I discovered the Roundel Café one weekend by accident after an impromptu trip to London Drugs on East Hastings near Nanaimo. I honestly couldn’t have told you a good reason to go down there until that day. The long strip between Commercial Drive and Playland always evoked visions of dollar stores and dollar pizza in my mind. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the area is developing into a charming little neighbourhood where I might actually like to spend some time. Just a couple doors down from the Roundel, for example, is Tiger Tiger, one of the best vintage stores I’ve come across in this city.
The line up for weekend brunch at the Roundel was what caught my attention, so I decided then that I would add it to my list of breakfast options, perhaps to try midweek when there is less of a rush. So, on a Thursday, I returned with my trusty pen and paper, ready to rake the Roundel through the breakfast review coals (in a nice way).
The décor is what one might call ‘modern minimalist diner’. Sunny yellow table tops with chrome accents, navy blue booths, pale blue walls, and roll up wicker blinds, with no trendy kitsch in sight save the ceramic tiger and a couple decorative pie plates behind the counter.
The menu, divided into four sections: Sweet, Savory, Bennies, and Omelets, features ‘fresh, natural, often organic, and locally sourced ingredients’. Most dishes come with your choice of potatoes or brown rice, toast and salad. Everything hovers around $8 or $9 for a hefty plateful of food. The options are pretty standard in breakfast diner terms, with a few quirky twists thrown in. Perhaps that could be the reason why I decided that I would go against my better judgement and order something that sounded so out of the ordinary that it might actually be delicious. For what happened next I will take 50% of the blame.
Who in their right mind orders an omelet with carrots, blue cheese and pistachios? Honestly, does that sound good to you? Or does it sound like someone who has just smoked a huge chonger would say “dude, that sounds awesome”? This was not just some feature written on the chalkboard due to a surplus of carrots in the kitchen, but this was a permanent menu fixture.
When my omelet arrived, I felt like Anthony Bourdain, ready to venture blindfolded into the unknown culinary world. With overwhelming curiosity, I broke off a bite-sized portion of the omelet. It was stuffed generously with al dente carrot shavings mixed with a sprinkling of whole pistachios and what seemed like a few small lumps of blue cheese. I can’t say it was totally offensive, but it certainly wasn’t awe-inspiring. I did like the hard-to-screw-up mixed green salad and potatoes, which were dotted with a few surprises of the yam variety. And the toast wasn’t actually toast, but grilled whole wheat bread that tasted fresh and homemade, served with the Roundel’s own apple berry jam.
In the end, I suppose my breakfast wasn’t a total loss, and I think I will come back and give the Roundel another chance. However, I can safely conclude that I won’t be ordering any omelets with carrots listed as an ingredient, or attempting to make such a lackluster combination at home anytime in the near future. I’m glad I took a risk, though. Sometimes you can stumble upon wonderful things by letting go of your better judgement. This was not one of those times. As my colleague Lauren Mote says “Carrots belong pureed, in mire-poix, or in cake, never in an omelet.”
I thought it was cute that the bill comes in a teacup with fortune cookies. My fortune said ‘contentment will be your key to happiness’. That’s like saying ‘carrot omelets aren’t good’. There are some things that are painfully obvious, but we sometimes need to be reminded of common sense, which apparently isn’t all that common.