The Art of Brunch

Condé Nast House & Garden's Piet Smedy talks long weekends + beautiful breakfasts

Words: Piet Smedy | Photography: Paul Samuels | Art direction + styling: Charl Edwards

Long weekend brunches afford us the time to entertain friends in a way that a week filled with work deadlines and social obligations rarely does; there’s an opportunity to carefully consider recipes and maybe try something new, which I know everyone says you should never do when you’re entertaining, but when else are you going to have enough time to psyche yourself up to try your hand at okonomiyaki? 

This is also a chance to find the perfect ingredients (and maybe learn a thing or two about some new ones) and properly think through the playlist, the wine list and the table setting. After all, the perfect brunch is so much more than just the food on the plate; it’s everything else that goes with it.

The table setting

Brunch is a feeling. I think more than any other meal it’s about the right-now, about celebrating food and friends in a kind of wabi-sabi, nonchalant sort of way that emphasises the moment, the food and the simple joys in life. And this, I would say, is the best starting point when it comes to your table setting.

Always opt for a rough linen table cloth in off-white or grey, which will work perfectly with the uneven surfaces of handmade ceramics in a mix of earthen colours – beige, taupe, dove grey – mottled with imperfections. Wine glasses are always oversized and generous. The table salt is always Maldon.

The food

Brunch is the UN of food (as in everyone’s welcome) but my menu generally takes a more Middle Eastern bent, with dishes like shakshuka and tabbouleh, hummus and lamb meatballs. But seriously, it doesn’t have to be all that. Chevre on toasted ciabatta, a bowl of candied beets and a messy pile of pancetta is just as good. That’s the point, the menu is meant to be a big ol’ mash-up: some crowd pleasers here, some new stuff there and whatever’s in the fridge that's about to go off (which, if you shop like I do, is pretty much everything).

The drinks

To kick things off? Stick to the classics, which means any champagne-based cocktail (personally I like mine with vodka and pomegranate). But for the sake of the brunch’s longevity (and to free you up from playing barman all brunch long), serve a big pitcher of white-wine sangria (use a good Chenin), which is essentially just party punch for grown-ups. The boozy-peach remnants make for a great pre-brunch snack, too.

The ambiance

Creating the right mood and a comfortable atmosphere starts with soft textures and subtle lighting. Up next: the candles – they’re never scented, but if they have to be, then go for something very subtle. Fresh cotton or freesia are my personal favourites. Avoid anything artificial or ridiculous. And flowers are an absolute must.