People love breakfast, and they love eating out for breakfast. You can eat for cheap, food menus are simple and therefore hard to screw up, bottomless coffee cups are offered in a lot of cases.
So it is not surprising to see more and more speacialized breakfast chains moving in to capitalize on that lucrative market. I’m not talking Donuts shop or Fast Food chains. I’m talking Breakfast chains like Cora (1987). Eggspectation (1993). Eggsquis (1995). Ben & Florentine (2008).
And Tutti Frutti, which was founded as a franchise in 1992 by the Pentefoutas family in Montreal. The chain has been growing steadily ever since, and was acquired in September 2008 by the MTY Group, the franchise giant behind 26 banners (over 1700 locations) such as Sushi Shop, Vanelli’s and TCBY.
Tutti Frutti is now expanding into Ontario, after establishing themselves solidly in Quebec. Tutti Frutti has just expanded into the National Capital Region by opening a new location in Nepean (reviewed last month by Eva’s Food World), adding to the first Gatineau location and most recently, a new one in Hull, high up on St-Joseph.
And that’s where we decided we had to start our first Family Day together. We were attracted to the location by a coupon printed in Le Droit which gave us $5 off any of their Eggs Benedict selection. Significant deal.
We arrived around 8:30 and the place was basically empty, which I didn’t particularly mind. For some reason, the hostess, who welcomed us promptly and nicely, thought that the best table to sit the three of us at was right beside an already occupied table in an otherwise fully empty section. Strange, but oh well, it didn’t really matter to us. (But it did to the gentleman, who soon after asked if he could move “near the windows – if it’s not too cold over there. For the record, the Waffle Jr. was minding her own business.)
Mel wanted coffee, I ordered a large apple juice. It came with a slice of kiwi as garnish, a simple but nice touch. However, at $3.25, it was quite pricey! No wonder their coupons are worth $5.00! Of course, the coffee was included with a breakfast, another example of non-coffee-drinker discrimination. However, if you are a coffee drinker, I should point out that the re-filling was not very prompt. “If you are a breakfast place, there is no reason to ever allow your patrons to see the bottom of their cup!” Mel informed me. In fact, after being asked directly for more coffee, our server simply forgot about it and I had to wave her over again while to remind her of my tender-half ‘s need for more caffeine.
Looking around the restaurant, one could not help to notice how clean the place was. Don’t let yourself be fooled by the bright orange canopy outside the restaurant – the interior decor is warm and sober, and they get high marks for the natural light blasting in.
The open concept basically lets you peek into the open kitchen from anywhere you sit. The tables are not too close together, but I bet the place would get loud fast. But with 6 tables occupied, not a problem.
The menu is varied, offering many types of crêpes, pancakes, French toast, omelettes, waffles, fruit platters, and of course the classic bacon n’ eggs and other usual combinations (most of them available in a cheaper early-bird version). On the sides side of things, one should note the presence of cretons and of fried baloney. Tempting!
Melissa decided she would try the Eggs Benedict, and she picked the Ham version ($10.55).
Two poached eggs, served on a thin slice of ham, sitting on english muffins, covered but definitely not drowned with hollandaise sauce. Melissa did note that she was not asked how she would like the eggs cooked, which normally means (she assumed) they would be done medium (no runny stuff) but these came cooked soft (with runny stuff). She would have rather they had been medium, but she still enjoyed the meal.
Her plate, as was mine, came with home fries and was decorated with pieces of fresh fruit. (“Why are the fruits touching my food?!” Mel cried. “I hate it when my breakfast food is contaminated by oranges,” she added, as she created separation between the culprits and her eggs.)
The fruits were stacked to look like a floral bouquet but did not quite match the pictures in the menu. Nevertheless, there was some effort put into the presentation, a nice variety of melons, citrus and apples. The fruits were fresh, juicy, nothing to complain here. In fact, even The Waffle jr. joined in and tried her first piece of watermelon ever – and asked for more.)
I’m not really a breakfast guy, I usually have some fruit, something simple. But when I go to a breakfast place, I like to try things that are out of the ordinary. Three things here caught my eye: The Three Little Pigs (breakfast sausages wrapped in buckwheat crepes and cheese), and the Tutti Frutti Special (two cinnamon buns, one covered with fruits and the other one with egg and bacon). But the one item that was calling my name was the Tutti Mini ($11.95), three omelette sliders. How original! How ambitious! I had high hopes.
First, a word about the home fries. Real slices of potatoes, a nice change from the deep-fried frozen tatters you too often get served for breakfast, they were a tad soft but not mushy. There was some sign of crispyness, but minimal crunch. An honest rendition.
The sliders were the main attraction of the plate. There was three Tutti Mini on the plate: one with sausage, one with bacon, one with ham.
The buns selected for the breakfast burgs were of a standard, non-descript industrial make. They were fresh, with almost a cake-like texture. But sadly, they were served right out of the bag. Not grilled, not toasted, not warmed up at all. Unfortunate.
The omelettes were pretty bland. Just plain pre-mixed eggs on a plaque, barely seasoned. No cheese, no veggies. Even the meat wasn’t mixed in, it was simply cooked separately and added under and over the eggs as they put the sandwich together.
Talking of the meat, I really didn’t like the sausage one. It had an unpleasant aftertaste, the texture was oily,greasy, it simply wasn’t good. The bacon version fared little better – instead of a couple of nice bacon slices, I had a bunch of small bacon bits – either broken pieces they keep for this purposes or that is simply the way they plate it, but whatever the reason, it didn’t work. The best of the three was the Ham version. Again, they had the ham slice cut up into chunks, but at least the chunks had some substance to them, it had the best flavour of the pork trio, a tad salty but hey, it’s ham.
The omelette slider is a great idea, but it didn’t live up to my expectations. It wouldn’t be hard to make this a home run. Season the eggs better, adds some onions, and finish it with melted cheese. Toast the buns. Improve the quality of the meat and give the slider a nice finish with some garnish – maybe a hollandaise mayo or a fresh salsa to bring it together. This dish has so much potential. It should be better.
All things considered, Tutti Frutti is similar in what it delivers to other breakfast chains. Some things are good, some things not as much. The variety and quantity of the fruits on the plate is impressive – you aren’t stuck with a single slice of orange with half a strawberry on your plate. Yet, execution is far from stellar. As for the service, it was familiar, friendly. The food arrived quickly, and what was meant to be warm, was warm. The place is not cheap, though (unless you go for the Early Birds’ special) as our bill, before taxes, tips and coupons, was $25.75 for two persons. Not quite worth it, but not a total rip-off either.