The service at the California Bistro is excellent; ambience is tasty with a blend of American/French country style, and the choice of food pretty overwhelming. However the best news of all, is that the chef in charge is from St.Helens in Lancashire, and loving every minute of his new high profile position. Graham Quayle is now second in command at the swanky golf club resort behind Executive chef Pascal Vignau. More about him in future dispatches. I did notice however that he was chef de partie at the fabulous Hotel Negresco in Nice as well as the Hermitage in Monte Carlo in his previous life, prior to his arrival in Carlsbad. Graham has obviously utilized his English upbringing with California style cuisine to offer an exciting menu that stays in the mind for quite some time.
On a Sunday in May the California Bistro room was about three-quarters full, and we were swiftly taken to our table, which can be inside or outside on the patio. Fresh juices and coffee quickly arrived, and my two guests who live locally, were stomping at the bit to sample the menu after seeing all the other people returning to their table with plates stacked high with goodies. A strolling guitar player called Jeff Linskey drifted from table to table serenading the various guests in his inimitable style, creating the relaxed atmosphere that goes with good company in tasteful surroundings and food to match.
There was way too much food on offer to cover every dish, but I made a mental note of the some of the standouts starting with the excellent seafood area in the Cold Selection. It was all good, the cocktail shrimp, tuna sashimi, crab legs and claws. Cold cuts, smoked meats and pates all served with a plethora of sauces and chutneys. International cheeses and breads, all kinds of salads, fresh fruits and berries, and tropical fruits such as mangos, kiwis and guavas add to the choices that never seem to end.
Not to be outdone, the Carving Station featured a superb Beef Steak with a rich bourbon black peppercorn sauce and horseradish that was extremely tender, and a garlic rubbed leg of lamb with minted lamb and mustards. If that was not enough, chicken, fish and veal round out the selection. The smoked bacon was a standout, as were the cheese blintzes with raspberry sauce, the waffles and the biscuits and gravy. Eggs come in any style you want, with enough chefs on hand to make sure that service is quick and efficient at all times, although one of my guests was disappointed with the eggs over easy, that failed to come out quite right.
Kids are not left out of the picture, with a specially designed Children’s Buffet featuring miniature peanut butter and jelly finger sandwiches. Stuffed animals adorn the site that also has all the usual suspects such as jello, chicken nuggets, fresh fruits and vegetables, macaroni and cheese and chocolate chip cookies.
Saving space at the end of such a blowout for the tantalizing selection of desserts is also another trick. About a dozen are on display like Julian apple tarts, flourless chocolate cake, passion fruit mousse cake and cheesecake.
Not a lot here to dislike, and the Four Seasons Sunday brunch is a place I will look forward to checking out again and again in future visits to Carlsbad.
If you are unable to make the brunch then the Buffet Montmarte on Wednesday evening could be an alternative. At $25 a person or $32 with a carafe of wine Pascal Vigneau gets a chance to show off his skills with a menu based on the teachings of Escoffier and Careme.
Mike Hepworth, June 2000
Dress: California casual
Parking: Valet parking-complimentary
Price: $29.50 adults and $16.50 for children between two & 12 years of age