What images does the name The Ritz-Carlton conjure? Luxury? White-gloved service? Indulgence? That’s the “The Ritz-Carlton Mystique,” a companywide strategy to deliver exceptional customer experiences that encourage lifetime loyalty and a high level of perceived value.
Now, imagine what Sunday brunch at The Café at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead looks like. What do you envision?
Caviar? Tall flutes of bubbly? White-jacketed chefs cooking to order? Check, check and check.
Drop your car with the valet and enter through doors held wide into the hushed calm of the lobby, lush with fresh floral arrangements. The soft tinkling of the grand piano will beckon you to The Café where a lavish spread awaits.
A gracious hostess will greet and quietly seat you in an appropriate location — couples in corner booths near windows, a weary party of post-wedding late-nighters in a darker, quieter enclave and families nestled in a separate section.
Servers strive to provide the level of service expected of The Ritz-Carlton. After our table neighbor orders ginger tea, which is not among the selections, a waiter quickly appears with a pot of tea and a dish of freshly grated ginger from the kitchen. Similarly, coffee cups filled with a custom European-style blend remain filled to the brim and are covered with saucers to keep them warm while you step away to the buffet.
Before you attempt the buffet, take your server’s advice as she suggests a strategy. She’s right — you’ll need a plan to nibble your way through the $59 brunch. Survey the offerings before you dive in headlong.
Gleaming silver chaffing dishes hold breakfast standards — bacon, sausage, eggs benedict and dainty little cheese blintzes with tart raspberry sauce. Nearby, a chef stands ready to prepare a waffle or a fluffy omelet. Baskets of breakfast breads and bagels with smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, lemons, and Fairywood Thicket Farm jams share a station with morning pastries. Yet, be warned: Don’t fill up on bread.
Once you’re ready to ease into lunch, try one of the cold salads such as the vinaigrette-dressed greens with sweet strawberries, tangy artichoke hearts and shards of creamy dark chocolate — an interesting and playful combination. The selections change from week to week, influenced by the produce available at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market.
You’ll want to dally over the seafood and sushi stations where you’ll enjoy an array of choices including Malpeque oysters, shrimp, crab claws, all with traditional accompaniments and garnishes. Sample sushi specialties such as the California or shrimp tempura rolls made on-site each Sunday by the folks from Bishoku Japanese Restaurant. Or, layer a melt-in-your-mouth buckwheat blini with creme fraiche and one of three varieties of caviar for that Ritz experience you so craved.
Continue to pace yourself — many victuals still await. Make your way to the carving station for succulent prime rib with zippy horseradish sauce or a sliver of the day’s fish such as the seasoned snapper with a green, delicate and slightly sweet spring onion vinaigrette.
But, wait. There’s more — a charcuterie station with ham and salami, assorted mustards and wedges of both hard and soft cheeses. Sample the antipasti including grilled and marinated vegetables or hummus with lavash and toasted pita. Over at the saute station, taste whatever the chefs are cooking in small batches. Perhaps it will be the luscious seared scallop over ramp potato puree with silky scallop cream and tiny truffled croutons.
Keep your eyes peeled for the fun shot glasses and tear-shaped dishes tucked here and there. They contain some of the most interesting fare such as the roasted peach and tomato soup with a dropper of fizzy strawberry soda for you to plunge. Or, if you’re lucky, they will have the smooth foie gras and amaretto ganache in a pecan crisp or the textured raspberry-white-chocolate-salmon flan topped with salty shrimp mousse and served in a hollowed brown-egg shell.
What about those tall flutes of bubbly? You’ve got it — with a twist. Try the bubble bar (available after 12:30 p.m., $15 extra), complete with a bottomless glass to create your own bubbly cocktails with fruit purees, fresh berries, sugar cubes and creme de cassis.
Are you full-to-bursting yet? This is that divide-and-conquer moment — make a plan with your tablemates to share dessert. Dishes of smooth creme brulee, glass jars of creamy strawberry shortcake, platters of chocolates garnished with gold leaf stretch into the distance.
Leaving with a slight waddle to your step, you’ll feel pampered and indulged. Your needs were anticipated, your taste buds tickled and your belly nourished. You’ve just experienced “The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.”SUNDAY BRUNCH AT THE CAFE AT THE RITZ-CARLTON, BUCKHEAD