I’m a breakfast person. Always have been, always will be. I keep it healthy during the week (cereal, nuts, fruit and veg smoothies), and hit up the hollandaise/syrup covered meals on weekends.
In addition to loving breakfast, I am also a positive person. I like to look on the bright side, and always try to see my smoothie glass as half-full, rather than half-empty.
While dim sum places abound in Richmond, restaurants serving western-style brunch are harder to come by. The newly-opened Cora’s restaurant off the Steveston Highway is all about breakfast, however, so some friends and I decided to give it a try.
This chain restaurant has a phenomenal story behind it: back in 1987, Cora Tsouflidou was left alone to support her 3 kids after her husband left. She purchased a snack bar in the Ville St. Laurent district of Montreal, and in 25 years grew the small neighbourhood diner into an enterprise of over 100 restaurants across Canada. She’s an impressive and inspirational businesswoman.
I shall start with the sunny side up: with its bright yellow walls and primary colour decorative scheme, this place practically screams “we’re friendly, we’re wholesome, and we’re loved by children!” They offer plenty of options for picky eaters (including boxed cereal), balloons, and lots of beautifully presented fresh fruit. My breakfast cocktail smoothie was good.
And now, sigh, to the overdone, hard-boiled egg side of things: while we’ve established Cora’s is kid-friendly, if you’re an adult looking for a good meal, you may want to reconsider.
The menu offers both ‘light options’ (fresh fruit with yogurt and granola, etc), as well as sweet and savoury breakfast classics like waffles, crepes, pancakes, omelettes, and eggs benedict, as well as soups, salads, and sandwiches for lunch. Prices range from about $8 – $14 a plate, with a clear policy of upselling:
“I’ll have the berry waffles please.” (“Would you like bacon with that?”)
“I’ll have the brie and mushroom eggs benedict, please.” (“Would you like to add cheese to the potatoes?”)
“I’ll have the 10 star skillet, please.” (“Would you like to add an extra egg to that?”)
“I’ll have the apple cheddar crepe, please.” (Nothing else offered, thank goodness).
This up-selling wasn’t our friendly server’s fault – she was just doing her clearly-defined job. She was warm and attentive, but that didn’t make up for the food.
To cut to the point, our plates were simply not worth the $11-$13 they charged for each of them. Perhaps I’d consider those prices worthy if their eggs were free- range and the fruit organic, but they weren’t. They were just expensive.
My Berry Morning Call French Toast ($11.49) was spiced nicely, but at least four slices of the ciabatta hadn’t been dipped in batter, so instead of soaking up eggy goodness, they just stayed stale. Stale bread for $11.49.
Melanie’s Brie and Mushroom Eggs Benny ($12.95) was lukewarm, with tough English muffins, nearly cold potatoes, and powdered hollandaise.
Amos’ meaty 10 Star Skillet ($12.95 and served in a casserole dish, not a skillet) was the best of the bunch, though it’s hard to mess up meat, potatoes, peppers, onions, cheese, and egg. It was also a bit cool when it arrived at the table.
The first three dishes weren’t very good, but they were passable. Stephanie’s Apple Cheddar Crepe ($10.75) was actually dreadful.
The crepe – probably mixed from industrial batter – acted as nothing more than a bland wrapper for the fillings. Those fillings were a miniscule amount of mild cheddar and a grated apple that became a watery, flavourless mush inside the hot crepe. Because there was so little cheese to bind it together, it completely fell apart as she tried to eat it, and it wasn’t filling AT ALL. The apples should have been peeled, cut into wedges, sautéed in butter and spices, then smothered in a generous helping of white cheddar. THAT would have been an apple cheddar crepe. Oh the negativity! I hate myself right now!
One thing I must point out is that Cora’s restaurants are franchises, so quality could easily differ from one location to another. Even if my French toast had been perfectly cooked, however, I still wouldn’t have considered it a good value. As hard as they try, in its attempts to feel local and neighbourly, Cora’s feels contrived. They simply can’t compete with truly local establishments where owners, not corporate policies, are monitoring quality.
Alright, so that’s me being brutally honest. The lessons I’ve learned from this experience?
– I’m pretty picky when it comes to breakfast.
– There is a niche to be filled in Richmond, and it’s hearty, homestyle brunch joints. Take note, you ambitious young culinary entrepreneurs!
– Cora’s (or at least this one) focuses strongly on branding, and less strongly on food.
After this review, I feel like I need to provide you with something positive, too. So here you go, the sweetest kid ever.
ps – I’m open to other brunch suggestions in Richmond!!