Lyon Hall, Clarendon, VA

Three knowledgable diners enjoyed a wonderful Sunday Brunch out on the sidewalk at Lyon Hall this weekend.

Trust me when I say that if you have four or less people in your party, then you should start with only one order of the French Press ($7). A massive French Press – the size of IHOP’s “bottomless pot of coffee – this is easily a quart, and is made with very high quality Counter Culture beans. 

Perfect with an order of Donuts ($7.95) – four homemade beauties: one sugar donut with a bit of lavender spice, and three glazed – lemon, cherry, and peach. Each glazed donut came humorously stuffed with a sugared donut hole.

But you might not need that order of donuts because Lyon Hall’s bread basket is hors classe. It’s two types of bread – white and pumpernickel – with a creamy, salty tin of really good butter. Good bread and butter is one of the great culinary delights of this world, and this is good bread and butter.

Lyon Hall’s brunch peripherals are so generous and abundant that you almost overlook that some of the entrees aren’t quite as large (and you won’t care either because you’ll be carbo-stuffed by the time they arrive).

Smoked Salmon Poached Eggs ($13.95) was a croissant, either decapitated or smashed: I couldn’t really see it because it was covered with strips of house-smoked salmon, piles of spinach, and two poached eggs drizzled with Hollandaise. If this description appeals to you, then get this dish because it was delicious.

The surprise of the day was the misnamed Artichoke Salad ($10.95) which came with only a couple, seemingly canned, artichoke hearts and an imperfect Gribiche dressing which was relish-light and mayo-heavy. But aside from these nitpicks, the star of the plate was the summer beans (haricots verts and pickled long beans) – spankingly fresh and in wonderful contrast with everything else on the table. The menu says there are olives and oven-dried tomatoes, but I only remember arugula and fresh cherry tomatoes, along with a couple cubes of chickpea croutons. This is first and foremost a Bean Salad, and it’s one you should order before this growing season goes away.

Between the three of us, we also got an order of 3 Eggs Your Way ($5.25), over-easy, figuring we’d be able to use the eggs somewhere, but they really didn’t go with the salmon (because it already had poached eggs); only the salad benefitted from this little bit of wretched excess.

I’ve been to Lyon Hall several times now, but previously only at the bar, and only in the evening – it was this surprisingly delightful al fresco Sunday Brunch which vaulted it into Italic in the Dining Guide.

And just in case you think this is stuffy, haute cuisine, I’ll add that the table behind us was apparently warming up for that day’s football game: we overheard one of the guys say to the server, “Excuse me, instead of that shot of beer, could you make it a shot of vodka?”

Ah, Clarendon. You never disappoint.

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