While I was dying during finals week in Houston, this golden word kept me going–“brunch”. And what do you know, the first place I went to when I arrived back in Portland was a gem of a restaurant for brunch, courtesy of Sir Yelp.
The Hazel Room already sounds rather sophisticated, right? Their teas and fare certainly are. The place is a quaint, vintage old house on SE Hawthorne, split in the middle with the restaurant on one side and a cute little boutique that boasts Portland company clothing on the other.
I was expecting a long wait, but my friend and I were immediately sat down by a chipper waitress at a little window table. All other tables were packed, and there was a bar on the other side of the room with shelves lined with a selection of their teas. The atmosphere buzzed with happy chatter and the clink of spoons stirring tea, all culminating into a very old-fashioned, comfortable sort of vibe.
I asked the waitress for her opinion on what tea was the most iconic at The Hazel Room (they support Townshends tea, a special Portland tea business), and she suggested that I try the “creme de la earl grey”. I typically drink the usual original English breakfast on a regular basis (with cream and honey, OF COURSE–no other way for me), but I’ve always been tentative about drinking earl grey because its flavor is very distinct. Still, I decided to give it a try.
It was a royal treat–the tea arrived in a cute tan ceramic pot and was accompanied by a painted flower teacup and saucer. The color of the tea was not a rich, deep brown; rather, it was a light tan that still exuded a bold earl grey flavor with a light aftertaste. With a dollop of cream and honey, I felt very sophisticated drinking this brew indeed.
Yet of course, the real bae of the experience was the food. My friend already knew what she was getting (no surprise there), insisting on the vegan, gluten-free French toast. It was a slice of gluten-free bread on a dainty china plate, thick and slightly burnt on the edges to give that satisfying crunch. It was topped with coconut flakes, orange zest, and toasted pecans, then liberally dusted with powdered sugar. My friend let me try a bite, and although the bread had a rather coarse texture, it wasn’t unpleasant and I could taste the infused cardamom and cinnamon spices. Downright delicious. I really appreciated how it was not overpoweringly sweet, either, and no syrup or other sweetener was necessary. The French toast stood on its own.
I, on the other hand, had my eye on the egg and prosciutto sandwich. Layers of prosciutto adorned with arugula, gruyere cheese, and a fried egg were sandwiched between slices of toasted maple-brushed sourdough bread spread with tomato jam. I was probably the clumsiest eater in the place, struggling to pick up the entire sandwich. The bottom bread piece was piping hot and heavy with tomato jam that made it slightly soggy, but I managed to wolf it all down in the end. Every bite was chock full of prosciutto and egg with a strong note of sweetness from the tomato jam, and even as the yolk ran I plowed my way through the sandwich. Then there were fried forest chai potatoes on the side that I also polished off. Those were slightly spicy and had a nice, soft texture with a crispy edge.
There I was–drinking tea, eating brunch, laughing with my dear friend, and wearing my favorite red plaid scarf. It was a beautiful winter’s day. And I was so, so glad to be home.
The Hazel Room:
3279 SE Hawthorne
Portland, OR 97214