The Quest for Vancouver’s Best Brunch: Tableau Bar Bistro
Bistro Bar Table
Like many of us, I am a brunch. I can’t get to sleep late anymore, but I’m good at lying in bed for hours with a cup of coffee on a weekend morning. After this ritual is complete my hungry stomach propels me towards food, for the most part any food would do. Depending on the day before, I might have a soft spot for something absurdly loaded with fat or, on rare occasions, some sort of lighter dish. In any case, brunch is a meal that always means it’s the weekend and usually comes with a well-watered side. Because you know, weekend.
For the coveted New Year’s Eve brunch, I wanted to make sure I had a table. Unfortunately, a lot of my hangouts don’t take reservations for their morning seats. So I saw this as an opportunity to try something new (New Years, New Brunch?) And booked through Tableau.
Bistro Bar Table
Tableau is a sister restaurant to Maxine’s and Homer St. Café. Maxine’s has been one of my favorite brunches lately because their hash browns (called crispy potato) just might be the best in town. Tableau doesn’t have a potato on the menu, but their potatoes deserve a little time in the spotlight as well.
Tableau, much like its sister restaurants, leans towards a French bistro vibe both in terms of decor and menu. With options like steak tartare and French onion soup for brunch lunch and classics like egg benedict and a French omelet for the more breakfast-inclined. The interior is both comfortable and awe-inspiring, with classic black-and-white floor tiles and lighting just golden enough to feel like a warm respite from the heavy snow outside.
Bistro Bar Table
I have the impression that no brunch review can take place without a mimosa moment. I don’t always order a mimosa (in summer I may have a soft spot for an Aperol spritz) but I have a theory that if a restaurant serves mimosas, their quality bodes well for future dishes. This is something I imagined once after a mediocre brunch followed by a very mediocre mimosa. It is not yet a law, but I am submitting it for further study.
The mimosa ($ 9) at Tableau is out of the park. I like a low orange / bubble ratio, with a fresh orange taste, not too sweet and just acidic enough to end on a slightly sour note. Also, I am one of those who prefer the pulp in my OJ. For me, it’s like it’s straight from the fruit. Tableau did it all. It’s an adorable pour of 1 oz of sparkling wine with just the right amount of orange goodness. The floating pulp testifies to its freshness. Yes, the pulp is a controversial point – for some it means that it is a little mimosa. But I’m the one writing the review, so here we are.
The service at Tableau was friendly and quick but never overbearing. Despite lively service, we never lacked for anything. Our water glasses were always full, we were regularly checked for mimosa refills and when I inquired about a Bailey’s coffee (not on the menu) the bartender concocted a nice drink with a tower of whipped cream.
Bistro Bar Table
I ordered the avocado toast ($ 16) with a side of sausage ($ 7) and my partner ordered the croque madame ($ 20) and swapped the fries for crispy red potatoes. Yes, I had avocado toast. No, that was definitely not the most interesting thing on the menu. As a millennial, I feel like I can be a pretty good judge of avo toast: I’ve been eating it every week for over a decade. Tableau’s interpretation includes mashed avocado on artisan toast, pickled shallots, sunflower seeds, and a six-minute egg. Artisanal toast is a very loose way of referring to what was essentially whole wheat grain bread. I love a rustic oatmeal bread, however, I think this particular version could be cut a little thicker as the center started to sog midway through the meal. However, the six-minute egg had the ideal level of jammy yolk, the avocado itself was perfectly seasoned, and the pickled shallots provided a strong bite that cut through the richness of the avo and egg. I was, however, surprised by the semi-dried tomato lobes hiding under the pile of stripped mixed greens. A nice addition for umami that I had never had before but that I wouldn’t necessarily do my best for in the future.
The sausage side was the best thing I ate all day. One order gives you three sausages with the perfect amount of bite and a tight wrap that bursts when you cut it. If you love the texture of a banger style sausage then this is for you. The seasoning was bold, like someone was cranking up the dial on a classic breakfast sausage and doubling down on all the things that make it good. I could only have eaten this sausage and I would have left full.
Fortunately for me, I was also able to try my partner’s croque madame. This cheese and gravy loaded sandwich was one of the best iterations I’ve had. The mornay sauce was silky but thick and the Gruyere was strong and melting to the level of the cheese. In defiance of physics, the bread remained intact and withstood the thick sauce and runny yolk.
Despite the cheesy decadence of the croque madame, it was once again the order of accompaniment that captivated me. The crispy red potatoes reminded me of a kind of game on a melting potato. Somehow creamy on the inside but golden and crispy on the outside (and topped with cheese!), They taste luxurious and are unlike any other potato I’ve had at brunch. I would go so far as to say that these are the perfect bistro-style dishes that combine breakfast and lunch. This is the type of potato that I want to serve with a steak (note: they are served with their steak and eggs) but would be just as perfect with eggs and bacon.
Tableau was the perfect place for a holiday brunch, it felt elevated enough to accommodate a special occasion meal and forget about all the annoyances of the outside world, yet still be intimate enough for a quiet conversation with loved ones. I’ll come back to Tableau, and while I will deviate from my order of avocado toast, I will definitely get the sausage and potatoes (and maybe a mimosas or two).
Bar Bistro Table, 1181 rue Melville 604-639-8691, tableaubarbistro.com
Hours: Breakfast from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. every day; Lunch from Monday to Friday from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm; Dinner Sun-Thu 5.30 p.m.-10 p.m. Fri-Sat 5.30 p.m.-11 p.m. Happy Hour every day from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Brunch Sat, Sun and holidays 10.30am-2.30pm.