Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Royale Experience...

Moderate great breakfast is that meal of the day I rarely eat. Which is a good thing considering the amount of food I consume at other mealtimes. I know, I know I should still have some sort of cereal, or fruit and yogurt, or vegan smoothie energy shake thing, but I can’t deal with that. I can barely adjust to being awake most mornings, let alone dealing with the issue of digestion. So it is coffee, direct from my kitchen with bread from Big Treat or Butterfield.

But this week, I am a changed woman. I am all about breakfast. The reason for my change of heart is not because some wonderful new man has entered my life who springs from bed every morning to make me homemade breakfasts of fluffy omelets, crispy bacon, home fries, and assorted breakfast pastries, neither is it because I now temporarily stay on the Island. No. Here in what is known as the real world, the reason I am in love with breakfast is the Café Royale, part one of this newly opened Cafe, located at the newly refurbished building opposite Chocolate Royale, on Etim Inyang Crescent, VI. I’ll be straight with you here. Cafe Royale’s breakfast menu will have you bouncing out of bed at first light, and running on over there in your wrinkled PJs, with crusty eyes, and dragon breath. I suggest washing up and brushing those teeth first, and perhaps running a comb through your matted hair though cause you might feel a bit out of place in your sheep-covered flannels at Cafe Royale if you know what I mean. This place is glamorous and elegant, and not appropriate for casual sleepwear.

I guess it was sumptuously designed by the best interior designers we have around here, the Café is a smooth, elegant chocolate-toned room with cozy tables for two and luscious banquettes for more. It is fancy, in a civilized old world New York sort of way. The original floors are made of tiny little golden tiles, and the ceilings are high, with crown moldings etched in complementary gold hues. The bar, has an illicitly romantic feel to it, even in daytime. It is a sexy and snuggly room. It felt so warm and cozy in there that I expected to walk outside and find the streets hushed with freshly fallen drops or rain. But back to the breakfast, where you probably won’t be drinking at the bar (but stay long enough and you will)—I loved i t. Whatever drama befalls the chef but I would say the meals are cautiosly prepared at Cafe Royale. The meal my cousin and I had there the other day was divine. First of all, our server, could not have been nicer. I don’t know if they hand out happy pills before service or what, but I have never had a waiter who was just so sincerely eager to make sure we were comfortable and happy. (My cousin wanted to take him home with her.) And the food he brought us just kept us in a state of constant bliss. If only life were always like this. Our breakfast feast began with the Organic Soft Boiled Egg, served in a little cast iron plate filled with crisped nuggets of bread, cousin called out for something which I didn't hear and she has promised not to say but it appeared to be thickened cream. Yes, so good for the thighs. The egg was an alabaster masterpiece—an egg as art. The white was cooked just enough, and the hot yolk ran all over the lardons, and mixed with asparagus marmalade and that savory cream sauce. I was loving it. Other egg dishes take a more rustic route. The meals here are like something from a heavenly food truck stop somewhere in the beyond here.

Two fried eggs are served in a cast iron skillet crowded with a mess of buttery roasted fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, and roasted red peppers. It’s simple and it’s darn good, especially because it is served with grilled bread so you can mop off the yolks and leave a nice clean skillet. My cousin seemed to be on a yolk-mopping mission. She was dedicated to making sure the skillet she returned to the kitchen was spick and span. As cousin continued to clean her skillet of its egg and potato contents, we got into a discussion of how exactly I was going to get over my lost chef, whose absence from my life has been really difficult to adjust to. We rehashed the relationship, the break up, and my current state of heartache. She listened to me ramble on and hugged me and told me I would be okay. Funny, I am matured and my cousin is still hugging me and telling me everything will be okay.

Pathetic? Probably. But true. She told me it would just take some time. “I know that, cousin, but the process of getting through enough time so that the hurt goes away is a total drag,” I told her. “I don’t like feeling this way, with this big hole in my life, and my heart.” Morever the chef probably does not know I still miss his absence after all this while - how long has it been by the way, 4months?. And so I sat there, with tears running down my face while she finished her eggs. I was quite a sight. Our dear waiter, looked like he wanted to come over and give me a hug. I could have used it.

Look, I hate to sound so whiny. And this one wasn’t even so bad. The last one, which I had for just a duration of 2months didn't last , we broke up the day I was informed by the Manager of the restaurant that my beloved chef had moved back to his country - I was heartbroken. At the time, I thought it was fatal. But it wasn’t. I lived through it. But even when it doesn’t feel fatal, even when it’s just a flesh wound like now, it hurts. I guess anytime you give a piece of yourself up to a creative chef, only to have the whole thing fall apart, you’ve got to find a way to get that piece back again. And that takes time. And I think I just thought this time would be different. It felt different. And then it wasn’t. And that is what hurts more than the broken heart—the dashed expectations and the missed special meals I belived were specially made for me alone. It is just really disappointing. But alas! Hey, I just a new one - yes, the chef at Cafe Royale.

Anyway, soon I was sick of listening to myself moan, and I regained my composure, and we were ready to try the next meal, Leo, a brilliant take on the bagel and lox for those who can’t deal with all that bagel but really love the stuff that comes with it. Cafe Royale's version takes a pair of thin crisp wafers of a sliced bagel and fills them with layers of house-smoked salmon, whipped crème fraiche, tomatoes, sliced hard boiled eggs, capers, and shaved onion. It’s really the best way to taste all the ingredients, because you are not overwhelmed by doughy bread. It also leaves you more room to have the French Toast which is a ridiculous exercise in excess. I could barely eat more than one bite, so I recommend ordering it, but maybe just having it to share with your table, or just to look at. The French toast, which is more like a giant flapjack, is fashioned from buttery and golden brioche that is sliced in half cross-wise, and filled with fig jam and topped with a scoop of melting hazelnut butter. One bite fills your mouth with the flavors of sweet warm butter, figs and hazelnuts. It’s fairly phenomenal. And that day, it was the breakfast equivalent of a pint of a wonderful ice cream eaten with a spoon on the couch, with no intention of returning it to the freezer. The Café Royale also serves lunch, a fun menu that includes the burger (N550) with shallot tempura and special sauce on a toasted English muffin, lacquered pork with hushpuppies, pickled jalapeno and creamed corn, and duck frisee lardon salad (N850), with crispy Chinese duck leg, remoulade, and pickled red onions. But who needs lunch? People, it’s all about breakfast. And until I have a man in an apron in my kitchen, I’ll be at Cafe Royale

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