The popularity of Les 5 Portes as an after work spot for a glass of wine and a round of light tapas would suggest that the place has it all. Much as I count myself among the throngs of Thursday-nighters heading down to the Paquis to fight for a table at this place, I also have a few reservations about it – namely the usually blasé, too-cool-for-school waitstaff – but then again, it just wouldn’t be Geneva if the waiters didn’t come with attitude! And when it comes to dinner and drinks, it never really disappoints. Still, in the years I’ve been in Geneva, I had yet to try their brunch. As a Paquis local, a food fanatic and most of all a devout bruncher, this needed to be rectified, stat.
The menu: While the brunch menu may not satisfy everyone’s brunch craving, it’s 5-10 menu options just about do it for me. Most importantly, this is not your traditional Swiss/Geneva brunch (read: no bircher muesli here!) Instead, dishes include a variety of eggs, potatoes, pancakes, salmon, salad and even hamburgers (for those Sunday brunches that lie a little more deeply in the shadows of a Saturday night out.) Sadly, still no poached eggs to speak of. One day Geneva, you and I will make it happen..!
The meal: At this particular sitting, I got to sink my teeth into the bacon burger dish (make sure there’s cheese on that, d’accord??), and a dish (hunnel…something or other) that included scrambled eggs, smoked salmon and herring served with a touch of sour cream, a knife point of caviar, and two blinis. With this came boiled potatoes, and of course, salad. Pretty simple, but just right for a brunch on the lighter side. The salmon was of decent quality, though really nothing special. The scrambled eggs were very airy and on the undercooked side (like it or not?) The two blinis, though a nice touch, were a bit of a joke to eat with so much salmon and sour cream, but the touch was still appreciated.The potatoes were cool – hard to tell if it was intentional or not – but in either case were very nicely flavored with a little butter, a little salt, and a little seasoning to bring them to life. The nicest surprise on the plate was most likely the herring, which is a rarity on brunch plates and was really quite good. Although the salad dressing was a bit weak, overall it was a nice plate to work through.
Ok ok ok! I get it, we want to know about the BURGER! Well here’s the burger deal. All the different components of it were really good, but like many places in Switzerland, they just don’t understand the philosophy of the burger. (YES, there is such a thing as burger philosophy!) For starters, the bread. Fresh and tender, perhaps, but have you ever tried eating a burger on a long rectangular bun? When we tried placing the top bun on the burger, it looked something like two planks of wood with a ball in the middle. Awwwwwkward! To make matters worse, the bacon,which was totally overcooked – and cold -, sat on top of the burger like a crab carcass – more awkwardness. And the lettuce and tomato seemed to just be placeholders for propper lettuc and propper tomato. So, lose points for being able to squash it down and eat it like a real burger. With all that negative bit said though, I have to hand it to them, the rest was burger worthy. The patty itself was well cooked (still pink in the middle), plump and juicy, and ground from a good cut of meat with very little trace of fat. The barbecue sauce was tangy but subtle enough not to overpower the other ingredients. It blended particularly well with the caramelized onions. And it came with a side of roasted potatoes, which, although tasty, seemed like they had been sitting around the kitchen for a good few hours already.
The green factor: The 5 portes does not seem to advertise its “green” policy, so some investigation has been necessary. As I’m still in the midst of my investigations, stay tuned!
The setting: I think the setting is half the charm of this place. The walls are warm red with big beautiful brass mirrors hanging around, couches in the background, some family style long wooden tables… Overall it feels like a french bistro meets Seattle coffee shop meets wine bar. And what’s not to love in that?
Price/Quality/Service: Though the dinners can be on the pricey side, the brunch I found to be decently priced, averaging around 20-30chf. Probably no need to comment on the service again, though I have to admit, the waiter we had on this particular Sunday was very sweet! Not sure why, but it seems like the men are nicer than the women at this place.. The other standout factor is the plating, which is always attractive – though sometimes practicality falls victim to creativity.
In sum: If you’re a bit sick of Geneva’s standard cereal and tartines for brunch, don’t hesitate to check this place out. I’d take it over Halles de l’Ile any day for its comfort and price/quality, though les Halles has a broader spread. It also has the bonus of serving a delicious chocolat chaud a l’armagnac (or grand marnier if you prefer)….. you know, since a brunch just ain’t a brunch without the hair of the dog on the menu…!