Much like the rest of Edmonton, I patiently waited for Café Linnea to open its doors this summer, the anticipation of Duchess Bake Shop’s sister café making the desire for brunch moreso than usual. Promising an all-day breakfast and lunch menu, the no tipping establishment offers Scandinavian French-inspired cuisine and utilizes locally sourced ingredients.
Chef and co-owner Kelsey Johnson, together with Duchess co-owner Garner Beggs, have done well with the Nordic theme. The space is unbelievably bright, light streaming through large floor to ceiling windows and skylights. Use of the word “airy” is an understatement here at Cafe Linnea. Granny Smith green highlight the white space, accented with beautiful wood tables, concrete planters, and black and copper details. With Queen Mary Park just outside their doors, I feel like I’m walking through northern woods with brunch just around the corner.I have visited Café Linnea a few times now, each and every time a change in the menu. It’s a good thing, boredom never an occurrence here, plus a sign that they really do use locally sourced ingredients and offer the season’s best. At a glance, the menu is separated into Small Bites, Mains, and Desserts. Descriptions are simple and strays far, far away from heavy breakfast items like eggs benedict and stacks of pancakes. Rest assured that although the menu reads dainty, I have always left Café Linnea filled to the brim. GST and gratuity are already included in the listed prices which makes the need for math before 3pm irrelevant. Nobody likes math. I was shy on my first visit, ordering small bites to supplement my cappuccino, sourced by Vancouver’s Matchstick Coffee Roasters. The Cured Arctic Char came with adorable blinis, and a fennel, cucumber and red onion salad with buttermilk dressing. The Cornette de Gougères were fluffy, yet rich with Gruyère goodness, thyme and a whipped pork butter. My friends Agnes and Sharon ordered the Complete Galette (not pictured), a Normandy-style buckwheat crépe with house ham, gruyère, mirror egg and salad, and the Breakfast Tart, bacon, poached egg, whipped ricotta, green beans, charred scallion, thyme, respectively. We shared the Fresh Fruit & Sabayon for dessert. The day’s feature was a combination of melon, plum, coronation grapes, and a ginger gelèe. As it was primetime for brunch and during opening week, our final plate came out a bit delayed and was graciously taken off of our bill for our wait.
I wasn’t quite satisfied with my initial visit. Nothing screamed out at me, albeit all the dishes were done well. Service was pleasant but you could tell the team was trying to find their stride. A second trip was definitely warranted and this time I was determined to try the main dishes.I ordered the Bacon Galette, the star of the dish sourced from Sangudo Meats. The buckwheat crepe is elegant and keeps the dish on the lighter side, but it wasn’t to my personal taste. I’m starting to think buckwheat anything is a hard sell on me. My brunch date Diane’s Duck Eggs and Steel Cut Oats was intriguing on paper as it was on the plate. It translated into a wonderful dish! Who would have though to mix scrambled eggs and oats together? The texture wasn’t lost on either and the addition of spiced nuts provided a great contrast. The Peach Cake wrapped up our meal with little to remember. It was hard to beat out those eggs and oats. I refrained from getting a coffee on my latest trip to Café Linnea, the Fresh Juice of the day (grapefruit & honey crisp apple in rosewater) really calling my name. It was so refreshing that I nearly considered abstaining from coffee entirely. Nearly. A great alternative to those with an aversion to caffeine. The Classic Deviled Eggs (four halves, farce, herb salt) are perfect for sharing, especially if you have a group of four. I was still having cravings for a heftier breakfast, so I worked up the courage to order the Farmer’s Breakfast. That day’s menu featured braised beef cheek, new potatoes, two fried eggs, parsnip purée, and pickled onions. If I had ordered a “Farmer’s Breakfast” anywhere else, I would have most likely felt sick and overwhelmingly full. At Café Linnea, this dish was a perfect balance: the braised beef cheek and new potatoes providing the denseness which I craved; the smooth parsnip purée and pickled onions providing the elegance that the rest of the menu offered. By this visit, the Oeufs-en-Cocotte had made numerous appearances in print and social media. It absolutely had to be ordered. My boyfriend Joe immediately loved the dish: the two baked eggs mixed in with the stewed tomato inadvertently making a soup-like consistency and perfect for dipping the included sourdough.
Café Linnea offers a range of menu items for all style of brunch diners. You can have a light meal and catch up over coffee or a full-on affair to settle your stomach grumbles. All three visits were during the traditional brunch hours of Saturday but I’m excited for a weekday trip in the future. They also offer Sunday high tea for those who fancy a cup. Wait times were reasonable for us and a valid excuse to pop on over to neighbouring Duchess Provisions to do a bit of shopping. Service was attentive and friendly, two concerns brought up by many when gratuity is included in the menu. No complaints here. I also enjoy the fact that Café Linnea is nestled in a residential area and away from busy roads. Sometimes I need a quiet walk in the woods and hopefully, there’s brunch at the end.
10932 119 Street NW (Holland Plaza)