Mediocrity can be manipulated. Hotel breakfast buffets most certainly can be revived and upgraded if you approach the spread with optimism, originality and some careful pre-planning. After all, nobody serves you such an extensive selection of breakfast foods at home – oh, wait, nobody serves you at home! – and even if the congealed scrambled eggs have been plasticizing itself in the silver salver for over an hour, there’s a lot you can still do to craft a nicely satisfying meal experience for yourself out of all the averageness put out in a typical hotel breakfast buffet. Here’s how:
#1: DON’T APPEAR TOO HUNGRY OR TOO EXCITED AT THE PROSPECT OF A COMPLIMENTARY MEAL
• Greedy guests at hotel breakfasts are hard to stomach, says many in the F&B industry and sure enough, this sentiment is echoed by a lot of other people too. Famous British playwright Alan Bennett, once wrote in his diary during an Italian sojourn: “The greed at breakfast in our hotel is dispiriting…One woman this morning [has] such a passion for fruit that she piles her plate with melon, pineapple, grapes and kiwi fruit and then fills her pockets with tangerines to the extent that in the process, nature itself is demeaned…Some of the well-to-do guests can’t wait to get the food back to their table. One young man is downing a tumbler of orange juice en route and a boy is stuffing himself with sausages before he even sits down…”
#2: SCOPE OUT THE `HIDDEN’ DELIGHTS FIRST
• The thing about hotel buffets is that the layout is always unpredictable. How often have you helped yourself to cold, readymade eggs, only to find out at the coffee stage that a nice member of the kitchen staff was just around that pillar in the corner, flipping fresh omlettes and sunny-side-ups for whoever asked?
The thing that happens most often with complimentary buffets is that people get `tunnel vision’, brought on partly by the earliness of the hour and partly by the embarrassment of hanging around the stations for an inordinately long time. The eyes focus and latch on to the main food platters in the front, and you grab whatever you can before making a hasty getaway.
Play it cool. Take 2 or 3 casual passes around the buffet without looking too absorbed in the fare. And don’t pick up a plate right away. Once you have checked the periphery of the service for less noticeable treats, build a first course plan in your mind and then proceed. You’ll have plenty of time, planning the next stage, while you’re sitting at the table, relishing your first pickings.
#3: DON’T BUILD A LOPSIDED PLATE
• That means, balancing out the types of food you’re putting on it. Baked beans, for example, don’t go with syruped pancakes, and the generous slice of honeydew melon can well wait its turn after the meats-and-eggs are over. Not only will this not confuse your tastebuds into tasting nothing, it will make you look less conspicuous and less omnivorous if the likes of Alan Bennett are about, keenly watching the piling of your plate instead of doing some smart meal planning of their own.
#4: LOOK FOR REGIONAL ITEMS
• Even a bad breakfast buffet will often do their regional specialties well. Take advantage of this expertise with local ingredients and recipes by eating what’s most typical and commonplace in the geographical area.
#5: IF NOTHING ELSE APPEALS, CREATE AN IMAGINATIVE SANDWICH
• Assume nothing looks really appetizing in the buffet. Don’t grab a bagel and a coffee and get out of there. You’ll be wasting a rare opportunity to experiment and have fun creating a genius DIY sandwich. The reason is this: a breakfast buffet may not be good, not even averagely good, but it will still be an extensive source of ingredients you’d never have all at once at home to make a really interesting, unusual sandwich. Go on, try it…
#6: JUST TEA OR COFFEE?
• When a waiter comes up to your table to ask whether you want tea or coffee, he/she is not trying to keep you away from all the other beverage options displayed in the buffet. Get up and get something else if you want to. Freshly-squeezed Spirulina? Wheatgrass juice? Mango lassi? Hot chocolate.