Brunch is the Macaulay Culkin of food - the meal that never reached its potential

Samuel Muston felt short-changed on a recent visit to a local aspirational Italian

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Indy Lifestyle Online

I felt as deflated as a child's party balloon at home time. It was Saturday and I had arrived at the restaurant – a local Italian place selling aspirational pizzas – at 12.30pm. This is the perfect time to eat on a Saturday, I think. You have jumped the first hurdle in the get-rid-of-the-hangover stakes by getting out of bed and now, after teeth brushing and hair washing, you are feeling vaguely human. And hungry. I was, anyway. I'd timed it just right, though, so I could slide in for a proper lunch with starter, main and an option on a cream-based dessert. No late breakfast for me.

I pulled out a chair, sat down and read the menu. Only it was the wrong menu. "No, no, no – could I possibly have the lunch menu please?" I said.

"We only serve brunch at Saturday lunch."

"But it's lunch time? Could I not..."

"We only serve brunch at Saturday lunch."

I felt short-changed; diddled out of my proper lunch. Not to say that its brunch is terrible. I have no doubt it is a model of the genre. But it was still brunch. And brunch is, by its nature, disappointing. It is the meal that never reached its potential. It is the Macaulay Culkin of food.

I understand that there are pressures on restaurants, especially in the big cities where rents are as high as the sky and landlords are unforgiving. And I get that staying open for the whole day is a way to pay the rent. But doing so by serving brunch from opening until dinner time seems a bit of a cop-out.

The problem is that brunch always feels so confused. You have elements of breakfast – invariably scrambled eggs, usually with some chilli thrown in – forced into an unnatural union with fried potatoes or large chunks of meat: the lunch bits. What you never get is the full pleasure of either – you don't get the salt-and-fat satisfaction of the Full English or the bacon sandwich, nor the cylinder-firing happiness of a well-made lunch.

The only consolation is that you are able to get pissed at brunch in a restaurant and no one seems to mind. I can't help wondering, though, if all those offers of "bottomless Prosecco" and "as many Bloody Marys as you can drink before you fall over" are just a way of distracting from the fact that the food is so bloody boring.

Yes, there are exceptions. Very posh hotels tend to do it quite well. But very posh hotels tend to charge very posh prices. And if you have ever seen a brunch buffet at 4pm in those places, you'll know that half of it goes to waste by the end of the day.

I brooded on this as I sat there, longing and sulking in my aspirational Italian. I was in too deep to escape, having sat down and ordered a drink, so I took the menu, ordered the inevitable egg and ate it. I left full, but was denied the pleasure of my two-course lunch and so, inevitably, I went out for dinner as well. The weekend cost me an arm and a leg and it's entirely brunch's fault.

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