I have missed brunch during my many years in London. We had a great little place called Banners, near our flat, where we would sometimes go at the weekends. It was one of the few places that served anything like brunch.
More common in the UK is lunch. Over the weekends this generally means eating anywhere between 1 and 3pm, often at a pub with friends. It’s usually a heavyish meal that involves meat or fish and some sort of vegetable. Lunch has come a long way in many pubs – and the standard of the food has got much better – but brunch still remains a mystery to many Brits, who have yet to experience the pleasure of an imaginative breakfast/lunch hybrid, accompanied by a mimosa or bloody Mary.
Snooze AM excels at this concept (sort of). I’m not sure what PR machine is behind the popularity of Snooze AM, but they are hardly napping. I’d say they’ve been in overdrive since its opening in November last year, because news of this little brunch place in Hillcrest has spread faster than the news of Whitney Houston’s death. To go there at the weekend is to exercise Patience with a capital ‘P’. You wait and wait and then wait some more. You wait so long that you lose the will to eat.
I’ve been there twice and it’s a bit like being at a nightclub – there’s a mob of people out front, while a trendy young person holding a tablet takes your name and tells you how long you might need to wait. I waited 45 minutes on the first visit (arrival time 12pm), and nearly an hour on the second (arrival time 10am). They tout this as a good place for kids, but I don’t know what child will want to wait that long. Parents would need to ply their offspring with an endless supply of snacks to keep them from destroying the place and/or screaming bloody murder – and this kind of defeats the purpose of going out to eat.
All this waiting gives you ample time to inspect the surroundings. Snooze has the feel of an industrial warehouse crossed with a 50s diner and a Jetsons cartoon, with design accents reminiscent of space exploration. There are booths in primary colors, contemporary lighting, a big television behind the bar and extremely high ceilings. The front of the restaurant is made up entirely of glass; this gives the space an airy, modern touch that invites you to feel part of the urban landscape beyond.
Is it worth the wait? I’ll ask you this, is any breakfast item worth over an hour of your time? Although the menu offers some interesting items such as Sweet Potato Pancakes (their signature pancake) and Vanilla Almond Oatmeal Brulee, it’s not exactly groundbreaking stuff. On my second visit I get the huevos rancheros. I regret it almost as soon as it gets to the table. The portion is huge and somewhat off-putting. I see congealed cheese gathered near the edge of my plate, and I wish silently that I’d ordered it without the cheese. I can tell I’ll be dragging myself out of the restaurant feeling as heavy as an elephant.
I preferred the choice on my first visit: a variation on eggs Benedict with ‘a ragout of tomatoes, white beans, kale and squash’, served with a spicy sauce. It was delicious and accompanied by some amazing hash browns. There are five different Benedict options for those who like this dish.
My dining companion goes for a lighter option – eggs, toast and hash browns. It looks good, but you could probably find a decent version of this just about anywhere. Our coffee is nothing special, either, and I’m glancing at my watch too often, knowing that I’ll need to run outside and move the car that is parked at a meter. This adds a layer of stress to my visit which I could really do without. Astonishingly, we’ve been in Hillcrest for nearly two hours and I’ve barely had time to gobble my food.
There are also some teething problems, with servers bringing the food to the wrong tables and forgetting things we’ve asked for. When I enquire about our food, after waiting more than half an hour, I get a very pleasant but vague reply, ‘We are running a little behind.’
I suggest you go to Snooze during the week, during a blizzard (which will never happen in southern California), obscenely early (they open at 7am at the weekends and close at 2.30pm) or wait for the hype to die down.