Why Are Cheap English Hotel Breakfasts So Much Better Than Cheap American Hotel Breakfasts?
If Americans realized how bad things were, there'd be a revolution. (Still just talking about breakfast, here, people. For now.)
After more than twenty years of travel to the United Kingdom, and nearly as many years of experience with its hotels—nice ones, okay ones, really cheap ones, all kinds, really—there's only ever been one problem I've ever faced, as far as the inevitable breakfast is concerned. Eventually, the fun's all going to be over, and I'm going to have to go back home to the United States and its many fine lodging options, where, inevitably, I will sit down to breakfast, and it will not be the breakfast I want to eat.
It will not have proper sausages, or eggs that actually taste like eggs, or the grilled tomato, or the back bacon that I could subsist on, at least until the hypertension kicks in. It will be a breakfast that I eat because you have to eat breakfast, because it is the most important meal of the day, something done to pass the time until I get to go back across the Atlantic Ocean, where things are done correctly.
Don't get me wrong—American breakfasts are terrific. Fluffy pancakes, thick-cut bacon, omelettes the size of Rhode Island, yeasty, glazed donuts, French toast dripping with Vermont maple syrup. You name it, we wake up and do it, and we do it damn well. When it comes to hotels, however, and not just the cheap ones, but often giant, upmarket brands that you would assume know better, everything falls apart. Every single living thing.
Eggs and potatoes come out of a bag, or at least taste like they did. Sausage, typically way overspiced, probably all comes from the same, sad factory farm, somewhere where people have given up on life. The cheese for your omelette, if you're lucky enough to get one of those, was probably shredded a year ago. Bacon is cut so thin and usually tastes so terrible, it's barely worth the bother. Want a waffle? Make it yourself, from the industrial sludge batter that every last budget hotel seems to buy. This is not a meal you look forward to. It is something you eat because it's there, often offered complimentary, an afterthought. It tastes like one, too.
Meanwhile, back in the U.K., you could choose any of the no-frills chains that dot the isles—let's say Premier Inn, a very English brand, indeed—and, even on the cook's worst day, be served up a proper, all-you-care-to-eat full English, complete with bottomless cups of strong, very decent coffee, all for roughly $12, tax included. From black pudding to bubble and squeak to baked beans, to healthy organic yogurts, granola, fruit salad, you name it, it's all there. For Americans used to the sadness they call breakfast at a Fairfield Inn by Marriott, it's heaven on earth. To many Brits, this is entry level, basic stuff. Sometimes, basic is plenty.