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Chocolate espresso with roasted marshmallow shake from Brekkie Cafe in Calgary, Alta., on Jan. 17, 2019.

Guillaume Nolet/The Globe and Mail

  • Brekkie Cafe
  • Location: 20 Westpark Link SW, #125
  • City: Calgary
  • Province: Alberta
  • Phone: 403-452-9005
  • Website: brekkie.ca
  • Price: $6-$25
  • Cuisine: Brunch
  • Atmosphere: Bright and animated. Fairly roomy, considering how cramped brunch hot spots can be.
  • Drinks on offer: The usual brunch suspects … coffee, mimosas, Caesars, et al.
  • Best bets: Wild mushroom eggs Benedict
  • Vegetarian friendly? Yes
  • Additional information: Only open until 3 p.m.

rating

I am rarely the person to sit down at a restaurant, look at the price of a glass of wine or an appetizer and reminisce about those “good ol’ days” when things were so much more affordable.

I know ingredient costs rise yearly, monthly – sometimes weekly. Increased minimum wage and increased business taxes have hurt many small businesses, restaurants, bars, boutiques and otherwise.

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But it happened once or twice at Brekkie, a popular brunch spot in Calgary’s far west. The colourful and airy interior with high ceilings and comfortable seating looks good at a first glance and boasts a bubbly service staff that helps create a welcoming atmosphere. However, with dishes averaging a price of about $18 and reaching a whopping $25, it’s hard to leave a meal here not wondering what kind of quality you have just paid for.

There is some sort of mental block that comes into play when brunch dishes move beyond $20, especially something as seemingly simple as a hash with braised meat or a classic eggs Benedict topped with crab and (out of season) asparagus.

When fistfuls of edible flowers seem to be strewn across virtually every dish that leaves the kitchen pass, one has to wonder: Is this why my crab and avocado salad and my friend’s “colossal lamb bowl” cost $25? Surely, it’s not the two small ounces of braised lamb sitting on top of the mound of potatoes in the bowl or the canned crab meat mixed with minced onions sitting on top of salad greens and whole cherry tomatoes.

Colossal lamb bowl from Brekkie Cafe.

Guillaume Nolet/The Globe and Mail

The bizarre garnish choices continue on to a plate of chicken and waffles – fairly priced at $18 – where, again, edible flowers make their overstated appearance. In addition to the delicate unnecessaries, the chef also deemed it appropriate to add slices of watermelon radish to the perimeter of the plate. Not surprisingly, the odd pieces of radish do nothing for the unbrined, dry chicken meat hiding beneath its salty coating and its accompanying adequate waffles.

The “house syrup” served on the side of this dish in lieu of maple syrup – menu-wide, it seems – also tastes like sweet disappointment. Surely, saving on maple must be the reason for the sprinkling of flowers on everything. Now I understand.

My second visit yields better results, with an enjoyable preparation of eggs Benedict by way of wild mushrooms: a mélange of mushrooms sautéed and served on top of a thin, crispy, potato rosti with perfectly golden yolky eggs, tangy goat cheese and a bright hollandaise. It seems like eggs Benedict is the correct direction to go here at Brekkie.

Wild mushroom eggs Benedict from Brekkie Cafe: a mélange of mushrooms sautéed and served on top of a thin, crispy, potato rosti with perfectly golden yolky eggs, tangy goat cheese and a bright hollandaise.

Guillaume Nolet/The Globe and Mail

A small side dish of roasted Roma tomato halves topped with a creamy cashew and basil pesto also hits the spot. At only five dollars, it is also worth trying.

Against better judgment, a friend and I opted for one of their “loaded shakes,” which rings in at a healthy $12.

I turned my head to watch our server make our pricey shake. After several healthy squeezes of chocolate sauce, espresso pulled and blended with ice cream, whipped cream, a garnish of small Italian cookies, sprinkles and a quickly torched (gigantic) marshmallow, I was presented with a version of an adult-sized milkshake, fit for a sugar-starved child.

“We have to take a picture of this for Instagram,” said my friend, implying the absurdity of it all.

Much to my chagrin, I did, in fact, post the image. This is the sole purpose why this milkshake exists here – and this is what’s wrong with the food world today.

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