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I want my free hotel breakfast buffet back

When you’re paying for an overnight stay the least you should expect is a slice of toast

The Sunday Times

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Narrated by Cathy Adams

Attention, travelling public! I’m sorry to report that a worrying trend has overtaken hotels. It has nothing to do with smart devices controlling everything in the room (highly annoying), “free” minibars containing a bottle of water only (infernal), or the most egregious: interiors described as “Instagrammable” (howl). This trend — a hangover from Covid — is far more serious, with consequences for rumbling tummies everywhere. The free hotel breakfast is under threat.

How did we get to this point? Breakfast was once a crucial part of the stay; a way to extend the magic of the holiday when you wake up the next morning (not to mention a superb way to reawaken the brain cells anaesthetised by those cocktails from the hotel bar the night before). Now you’re lucky if you get a measly slice of toast. Here’s my rallying cry to hotels everywhere: I want my breakfast buffet back.

I’ve lost count of the number of places I’ve stayed of late where “B&B” has become just “B”, and we were presented with a menu primly stating the price at the top. A pricey Monaco beach hotel I stayed in this summer — where my suite cost £1,300 a night — had us choose breakfast up to the value of £44 only, which allowed for eggs on toast, some pastries, an orange juice and coffee. I felt more cheated than I had at the craps table of the Casino de Monte-Carlo the previous night.

There are offenders on home turf too. The lovely Lime Tree in Belgravia, London, claims that not providing breakfast provides “maximum flexibility” for guests. Oh, and thanks for spending £7,070 on the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park’s 95 sq m presidential suite but, sorry, that’s an extra £34 for the full English unless you are an “MO fan”. It’s an excellent breakfast, no question. But is it too much to ask for a leisurely bowl of cereal the morning after splashing thousands of pounds on a room?

What happened to the hotel buffet?
What happened to the hotel buffet?

In cities the lack of breakfast is easier to swallow. I’ll just run off to the nearest Pret for a cheese and ham croissant (a princely £4.50). But outside of them, things get difficult. Callow Hall, in Derbyshire, a former winner of the Times and Sunday Times hotel of the year award, claims that it wants “guests to start off the day with a breakfast of their choice”, which naturally involves paying for it (£15 for a cooked breakfast). None of the Pig hotels, the whimsical country-house group with properties in places including Kent and the New Forest, offers breakfast included in the room price — not even an on-brand bacon sarnie. Finding food at 8am round those parts involves a drive to Sainsbury’s and huddling miserably by the sandwich aisle.


Of course, some hotels do it admirably. The multi-course Japanese breakfast at the Aman Tokyo, served in beautiful black lacquered bento boxes, was an absolute chef’s kiss. The Verandah buffet at the Peninsula Hong Kong, with fat bamboo cases of everything from dumplings and sushi to waffles and eggs, is the most fun you can have before 9am. The Fife Arms in Scotland, where your porridge comes with Braemar honey and a nip of Royal Lochnagar whisky, is marvellous. Special mention goes to any hotel in the Maldives/Caribbean/Bali, where your most important meal of the day arrives on a floating tray in the pool — and sunhats off to any guest that manages to scarf it with any level of finesse.

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Doing away with the free breakfast also means removing one of the greatest liveners for guests: the lunchtime swipe. Some of my happiest holiday memories involve breathlessly sliding round the buffet with all the subtlety of a nail bomb, carefully scraping bread, croissants, fruit and packets of cereal into a canvas bag, then patting myself on the back for saving a fiver on a sandwich for lunch. It’s not just hotels — we guests can be cheap too.

What is your favourite hotel breakfast — and which hotels get it right? Let us know in the comments below

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