Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published October 10th 2011
Breakfast, I have been told, is the most important meal of the day and certainly the very words 'Full English Breakfast' bring a certain activity to the imagination. Another phrase designed to bring a smile to my face is 'All You Can Eat Buffet'. Combine the two and your really talking my language.
I am not alone in considering the Full English Breakfast as the highest epitome of British cuisine - no less a person than the author W Somerset Maugham said: 'To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.' And he was also a doctor, so there.
The Mount Helena Tavern, fount of good solid value for money, also known as the 'Mounties;' has mounted (ahem!) this effort on behalf of breakfasters in the Hills. For twenty-five dollars you are unleashed onto the tables and bain-maries.
My family and I, smiling like spaniels in a butchery, descended onto the Mounties on a recent, glorious weathered, Sunday to try out this new venture. We sat at the beautiful multi-paned window side which lets in the sun and lets you look out at the children playing on the grass and later in the day lets you hear the live bands.
Encouraged to 'help yourselves' we dutifully trotted up to the task.
To one side are the cereals, muesli and those compressed insulation material things of which I can never remember the name but which I believe footballers enjoy. Next to them are the croissants, some very superior danishes and jams, jellies and conserves. An excellent opening salvo in the battle against hunger.
To accompany this one usually drinks some form of fruit juice, of which a sensible variety was offered. I prefer apple juice to most others and was amply provided for, although orange and grapefruit were in attendance also. Self-service teas and instant coffee and hot chocolate are also in evidence as is a steaming urn of hot water. Why anyone would drink hot chocolate at breakfast is beyond me but, as my old Latin master used to say; 'De gustibus non est disputandum*' to which we usually replied; 'huh?'
The main event is against the wall - a rank of bain-maries containing the good stuff. Grilled bacon, some remarkably fine little chipolata sausages, fried tomatoes (skin on unfortunately, but I do concede they are hard to keep in one piece without the skin and it's a bit much to expect a commercial venture to remove the skins after cooking).
There were some rather nice mushrooms in a light sauce, scrambled eggs and that foreign import - hash browns. Unknown to the English, the Hash Brown, or fried shredded potato, is an American interloper, not to be confused with the homegrown rosti made from shredded potato, fried.
Incidentally, the original name, in the 1880s, for 'Hash Browns' was 'hashed, browned, potatoes', which gives you much better idea of what they actually are.
The scrambled eggs are on tap, as it were, but you can order them in almost any other way - fried, boiled, poached and so on.
The other dish available to order is pancakes and Angela ordered a 'short stack'. James has an American girlfriend, so I have learned these exotic terms. (I know what a rutabaga is now. I can even tell you what succotash is, that Sylvester used to suffer).
After several trips up to the tables to sample on your behalf we settled into that warm basking glow that comes after a good meal - much the same, I suppose, that a boa constrictor must feel, having just swallowed a whole goat.
The day we were there the next table was a vast family party tucking in splendidly and saying between mouthfuls how good it all was and how much they were enjoying themselves. And I do think it makes an excellent way for a family to enjoy each other's company, cater for a wide variety of tastes and prejudices as well as leave the dishes for someone else to wash.
The Mounties has a reputation for good, solid value and portions that could sustain a truckie across the Nullarbor and their Sunday Buffet Breakfast is no exception. If pressed for a criticism, I would suggest that somewhere to put the lids of the bain-maries while exploring the contents would be a sound move. Or make sure to take along an obliging son - 'here, hang on to that for a sec, while I dig'