Thursday, 18 June 2009

Breakfast at Automat

Going out for breakfast usually leaves me feeling inspired, keen to chatter about my latest find with other restaurant lovers, or at least with an anecdote or two for a riveting review. Yesterday I left Automat feeling flat which says a lot about this American Brasserie in Mayfair, open since 2005, which professes itself as a “cultural exchange” between London and New York.

As my best breakfast buddy and I step into the café interior with its black and white floor tiles, our first impression is of Parisian chic, right down to the disinterested waiter who greets us grumpily from behind the bar. We are quickly led into the adjacent railway carriage style diner, seated in roomy booths, intimately lit with cute chrome reading lamps, and transported away from the early morning bustle of Mayfair.

The surrounding tables are occupied by smart local businessmen, presumably breaking transatlantic deals over their espressos and muffins, lending the room a buzzy atmosphere without being noisy. The compact menu seems promising with classic egg dishes, buttermilk pancakes, waffles, muffins and a full breakfast including fillet steak for those of ambitious appetite.

Being classicists and on the British side of the cultural exchange we both order egg dishes, and of course tea, and then watch with slight envy as a pile of pancakes is placed at another table.

Scrambled eggs and smoked salmon arrive quickly and are unfortunately substandard. Dry, pale eggs on quite acceptable toast, surrounded by a couple of slivers of relatively tasty smoked salmon. Sadly, it is no tastier than you could find in the fish section of your local supermarket. Knowing that in a renowned dining room, just across Piccadilly, a generous stack of Scottish salmon, buttery eggs and soft brioche will greet you for a similar price perhaps puts Automat at a disadvantage but it is one that they chose through default of location.

The American options on the menu: muffins, pastries, waffles and milkshakes served in elegant bulb glasses, are received warmly at the nearby tables and the baskets of baked goodies seem delightfully decadent so early in the day. Our large glasses of apple juice were tangy, fruity and refreshingly cold but the pots of stewing Twinings tea were disappointing considering their hefty price tag.

When it came to paying, spending ten minutes attempting to make eye contact with any of the three waitresses left us feeling a bit neglected, especially considering there were only six other tables of diners.

Automat’s opening website statement mentions nothing about food and we left with the sense that for both the people who frequent it and for those that run it, the style of the crockery is more important than the breakfast upon it. Which is a shame, because this well decked out and atmospheric brasserie has plenty of character, an enviable location and unrivalled milkshakes. Next time, I’ll cross the Atlantic divide and have pancakes.

Automat, 33 Dover Street, London W1S 4NF, 020 7499 3033

Automat on Urbanspoon

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