Georgetown Inn, 1310 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 333-8900. $7.95 including champagne.

THE fastest growing eating mode these days, if phone calls and waiting lines are fair indicators, is Sunday brunch. So for the next two weeks this column will lead you through what was a three-month tour of the intown hotels' Sunday brunches. After a proper period of recovery, I'll look into the non-hotel brunches.

Sunday brunches and hotels are natural companions, for there is no better way to cater to the lassitude of vacation than over eggs and champagne at noon. It is, of course, all the more delicious to eat Sunday brunch at a hotel where you are spending the entire weekend. But if brunch is all you can manage as a getaway, so be it.

This week we examine the grand buffets, next week the table service versions and a roundup of lesser buffets. As you read, be warned that Sunday brunch is an invention of the devil, preparing you for nothing but an afternoon of recovering from its excess and an evening of recovering from recovering.

Pick your mood at the Georgetown Inn, among the pale, pretty Wedgwood blue room, the darkly wooded tavern room, rooms dim and rooms bright and all of them beauties. Settle in and wait for goodies to come your way -- croissants in a heated box, apple strudel, apple fritters, New York state champagne, coffee. But grab the servers' attention before they wander off, lest you spend the rest of the morning yearning for a spoon, a fork, water. This is a lovely brunch until you examine the buffet table. Torn, scribbled signs identify the food, much of which is in need of replenishing by 1 p.m. What is left is thick and starchy, anguished from its steam bath, oversweetened wherever it can be. Highlights of a Sunday might be the fruit cup, still-lively beef pie and still-soft scrambled eggs. The usual creamed chicken, seafood casse-role, tossed salad, bacon, sausage, blintzes, quiche and corned beef hash could have been borrowed from every other indifferent buffet. For dessert, a sundae bar. Better yet, wait for another apple fritter to come along.