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The delight and mystery of eggs Benedict

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The delight and mystery of eggs Benedict
Article date: 30 Mar 2012

Eggs Benedict, a celebrated breakfast dish which has been synonymous with luxury and fine taste for generations, is set to become an everyday favourite at Wetherspoon as it joins our great new breakfast menu.

Don’t let the apparent grandeur of this dish put you off – it really is a stunning example of how simple and effective combining fine ingredients can be: simple, yes; truly stunning, undoubtedly.

The classic British muffin, poached eggs and Wiltshire cured ham, all topped with Hollandaise sauce are all fantastic on their own, but put them together and you get the breakfast equivalent of a harmonious offering from the Three Tenors and Katherine Jenkins.

Those travellers fortunate enough to visit Wetherspoon’s pubs at the airports have been lapping up this dish as their breakfast of choice for some time. However, why should they be so special? It’s time for us all to be able to enjoy the dish.

By the way, if you were in any doubt about the kudos of the dish, how many breakfast meals have a national day in America? Well, I am reliably informed that 16 April is National Eggs Benedict Day across the pond.

Now, whether or not such a day exists out of reference to a culinary classic or following a breakfast brainwave from an egg-marketing guru, we may never know. Such mystery is typical of the story of eggs Benedict.

Researching the dish’s ingredients is easy, finding out how tasty and popular it is, even easier – but trying to pin down whom we should credit with its creation – near impossible.

There are more claims to the dish’s creation than volunteers to be Spartacus on the Appian Way.

The mystery seems to point to two leading contenders.

The first tells the tale of Lemuel Benedict, a New York stockbroker who frequented the old Waldorf Hotel on Fifth Avenue. One day, in 1894, Lemuel, feeling hung over and in need of an ample fill for breakfast, proceeded to order two poached eggs, bacon, buttered toast and a pitcher of Hollandaise sauce. Staff at the time were quick on the uptake and, impressed by the combination, soon added it to the menu, substituting the bacon for ham and the toast for the English muffin.

Also laying claim to the dish are Mr and Mrs LeGrand Benedict. Just like Lemuel, this couple requested a breakfast combination which was not on the menu, but inspired its future inclusion. The restaurant in question was Delmonico’s, a fashionable diner, famed for its steaks, in the financial district of New York.

Dates and details are, at best, shady, but it would appear that it occurred around the turn of the last century. The couple would frequent the restaurant every Saturday; one day, they fancied something a bit different, something which they hadn’t tried before and asked the waiter to suggest something – and so eggs Benedict was born.

Another tale, although one which is supported with far less conviction than the other two, involves an American banker and yachtsman, one Commodore EC Benedict. The Commodore, who lived in France, would apparently treat his friends and guests to his special brunch of poached eggs, bacon and Hollandaise sauce on an English muffin.

I guess that we will never know which the genuine story is and, in a way, the mystery adds to the charm of the dish. The very fact that all of the stories which carry any weight are linked strongly to America, and more specifically to the New York financial district, means that we should at least acknowledge that it’s a classic American dish.

Well, for me, with the addition of the British Wiltshire cured ham, I like to think that the dish was made in America – refined in Britain.

So, next time you pop in for breakfast at Wetherspoon – discover the delicious taste of eggs Benedict.

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