Neighborhood: Midtown East, 159 Lexington Ave. (at 30th St.)
The scoop: From the prices to the quality food, I have heard many good things about Penelope’s brunch. Since Penelope doesn’t take reservations, I was waiting for a day where I had nothing planned so I wouldn’t have to rush through brunch.
When planning on brunching at Penelope, I believe it’s best to either beat the rush and arrive early in the morning (they start serving at 8 a.m.) or wait and arrive when the prime-time brunch rush has passed. Never ones for waking up super early, my mom, sister and I chose to go later, arriving at Penelope around 1:50 p.m. As we expected, there was a 45-minute wait. They serve free coffee at the front of the restaurant for those parties waiting for a table. Since it was pretty crowded inside, we decided to wait outside the restaurant. We were able to track our progress on the BuzzFood app.
Our table was ready 50 minutes after we arrived. The three of us sat at a table for four, which gave us some space, thankfully. We noticed some tables were pretty close together and seemed cramped. It’s not a good place for large groups. Penelope has a country kitchen/early Americana feel. Old baking pans hang from a wall behind bakery area, where they serve muffins, cupcakes and cake. Half the walls are colored white, with the bottom half painted in light blue. The AC felt like it was on low, but there were ceiling fans turned on as well. Penelope has a full bar with about 8-10 stools, where brunchers were also enjoying their afternoon meal.
Service was good. Even though Penelope was packed when we ordered, our food came out in a reasonable amount of time and our server checked on us throughout our meal.
Bottoms up: Penelope offers a great brunch deal: $15 prix-fixe includes an entrée with a seasonal mimosa, seasonal bellini or coffee/tea and juice.
Summer Rosé Mimosa
My mom thought the summer rosé mimosa was strong. She said it tasted sweeter than a regular mimosa and she could tell the orange juice was fresh because her drink contained pulp. While she could taste the pulp, the orange juice taste wasn’t overwhelming. It was a nice change to have a mimosa with rosé champagne rather than regular.
White Peach Bellini
The white peach bellini was refreshing and strong. It was super strong on the first sip and tasted less strong as I sipped the cocktail gradually. I could really taste the champagne. I’m not sure what they used for the white peach flavor. I do wish I could have tasted it more. My dish dampened my mood, and as a result, I didn’t end up finishing the drink.
We got a free orange juice for checking in on the BuzzFood app. The orange juice tasted fresh, and Kelly said it was probably the best part of her meal.
Chew on this:
One-Night Stand Waffles / Toasted coconut and luscious strawberry waffles, served with fresh fruit. These are not the marrying kind.
Everything on Penelope’s menu looked so good that my mom and I had a tough time deciding what to order. We were both enticed by the strawberry waffles. We were expecting warm, fluffy waffles. We got cold, hard waffles. I was baffled by the waffle’s texture. I didn’t understand why the waffles were so hard. The strawberries were fresh and I was happy to see that they were baked into the batter, but I would have liked more. There was a piece here and there in the waffle. Even with toasted coconut and syrup on top, the waffles were pretty bland. It was difficult to enjoy the flavors of the strawberry and coconut because I think my taste buds were in shock. I wasn’t crazy about the side of papaya. I would have preferred more strawberries. I licked the plate clean because I was starving, not because I loved the waffle. A regrettable meal that left a bad taste in my mouth, this dish is aptly named.
Nutella French Toast / Three slices of brioche French toast filled with warm chocolate hazelnut filling, served with caramelized bananas
Kelly thought there would be more Nutella on the bread. She puts more peanut butter on her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. There was too much bread for the light spread of Nutella, which wasn’t warm. And to make matters worse, the bread wasn’t even that good. Brioche bread is perfect for French toast, but something was awry here. Even with syrup, the bread was still dry. Where were the caramelized bananas? Kelly didn’t get any on her plate. It’s a shame because bananas and Nutella go well together. She received a side of strawberries, blueberries and a piece of honeydew instead. Kelly was so disappointed in this dish. She left Penelope feeling full from eating something she didn’t like, yet still feeling hungry because she was so dissatisfied.
The final bite: It saddens me to say that from my experience at Penelope, I think their brunch is overrated. I had high expectations, and while service was good and the drinks weren’t bad, we weren’t impressed with our dishes. That being said, their sandwiches looked good, and I’d be willing to give their lunch a try.
Reviewed by: Stephanie