted pretty darn good at the time, and deserves a hearty appetite.
BMD Northcliffe SLSC: Eggs Benedict with bacon ($13.45 members, $14.95 non-members), Hash browns ($2.65), Long black with soy ($3.90 plus 60c)
Thinking to take us both on a gastronomic journey of discovery, I decided to try the new upmarket Olli & Luca restaurant at Capri On Via Roma. In search of an interesting variant, I skipped the standard EB and ordered the Crab Rosti (local sand crab rosti with poached egg, avocado and spinach, dill hollandaise, crisp capers).
Having lived and worked in Switzerland for many years, I knew that rosti was made by fashioning grated cooked potato into a flat pancake shape and pan-frying it in butter until the outer surfaces are crisp and golden. Much like we add toppings to pizza, this popular Swiss dish is flavoured by adding ingredients such as onion, mushrooms, or ham to the potato mixture before frying. I was excited by the prospect of a deliciously crispy rosti pancake being topped with poached eggs and Hollandaise, but the dish was a disaster.
Instead of a rosti pancake with fresh crab, I was presented with a fish croquette cut in half and standing to attention in a suggestive pose in the midst of two Hollandaise-covered poached eggs. No way could this ever be called rosti, and a mix of finely minced salmon and 'white fish' cannot masquerade as crab. Enough said.
Olli & Luca: Crab Rosti ($19)... disastrous concoction that bore no resemblance to rosti or crab
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A GOOD EGGS BENEDICT?
Soft-centred poached eggs are a must, but success or failure hinges on the smooth silkiness of the Hollandaise Sauce and the hint of piquancy delivered with a gentle touch.
As any French-trained chef will attest, many pitfalls await the maker of this 'mother' sauce. It can be too thick, too thin, too bland, or it can die a sudden death at the hands of a clumsy chef. This simple-looking egg and oil emulsion can suddenly 'crack' and separate, and it takes patience and skill to bring it back.
How do you like your Eggs Benedict? My favourite EB has smoked salmon and spinach, but from this small cross-section of providers, the hearty EB with bacon from Northcliffe SLSC is hard to beat in terms of quality and value. The staff are exceptional and the beachside location makes for a memorable breakfast experience.
SIlo Café at the Carrara markets. The hollandaise is home made and you can tell!! Eggs poached the way you like them and if they aren't (which is rare) the owner Simon makes sure it is corrected. Service is fabulous and friendly. All for <$10. We actually prefer the vegetarian breakfast (poached egg with mushroom, spinach (well drained) and tomato, then get the hollandaise added on the side
Not sure if sharing this is going to ruin the secret lol but after sampling many eggs benny at Gold Coast cafes, the best would have to be at Luv a Coffee at Nerang. The Hollandaise is made fresh to perfection every time... Consistently good and super cheap at around $13 but I always get a side of mushrooms too. Yum!!
I don't understand why spinach is usually automatically served on Eggs Benny in Australia? We would never do that in North America because (as you said) that is called Eggs Florentine. Please stop doing this Australia as tourists don't like it, just offer it as a separate option.
my friend Trish says her daughter loves the EB at the Grocer & Grind on the cnr of TE Peter’s Drive & Sunshine Blvd, Broadbeach Waters. Fab little place frequented by savvy locals, but only a couple of blocks away from all the action of Pac Fair and Broadbeach.