MOST Sunday brunches at hotels are buffets. But many of us care not to be confronted with a dazzle of food the morning after. Some can't cope with the smells of Sterno and chicken livers on Sunday morning. And it may be a lot to expect someone to carry one's own plate after a weekend of breakneck leisure. Here, therefore, are the hotel brunches that let you settle in for the duration and have the service staff do your jogging across the dining room
Competition is getting stiffer for the most overpriced table service brunch, but Hugo's is trying hard to capture the field. Its brunch is one of those lure-'em-in, lull 'em, then sock-it-to-'em events. First, the lure. Spacious and well-cushioned, Hugo's makes a handsome first inpression, even if the picture windows overlook the next-door swimming pool. Tables are set with imported floral china and flute champagne glasses. A violinist strools around. The waiter brings a swan carved of butter, and Danish pastry. He pulls up and ice bucket for your Hyatt champagne. The brunch costs $9.50 to $15.75, including some champagne, and you might as well stick to the $9.50, for its eggs benedict were a good rendition and the only major satisfaction we found. At $14.75 you could get chewy, stringy veal with canned asparagus, frozen king crab and bearnaise. You could have chewy chicken and oysters in brown gravy under glass, but then you would have to try to find a waiter to ask where to put the glass bell covering your dish. Brunch at Hugo's has its ups -- crisp browned potatoes, moist Dover sole -- but many more downs -- nearly raw green beans, white sauce like an 8th-grade cooking class version. But beyond even the culinary downs are the annoyances and insults. Juice and coffee are extra -- with no warning. For appetizer you may get papaya, the next table may get berries; the choice is the kitchen's, not yours. And when your bottle of champagne for four people runs out, that's it (downstairs in the Park Promenade the champagne supply is unlimited at brunch). Dessert is pastry or souffle, but the promised choice of souffles one day turned out to be a choice of one, and it was a bland, dense affair. The pastries were better. All of the disillusions of Hugo's brunch pale, however, compared to the refusal to serve any bread besides Danish pastry. No muffins or crescents or brioche as the menu promises. Not even toast. The only reason we could figure was they they wanted to save the butter swans for the next meal. The only person who asked whether we enjoyed our brunch was the violinist -- in the elevator afterwards. And it was his contribution to the event that was the one most worth complimenting.