This is the view to which we awoke every morning last week in Italy: crystal-clear sky, cerulean sea, sun streaming through the windows. If I’m very quiet, I can recall the sounds of crickets, a soft breeze and the distant shrieks of children already on the beach. While it was heavenly to relax and enjoy the early sights and sounds of Amalfi, Andrew and I never lingered too long in our room of a morning. We had breakfast to attend to.
When you think of a hotel buffet breakfast, different images can come to mind. On the disappointing end of the scale are chafing dishes full of rubbery eggs, toast made with pre-sliced bread and slightly bruised fruit. Friends, this was not that kind of buffet breakfast. Not only was our hotel, a converted 15th century monastery, the singularly most beautiful building I’ve ever slept in, but it was possibly the most delicious.
Breakfast, served from a room off the dining terrace, was a treat for all the senses. From the friendly Buon giorno! of the hotel staff to the smell of freshly-baked bread, to the sight of a table so artfully laid you’d swear Gourmet was back up and running and having a photo shoot. Eggs and roast vegetables were kept gently warmed next to an impressive spread of meats and cheeses. Breads, brioches, croissants and cakes were warm from the oven. Tiny boxes of cereal, tiny jars of jam. Bowls of fresh fruit. Deliciously foreign yogurts in little glass pots.
I started every morning with a cappuccino and a fresh-squeezed juice. Several were on offer, from pineapple to apricot to blood orange to pear. After an initial bout of experimentation, I settled on an orange, lemon and carrot blend as my daily favourite; partially for the pretty colour, partially for the refreshing taste. After that, it was time for my first plate, full of bread, eggs, cheese and jams. Delicious, but somewhat perfunctory. After all, we all know that when it comes to a buffet, it’s your second plate – the dessert plate – that really matters.
I’ve never really been one for sweet breakfasts, and in my regular life will choose cold pizza over pastries any day of the week. But to their credit, holidays aren’t regular life, and the sweet spread at our hotel called my name quite clearly. From pain au chocolat to tiny authentic sfogliatelle, there was always something new to try. There was lemon cake, marble cake, an almond-and-orange tart so moist it fell apart while you ate it. There were teeny-tiny cupcakes and mini croissants with a bewildering range of fillings (I liked the lemon custard). My dessert plate usually contained at least two or three of these treats, as well as some fresh fruit and yogurt.
After this ritual of gluttony was complete we’d sit for a bit, reading, digesting, planning for the day ahead or simply admiring the view. You’d think that such a huge breakfast would put me off eating for the rest of the day, but alas, no.
Tomorrow: lunches in strange and wonderful places.