Monarch Beach Resort’s brunch at Aveo proves a royal treat

Story and photos by LAURA BUCKLE

May 28th marked the three-year anniversary of my arrival in the USA, so what better way to celebrate than to go out for a very fancy brunch?

For this week’s report, I ventured south. “What, you crossed the border?” I hear you cry – yes, I did, I drove all of ten minutes away and went to Monarch Beach Resort’s restaurant Aveo to sample their incredible brunch.

Monarch Beach Resort is a luxury resort, recognized among the best in the world, with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and 400 exquisitely appointed guest rooms and suites. This resort is very special, nestled along the coast in Dana Point. It features the Robert Trent Jones-designed Monarch Beach Golf Links, access to one of the most exclusive beaches in Southern California, three luxurious pools, and six ocean-view restaurants, Aveo being the one that offers brunch every Sunday from 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

 

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Monarch Beach Resort offers panoramic views of the Pacific

Drawing inspiration from the South of France, Executive Chef Collin Thornton also borrows flavors from across the Mediterranean, from Spain to Italy and from Greece to Morocco.

Chef Thornton oversees all culinary operations including the resort’s signature Stonehill Tavern and Michael Mina restaurant; Sombra, a poolside Mexi-Cali cantina; 33˚ North, a convivial indoor-outdoor lobby-lounge; Part & Parcel Market, a grab-and-go marketplace; and Club 19, a gastro pub dining experience. An incredibly busy chef, yet he still made time on a busy Sunday over memorial weekend to introduce himself to me and my guest. He’s passionate about Monarch Beach Resort, enthusiastic about all of his restaurants, and his love for food is evident in the way he talks.  

Canada-born Chef Thornton has a distinguished career

Originally from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Thornton began his culinary career at the early age of 14 in Edmonton, Alberta, starting as a dishwasher and working his way up to an apprenticeship at the prestigious Edmonton Petroleum Club. Thornton has a distinguished 20-year culinary career working at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts properties around the world. 

He most recently served as Executive Chef of the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto, home to the largest hotel kitchen in Canada, and previously held positions at Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton, Alberta; Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda; the historic Fairmont Chateau Laurier on the Rideau Canal; and Fairmont Orchid on the Big Island of Hawaii where he oversaw 540 guestrooms, four restaurants and three lounges. 

Chef Thornton is very proud of the Aveo brunch, as he absolutely should be 

The brunch truly is a feast for the eyes. The spread spans the entirety of the restaurant, converting its bar, terrace, and dining rooms into a buffet featuring 10 over-the-top brunch stations. Never before have I seen such an exquisite buffet brunch, with so much on offer that it was difficult to know where to start. 

The brunch is divided into the following stations – well, the easiest way to explain them to you is to take you through them in order of how we ate.

The omelet and pancake station

At the omelet and pancake station, we decided to go for the omelet, with a side of bacon (the bacon here is really good, very crispy as I like it). You can build your own omelet and literally get the chef to make it just how you want it. Ours was delicious, light, fluffy and packed full of ingredients. 

 

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Beautiful to look at, delicious to eat

Raw bar and sushi station

West Coast & East Coast oysters, jumbo crab claws, and shrimp are offered at the raw bar and sushi station with an array of house-made accompaniments. AVEO’s sushi chef prepares made-to-order hand and cut rolls, and a bamboo boat boasts a sea of nigiri sushi. This was such a beautiful station to look at as well as eat from: the sushi was so fresh and prepared to suit your tastes and needs.

Savory station

The savory station features hearty offerings including Braised Chicken Cacciatore, Pacific Dover Sole, Moroccan Spiced Lamb Chops, and Seafood Paella that highlight the savory flavors of the Mediterranean and offer a peek into lunch and dinner items at AVEO Table + Bar. We sampled something from every dish on this station and they were all incredible. My particular favorites were the lamb chops, cooked to perfection and the sauce was so delicious. 

Little Italy station

Located outside on the terrace, the Little Italy station offers made-to-order risottos and house-made pastas & raviolis customizable with a variety of authentic Italian ingredients and house-made sauces. A wood-fired oven warms a variety of flatbreads including a sweet & savory Prosciutto & Pear with Quince. There were also cooked meats available here. We tried the flatbreads and risotto from this station, and they were both stunning.

 

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The dessert station is, in a word, spectacular

Dessert station

I have never in my life seen anything as beautiful and spectacular as this dessert station. Chef Thornton told me that the gentleman responsible for this was Jamon Harper, with whom Chef Thornton worked at The Fairmont Orchid in Hawaii, and brought over with him when he got the position at Monarch. I’m so glad he did. 

Amid a colorful menagerie of peanut butter jelly verrines and gold-dusted caramel tartlets, the Dessert Station also boasts a triple-tiered chocolate fountain and I’m told will soon expand to feature a made-to-order frost-top ice cream bar. 

This was a real treat and we sampled as many things as our tummies would allow.

My personal favorite was the chocolate dipped strawberries, which were the most deliciously ornate things I’ve ever seen and tasted so great.

Antipasti station

Fine American & European cheeses are displayed at Aveo’s Antipasti Station with artisan baguettes, dried fruit, and a whole golden honeycomb. Smoked & cured meats and house-made pâtés & rillettes are offered alongside assorted mustards and pickled vegetables. I don’t think I have ever seen such a range and variety of cheeses in my life, all so tasty and incredibly, even though this was a buffet, there was never any mess that you would associate with a cheese board, everything was presented so well and kept very well stocked.

Other stations include a Miraval Juice & Smoothie Bar, Continental Breakfast Station, Seasonal Salad Bar, Carvery, and a Children’s Station. 

This was a serious feast, I was so thankful I wore a very flowing dress for this occasion and believe me when I tell you, I ate nothing for the rest of day… This brunch is seriously worth leaving town for.

Brunch is priced at $78 per guest, $39 for children ages 5-12, and free for children under five. 

There are some wonderful upgrades available, including the Champagne package, the Bloody Mary package, and the Mimosa package. Full details are available at the resort’s website, www.monarchbeachresort.com or Facebook.com/Monarch Beach Resort. 

AVEO Table + Bar is located at One Monarch Beach Drive, Dana Point.