Ryan Shelton is a writer and comedian who loves to eat out at restaurants.
Since he was a young man, he’s eaten breakfast at numerous cafes and wondered what it might be like to just stay the entire day, seamlessly moving on to lunch and then dinner.
Would the staff be appalled, or would they proudly put your name on a plaque? Would they ask you to leave, or would it prompt them and the diners into uproarious applause? The only way to find out is to try it. And at the curious age of 33, that’s exactly what Ryan did.
In the lead up to this culinary experiment, Ryan contacted Broadsheet, who agreed to publish his scientific findings. And because Ryan doesn’t usually speak about himself in the third person … I’ve decided to switch to first-person now and get on with telling you everything that went down on the day, I attempted my long-awaited sitting of “Brelunner”.
To test the validity of Brelunner – Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner at the same table in the same restaurant for 12 consecutive hours.
Brelunner at Melbourne restaurant Cumulus Inc. will be the greatest dining experience of my life – stealing the current top spot from Project McBigChick (the night I replaced two beef patties in a Big Mac with two chicken patties from a McChicken).
With my fellow Brelunnerers – Tim, Jenni, Mark and “Fartley” – we arrive early to beat the rush. But it’s Melbourne and it’s Sunday and poached eggs are still in-season, so the predicted wait time is “somewhere between 20 and 1000 minutes”.
We sit down at Table 36 (the good table!) and tensions are high. Hungers are even higher. But we must pace ourselves. We can’t afford to sprint off the starting line and order a mountain of smashed avocado too early if we’re any chance of completing the entire 42-kilometre race.
Relax. That’s the last of the marathon references. Oh wait … Robert de Castella Artois.
It’s busy and patently clear that Cumulus is keen to turn this table over quickly. What they don’t realise however, is that the wait for this particular table is around 11-and-a-half hours – a fact that two of my fellow Brelunnerers (long-time hospo workers, Tim and Jenni) are already riddled with guilt about. We need a plan.
Madeleines! The menu says these little cakey things are a 15-minute wait. YES. We secretly agree to order five Madeleines after coffee … after breakfast.
65/65 egg and mushrooms on toast
Mortadella sandwich x 2
Smoked bacon bap
Breakfast is delicious. But the dark cloud of how we manage the awkward gap between breakfast and lunch just won’t go away. I suggest a “double-breakfast”, but everyone laughs it off as a joke. I am absolutely not joking.
Somehow, Jenni is still eating her shakshouka as staff eagerly await the expected, “Can we get the bill please?” But instead, a stroke of genius from Mark. Bloody Marys. Yes, Mark! Bloody Marys take time to make and time to drink. And they send a strong message that we’re not in any hurry at all … *checks watch … At. All.
My first bathroom visit and my first leg stretch. You thought you had me, deep vein thrombosis. Not this time, mate.
The most challenging time of the day by far. Myself, Tim and Jenni are now left alone to battle the paranoia that comes with inexplicably keeping a table in peak service time.
Even worse, we’re running worryingly low on conversation topics. A worry confirmed by Tim’s out-of-the-blue proposition that Bunnings should hire the old MacGuyver guy … *Googles … Richard Dean Anderson … to be the face of its new marketing campaign.
Our desperate need for a new face finally arrives in the form of Lydia. And then shortly after … Sophie and Devon. We are suddenly spoilt for conversational choice. We turn to the Cumulus staff and proudly declare, “Yes, we’re staying for lunch!” – a declaration that is met with nothing more than an unenthusiastic, “Okay, fine”. Safe to say we aren’t blowing their minds with our impulsive audaciousness. Yet.
Tin of Ortiz anchovies
Foie gras parfait
(Sadly, no Steve Moneghetti Bolognese)
All of a sudden, like a gift from the content Gods, Heston Blumenthal walks in for lunch. I immediately look to the kitchen staff who appear to be calm but are surely freaking the duck out. I hope Heston feels like steak, sauced with an emulsion of nervous sweat drizzled directly from the foreheads of terrified cooks.
As Candi, Jam and Sarah arrive, Operation Take Ages to Finish Lunch goes off without a hitch.
We’ve eaten and drunken (sic) way too much food and drunk (sick) and the thought of eating dinner soon seems fully insane. Although we have been here for more than seven hours now, so full insanity isn’t out of the question.
Jam has lost her phone. I can only assume that someone ate it with the foie gras when we ran out of crackers during lunch.
With three hours to go, Pip, Jo and Josh have also joined us. And like winter in Kings Landing … Dinner is coming. But I ‘gotta say, I’m surprisingly hungry again. I know, I know … PIG, right? Wrong. Lamb! Whole slow-roast lamb shoulder to share. I’ve been eyeing it off all day. Lamb is coming.
We proudly turn to the waiter and ask for the dinner menus. An act that we treat as a crowning achievement, while the waiter treats it like nothing more than a very regular thing to do in a restaurant at 6.36pm. Touché.
N.B. Cumulus minds still not blown. How many meals a guy ‘gotta eat to get some attention round here?
Whole slow-roast lamb shoulder to share
Roast new season potatoes, confit garlic and sage
Selection of three cheeses
Madeleines x 8 (some cake for old times sake)
Against all scientific reasoning, we find room in our battered stomachs. This prompts a discussion suggesting that we are biologically closer to pigs than we are to apes.
But as the last scraps of Délice (a TRIPLE-cream cheese) are regretfully devoured, the countdown to freedom finally begins. Soon we will be free from the self-imposed clutches of one of Melbourne’s best restaurants.
We made it. Somewhere among the feelings of stomach cramp, exhaustion, intoxication and flat-out guilt, I do feel a sense of achievement. But was Brelunner “the greatest dining experience of my life”…?
It could be the lamb, it could be the thought of MacGuyver “beating it by 10 per cent”, or it could just be plain-old Stockholm Syndrome, but as we clink our glasses to 12 consecutive hours of culinary imprisonment, part of me doesn’t want to ever leave this magical palace of never-ending indulgence.
And then the waiter brings us our bill … or more accurately, our reality cheque.
Ryan Shelton is a comedian, actor and radio presenter.