The Wharf at Madison Beach Hotel, Madison


By Sarah Crisp

When I was 16, my parents took me to Halmstadt on the west coast of Sweden and while we were there I had my first taste of a true smörgåsbord:  a long, relaxed meal presented as a work of art in elegant surroundings. The Wharf at the Madison Beach Hotel falls into a similar league. At $43/person it was the most expensive of the brunch venues we tried, but worth every penny for both its extensive selection and beautiful presentation. My husband’s Bloody Mary was the best he had tasted in a long time – not too salty, not too spicy. He also enjoyed the carving station of succulent prime rib and glazed ham while I helped myself to the raw bar of Little Neck clams, oh-so-fresh shrimp, and oysters. A side of poached salmon was almost too stunning to cut into. Another table offered  an interesting selection of European cheeses, assorted and imaginative house-made breads, scones, and tea breads.

Chafing dishes lined the wood-paneled walls of the dining room, filled with seafood stuffed sole and Dijon chicken, while another section offered more traditional breakfast foods, including french toast and maple syrup, sausage, bacon and my favorite Eggs Benedict (how do they ensure that the eggs don’t go hard, the muffin stays crispy and yet the food still stays warm?)

The centerpiece of the brunch was presented as a work of art. A phenomenal variety of salads and side dishes, exotic fruits, bruschetta, antipasto, a charcuterie selection, gravlax, and a display of smoked and cured fish including whitebait which I have not had since leaving England. I was not the only one taking photographs! Neither of us made it to the chef’s omelet station, but that was only because of the line. The final selection was desserts: elegant squares of cheesecakes, brownies, cream pastries, fresh fruit tarts and handmade truffles. We had to try an assortment – how else could I honestly say they were worth the calories?

Although mid-winter, we chose to sit out on the balcony and enjoy the view and bright sunny beach. The Wharf serves 120 for brunch in the off-season and reserve on open-table but watch out, it shows tables available from 8:00am, which they are for breakfast, but brunch does not start until 11:00am.

Best for: Beautiful presentation, excellent Bloody Mary and location.

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