Inhabiting the west side of the third floor of Fairhaven’s delightfully antiquated Sycamore Square, The Black Cat (“Le Chat Noir”) is a well-regarded date-night spot, serving up classic American bistro cuisine, artsy cocktails and stunning sunset views.
I’m no stranger to the restaurant — its Dungeness crab mac and cheese is my go-to option — but despite this, it was only recently the existence of a limited brunch menu was revealed to me. My first reaction was abject horror that I’d missed this. The second was to immediately make plans to give it a try.
Limited to a 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. time slot on Sundays only, you do have to time it just so to make it in. We climbed the first three floors of the quiet building — rumored to be haunted by a presence called the Green Lady — and were seated quickly on the bar side of The Black Cat.
The brunch menu is, for the most part, all fairly typical breakfast fare, with a few sandwiches and soup ripped from the lunch and dinner menus for the latecomers. Bypassing those, I first ordered a toffee Irish coffee, then put in for a heavy, hangover-curing, belt-loosening meal.
First, a staple breakfast, The Black Cat breakfast ($16). Two eggs, a protein, toast and fried potatoes, this is your quintessential breakfast plate. The toast was straightforward buttered sourdough, the potatoes lightly seasoned but perfectly crisp. The eggs are what shone here. Normally, an order of scrambled eggs will net you a mound of fluffy, bordering-on-desiccated eggs. Here, they were more reminiscent of an artisanal soft scrambled egg, my personal preference. The bacon was a touch thinner than you’d expect at someplace with the ambiance of The Black Cat —but that’s a nitpick.
Another breakfast staple, biscuits and gravy ($13), is served with a slightly upscale twist. Two biscuits are split, toasted, doused in the most stick-to-your-ribs gravy I’ve ever tasted, then given a poached egg hat. (It’s amazing how fancy a poached egg makes a meal look.) Toasting the biscuit is a great move, keeping the gravy from turning the biscuits into a bowl of mush. If nothing else, that’s a great takeaway for home cooks.
Next up, the fried chicken and waffle ($15). Like peanut butter and jelly, the sum is greater than its parts, and that shows through here. By itself, the waffle was very good, featuring a crispy exterior with a fluffy interior, akin to an angel’s food cake. The chicken was a generous slice of white meat, delicately breaded and fried. On its own, the chicken felt lacking in flavor, but forked with a piece of waffle and doused in the included maple syrup and honey butter, it was positively divine. There aren’t many options for chicken and waffles in Bellingham, so I’m pleased to say this is a good one.
Finally, without a doubt, the best thing I tried at Sunday brunch was the Dungeness crab cake Benedict ($17). It’s no secret I’m a fan of eggs Benedict. The Black Cat does them very, very well. The hollandaise sauce may seem light at first, but it’s the perfect amount for the dish. While my eggs were a touch overcooked and not runny, the crab cakes more than made up for that. Generously sized, crispy and beautifully seasoned, I had two-thirds of the plate gone before remembering I had three other dishes to try, too. This is one item that absolutely will get me back through the door over the multitude of breakfast options in Bellingham.
Surveying our plates, I was surprised by the damage we’d done. Two of us, constituting about 1.75 average appetites, had managed to clear about 75% of our four dishes. It should be said the serving sizes are not immense. Had we ordered one dish apiece, I’m certain we’d have had the plates polished clean with a plan to walk to Cafe Blue or The Iron Rooster for a pastry. This isn’t meant as an indictment — in fact, I really appreciate the decision to make the serving sizes manageable, rather than bulk every plate with a pile of potatoes and institutional-tasting scrambled eggs.
The value proposition of brunch at The Black Cat, to me, is less about getting the biggest breakfast you’ve ever had and more about having a solid breakfast in a classy venue, putting down a mimosa (or three), and figuring out if you can break into the kitchen to “Oceans 11” all the crab cakes.
Sunday brunch is served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Black Cat, located on the third floor of Sycamore Square, 1200 Harris Ave. Info: blackcatbellingham.com.