Name: La Brioche
Location: University Station Shopping Mall, 2862 University Ave, Madison, WI 53705
Ambience: French bistro
Best Dish: Tres Leches Cake
La Brioche sits rather unassumingly, in a strip mall right next to Dairy Queen. However, walk inside and you’re immediately greeted with an extensive bakery and a warm, friendly atmosphere. A lot of the patrons are groups of older adults rather than college age kids, or families coming in for brunch. The rich wallpaper seems like it should be rather jarring, but once you’re seated, they just add to the vibe. Also notable is that they have signs asking patrons to turn off their electronic devices, which surprisingly — is very well heeded. As a result, people actually converse with each other.
Their brunch menu carries relatively standard brunch options for a French place in the USA — crepes, a variety of eggs, and sandwiches. Their crepes ($10.75), while tasty, are outshined by those of Bradbury’s. They lack the lightness that Bradbury’s crepes had, weighed down by the rich creme anglaise and the generous portion of berries and caramelized pecans. It felt like there was almost too much going on. Their vegetarian eggs benedict ($10.75) was served on a croissant, which was very good — however, my dining partner felt like there could have been more to the dish. The eggs were well done, and the yolk blended well with the bearnaise sauce. The roasted garlic potatoes ($4) were very well cooked, but had little to no garlic flavor, and could have done with some herbs. The dishes were fine, but neither really stood out. I think I would order the sandwiches the next time, rather than their more brunchy options.
Where La Brioche really excels is their bakery — their tres leches cake, which isn’t always there, is simply phenomenal and is easily their best dish. Their carrot cake leaves for wanting, but their cream puffs and eclairs are also very good. Overall, it’s a lovely place to take family if they’re in town for a weekend or to celebrate a birthday — the atmosphere is fantastic. However, if you’re looking for good brunch, there are better options in Madison.