The Quest for Vancouver’s Best Brunch: Tableau Bar Bistro

The Coal Harbour stalwart leads with show-stopping sides...and a candidate for the best mimosa in town.

The Candidate: Tableau Bar Bistro

Like so many of us, I’m a brunch person. I can’t seem to sleep in late anymore, but I’m great at lying in bed for hours with a cup of coffee on a weekend morning. After that ritual is complete my starving stomach propels me towards food, for the most part, any food would suffice. Depending on the night before I might be partial to something absurdly grease-laden or on a rare occasion, a kind of lighter fare. Either way brunch is a meal that always means it’s the weekend, and usually comes with a side of something boozy. Because you know, weekend.

For the coveted New Years’ Eve brunch, I wanted to make sure we got a table. Unfortunately, a lot of my go-to haunts don’t take bookings for their morning seatings. So I saw this as an opportunity to try something new (new year, new brunch?) and booked in at Tableau.

Tableau is a sister restaurant to Maxine’s and Homer St. Café. Maxine’s has been a brunch favourite of mine as of late because their hashbrown (called a crispy potato) might just be the best in the city. Tableau has no hashbrown on the menu, but their potatoes deserve some time in the spotlight just as well.

Tableau, not unlike its sister restaurants, leans into a French bistro vibe both décor and menu wise. With options like steak tartare and French onion soup on the lunch side of brunch and classics like eggs benedict and a French-style omelette for the more breakfast inclined. The interior somehow feels both cozy and grand, with classic black and white floor tiles and lighting that was just gold enough to make it feel like a warm respite from the heavy snow outside.

I feel like no brunch review can take place without a mimosa moment. I don’t always order a mimosa (in the summer I can be partial to an Aperol spritz) but I have a theory that if a restaurant serves mimosas, their quality is a good sign of the of the food to come. This is something I came up with one time after a mediocre brunch followed a very mediocre mimosa. This is not a law yet, but I’m submitting it for further study.

The mimosa ($9) at Tableau hit it out of the park. I like a low orange to bubbly ratio, with the orange tasting fresh, not too sweet and just sour enough to end on a slightly acidic note. Also, I’m one of those people who prefers pulp in my OJ. To me it tastes like it’s straight from the fruit. Tableau did all of this. It’s an adorable 1oz pour of sparkling wine with just the right amount of orangey goodness. Testament to its freshness is the floating pulp. Yes, pulp is a controversial point – to some it means this is a lesser mimosa. But I’m the one writing the review, so here we are.

The service at Tableau was kind and quick but never pushy. Despite a bustling service, we were never wanting for anything. Our water glasses remained consistently full, we were checked on for mimosa refills regularly and when I inquired about a Bailey’s coffee (not on the menu) the bartender concocted a beautiful drink with a tower of whipped cream. 

I ordered the avocado toast ($16) with a side of sausage ($7) and my partner ordered the croque madame ($20) and swapped the fries for crispy russet potatoes. Yes, I had avocado toast. No, it was definitely not the most interesting thing on the menu. As a millennial I feel like I can be a pretty good judge of avo toast: I’ve been eating it weekly for over a decade. Tableau’s rendition comes with smashed avocado on top of artisanal toast, with pickled shallots, sunflower seeds and a six-minute egg. Artisanal toast is a super vague way to refer to what was essentially seeded whole wheat bread. I like an oaty, rustic bread, however, I think I think this version in particular could stand to be cut a bit thicker as the center began to sog out mid-meal. However, the six-minute egg had the ideal level of jammy yolk, the avocado itself was perfectly seasoned and the pickled shallots brought a sharp bite that cut through the richness of the avo and the egg. I was surprised though, at the lobes of semi-dried tomatoes hiding under the pile of undressed mixed greens. An interesting umami-forward addition that I haven’t had before but wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way for in the future.

The side of sausage was the best thing I ate all day. An order gives you three sausages with the perfect amount of bite and a tight casing that pops when you cut through it. If you like the texture of a banger-style sausage then this is for you. The seasoning was bold, like someone turned up the dial on a classic breakfast sausage and doubled down on all the things that make it good. I could have eaten only this sausage and I would have left satisfied.

Luckily for me, I also got to try my partner’s croque madame. This cheesy, sauce-laden sandwich was one of the best iterations I have had. The mornay sauce was silky yet thick and the gruyere was strong and cheese-pull level melty. In defiance of physics, the bread remained intact and stood up to the heavy sauce and runny yolk.

Despite the cheesy decadence of the croque madame, it was again the side order that captured my heart. The crispy russet potatoes reminded me of a kind of play on a fondant potato. Somehow creamy on the inside yet browned and crispy outside (and topped with cheese!), they taste luxurious and are unlike any other potato I have had at brunch. I would go so far as to say that they are perfect bistro-style dish that marries breakfast and lunch. This is the type of potato I want served with a steak (note: they are served with their steak and eggs) but would be just as perfect with eggs and bacon. 

Tableau was the ideal holiday brunch location, it felt elevated enough to host a special occasion meal and forget all of the troubles of the outside world, while also intimate enough for quiet conversation with loved ones. I will come back to Tableau, and although I will deviate from my avocado toast order, I will definitely be getting the sausage and potatoes (and maybe a mimosa or two).

Tableau Bar Bistro, 1181 Melville St. 604-639-8691, 
Hours: Breakfast 7AM-10AM daily; Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30AM-2:30PM; Dinner Sun-Thurs 5:30PM-10PM Fri-Sat 5:30PM-11PM; Happy Hour Daily 2:30PM-5:30PM & 9PM-Close; Brunch Sat, Sun & Holidays 10:30AM-2:30PM.