Six years ago, when Eggspectation opened its doors in New Delhi’s Vasant Continental, not only did the name not ring a bell with customers (it is a franchised operation, whose parent company is in Canada), people sniggered at the very idea of eggs cooked in dozens of ways. Three years is a long time in culinary history. Today, not only does nobody question the management on the individualistic menu, there are takers for eggs benedict at 4 in the afternoon as well as 4 in the morning.
Enzo Renda, the franchiser of the operation would appear to be something of a marketing wiz. He insists that he is the inventor of the term “all-day breakfast” (which I don’t quite buy, but that’s another story) and says that Eggspectation falls into the five-day-part format. By this is meant that you can expect to have customers flocking to your door five times a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, mid morning and mid afternoon. This is every restaurateurs’s dream. Call yourself a fine dining place, and you do a lack-lustre lunch but a good dinner. Term yourself a coffee bar and you’ve lost out on the meal crowd. Start up a bar and you’re full on weekend evenings and are reduced to swatting flies on the ceiling for the rest of the time. Pubs and resto-bars are not much better.
Enzo Renda has had much too busy a life working in IBM, setting up a business where he bought the franchise of a French bakery, faring badly and setting up Eggspectation from scratch to have had either the time or the inclination to hang around Mumbai’s streets. If he had done so, he would have seen that Mondigar and Leopold had all the makings of all-day breakfast places. Pani cum chai and maska brun are two items at the core of every Irani joint; the pulaos and chicken curries are add-ons, the way they are at Eggspectation, Vasant Vihar. Pune’s Deccan area is full of street-side joints which open for breakfast and are packed through the day.
What makes breakfast places such a crowd-puller? And that too, not just at breakfast time? Forget about the harried executive who drinks a cup of coffee in his car, driving to work: traditionally, breakfast has always been the most important meal of the day, and it’s not only nutritionists who say that. Most cultures have expended considerable ingenuity cooking up imaginative breakfasts. English breakfasts feature toast with marmalade, kippers, and bacon with eggs. French breakfast tables groan with eight types of cheese, dark-roast espresso, hot chocolate, croissants, baguettes and unsalted butter.
Closer home, breakfasts in Punjab consist of lassi and parathas, while neighbouring UP has its aloo puri, Gujarat its farsaans, Maharashtra its vada pao and numerous types of poha. Jhal muri is a bona-fide breakfast dish in rural Bengal, and appams and neer dosas are the reason why I always look forward to visiting Kerala.
Now that Eggspectation has shown us the way, can some enterprising soul come forward to open an all-India, all-breakfast place? And can it be open 24×7?