It's hard not to have preconceived notions about brunch at the Hyatt. It is, after all, the Hyatt, which means a certain amount of luxury will be involved. And it does cost $21.95 a person, which means a certain amount of food will be involved.
You know if it's a buffet brunch you're going to be eating foods that were never meant to go together, like blintzes and veal Oscar. And you're going to be drinking champagne a little too early in the day. Worst of all, you'll walk past those tables with six desserts on them, one bite taken out of each, and you'll start to feel depressed about the sheer waste. (If you aren't feeling depressed already because you've eaten too much -- not because you enjoyed it but just to get your money's worth.)
At least it's the Hyatt, you think, so the setting will be nice. When you get there, though, you realize brunch is served on the mezzanine -- a huge, open space with thousands, maybe millions of tables jammed in and everybody talking louder than everybody else. You've put on your Sunday best and brought your significant other, but half the people are in jeans and the other half are with their kids. Not exactly the quiet, elegant meal you were imagining.
You ask for a no-smoking table and the hostess says they're all taken. But what does it matter anyway when it's one large room and there are so many people smoking?
The hostess leads you past the buffet table piled with steamed shrimp, crab claws and oysters. And past the omelet area and the blintzes, waffles, french toast and eggs benedict. But then she stops at a pretty little table for two tucked away in a smaller, quieter side area you didn't know existed, a table right next to the windows with a perfect view of the harbor.
And after a glass or two of excellent orange juice mixed with the complementary sparkling wine, you begin to cheer up. Especially when the violinist and accordion player stop by your table and play "Memories" for you, and say you couldn't possibly %o remember the original "Memories" because you're too young. Then the ventriloquist wanders by and makes his raccoon do tricks for you plus creates a balloon dog for your companion, and you realize you're having the time of your life. And when you get a long-stemmed red rose with the check, you're ready to come back next Sunday.
You notice I haven't said much about the food. That doesn't mean it isn't good, but it's like every hotel brunch that's geared to huge numbers of guests. Some of it works well, most notably a dessert table that has to be seen to be believed -- I will say only that I hope you like chocolate. Some dishes you know are going to be chancy, the ones that don't improve in warming trays, like eggs benedict. Some could be better than they are, like veal Oscar topped with oversalted crab cake balls. Some you feel are simply there for the overkill, like mahi mahi in pineapple soy sauce and mussels steamed with white wine and Old Bay in a giant wok.
But you could certainly eat your money's worth sticking to the steamed shrimp and crab claws, strawberries and flaky croissants, the sliced beef and ham, the omelets made while you wait and good sausage and bacon. Then sit back, have another glass of orange juice and sparkling wine, and decide whether you really need to take all six of those desserts.
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Where: 300 Light St.
Hours: Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Credit cards accepted: Major credit cards.
Features: Buffet brunch.
Non-smoking section? Yes.
Call: (410) 528-1234.
Prices: Adults, $21.95; children 4-12, $12.50; under 4 free.