Words: Shamim de Brún
Images: Unsplash & Instagram
Calling it here and now, brunch is with O Leary in the grave. Now for the return of the OG Sunday dinner gathering: the glorious Sunday roast.
This is not controversial. We called it in a tweet in March and even saw other publications heartily agreeing. So if you’re a Bruncher, it’s time to jump from the sinking ship. Brunch is a trap, a crafted marketing ploy to part you from your euros. Restaurants sling Brunch on weekends because eggs and batter are cheap, some prefer going out during the day on Sundays to avoid the late night and early Monday morning combo, and bottomless mimosas are a money maker.
“If pics-or-it-didn’t-happen were a meal, it would be Brunch”.
Until recently, the thinking, “If you build it, they will brunch”, especially if it’s bottomless, has rung true. But recently, brunch spots have been struggling to get butts in seats. This a stark change from the heyday of Whitefrier Grill, where Brunch was booked out months in advance.
People have been heralding the death of Brunch in pop culture for years. No chef enjoys it, and most servers hate it. Anthony Bourdain famously outed all of Brunches evil secrets in Kitchen Confidential. The New York Times said it was for jerks. The Guardian derided the meal as “a potent symbol of urban decay”. Who can forget the scathing remarks from the fictional chefs on The Bear?
Brunch was a fad created in England, ‘perfected’ in New York and exported to us through TV. This brunch fascination and proliferation happened globally. The weekly Brunch sucked us all in because we wanted to be Samantha Jones. We thought we were sophisticated, sipping our mimosas and taking blurry pictures of beige chicken and waffles. In reality, we were fooling ourselves. Racing the clock to see how many mimosas you could get into you before your ninety minutes were up, convinced the waiters were avoiding your table, is not the vibe to die for. The portions were small. The prices were high. The experience was rushed and fleeting. The hangovers were not.
Dublin has seen this light and returned to the warm embrace of the Sunday Roast. En mass, we all overnight decided that we were all sick to death of avocado toast and eggs benny. We’re shedding our unnecessarily American skin to get back to classic Irish basics to enjoy the ultimate social meal; The Sunday Dinner.
If you never abandoned the roast, you might be surprised to learn that, actually, yes, The Sunday Roast did go away for a time. In 2013 it was voted Ireland’s favourite meal, and then by 2016, it didn’t even rank. It didn’t entirely disappear, but it went out of fashion.
The rise of vegetable-oriented diets correlates with this. It’s easy to see how a cohort of bright-eyed millennials deviated from the sacrificial butchered beast in favour of poached eggs when they thought they were saving the world and getting bottomless prosecco with it. It made Brunch seem like the more righteous choice … if you didn’t look too closely at avocados, battery eggs, and mass-produced prosecco.
Brunch was also some strange extension of the internet present in real life. On socials, Brunch was the Ultimate pinnacle of a well-lived weekend, and so we engaged “for the gram,” but when you asked anyone if they actually liked it. The overwhelming majority would say, “I had fun, but never again”. With the Sunday Roast, people in real life will tell you in detail how they enjoyed it, from the boat of gravy through the mire of mashed potatoes and an in-depth assessment of the calibre of the meat. Then they might even start a debate with you about Yorkshire puddings. Yet no one is really posting their roasty. It’s an in-person affair where the phone is superfluous. As we as a nation across generations shift from posting everything as we go to more reactive and more hands-on content, this appeals to us more and more.
New Restaurant Eleven decided not to offer Brunch at all and went all in on the Sunday Roast instead. Hen’s Teeth, the barometer of what is of the moment, have been slinging a Sunday roast for a while. 57 The Headline reportedly had its busiest weekend in years last Sunday. Peploe’s on St Stephen’s Green is the same. The list is only growing as brunch spots dwindle.
There is a distinct difference between brunch and Sunday roasts. Brunch is about day drinking with mildly Instagrammable food as fuel to get you through it. A Sunday lunch is about food first and foremost. The drinks are secondary and usually are pint shaped. You can sip at your own pace. You are not desperately trying to squeeze value out of every last second of your mimosa window.
Brunch is often not even a full feed. A Sunday Roast is a meal that you can sink your teeth into. Literally, there’s something deeply satisfying about sitting down to a plate piled high with a roast beast carcass cut to your liking, roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, stuffing and all the excess trimmings you can handle. The smell alone is enough to make you salivate like a water feature.
Brunch was always too ‘trendy’ and self-conscious. You have to be seen to be at Brunch, or what is the point in going? If pics-or-it-didn’t-happen were a meal, it would be Brunch. But the Sunday Roast is a meal that’s meant to be shared. It doesn’t photograph well, but everyone knows it tastes mighty. It’s a chance to gather around the table with friends and family and enjoy good food and good craic. It’s a meal that’s meant to be savoured, not rushed. And the very nature of it means that everyone piles their plate with only their favourite bits.
Overall, Sunday Roast is a hardy mainstay that we abandoned but never forgot. Hollandaise was a fickle mistress, and we all worshipped at her altar. But she has been proved a false god. So we return like prodigal children to the only one true deity of Sunday dining; The Roast. Long may she reign.
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