Nestled in the underbelly of the Howard Johnson Hotel is a pub-like eatery called The Millstone Eatery. It is quite dark in the early afternoon, despite the yawning windows across from the entrance, but some fantastically bright artwork of the local harbour shines off the walls, illuminating a cheerier side to this comfortable, though outdated, restaurant.
I’ve come in half a dozen Sunday mornings with my housemates or guests, so I’ve sampled this brunch buffet more than necessary. It’s not just this one either—I’ve been to my share of Sunday brunch buffets across Nanaimo. I’ve dined on Hong Kong House’s Western/Chinese brunch blend, which serves sweet and sour pork alongside pancakes, and Longwood Brew Pub’s impressively priced spread with crab and waffle chefs on hand, along with several others.
With that in mind, I can firmly say that the Millstone Eatery is simply average. Despite the fact that it hasn’t exactly impressed me, I’ve been there more than any of the other buffets, and will probably end up back there, especially since I’m dining on a student’s budget.
Millstone is inexpensive, as far as Sunday buffets in Nanaimo go, and casual—the food is good but not pretentious, and there’s quite a lot of it. The place is often nearly empty, even on buffet day—at most, half of the tables have been full, and I suspect most patrons are there because they’re staying at the hotel.
The Millstone serves Belgian waffles made to order, have an assembled omelette station, and an enormous roast beef to serve each week. Alongside that they have eggs Benedict, sausage, bacon, pulled pork, hash browns, a savoury bread pudding, and a few dozen other extras, like devilled eggs, cheeses, and a salad bar. While the buffet lacks many staple pastry options, they offer a few breads to choose from.
My personal favourite place to visit is the dessert table, which changes every week. There’s always a good selection of fresh fruit (with more than the usual, they often have things like dragon fruit, or kiwi) and some cheesecake, and usually you’ll find a trifle or pudding as well.
The roast beef has always been a good cut, and the heating lamp it rests under keeps it hot and juicy, if a little exposed. The waffles only came across powdery one of the five times I ordered them, so they’re a hit more often than a miss. The omelette station is the best presented, and possibly the most enticing. The only item I would urge caution on is the eggs Benedict, which are cooked in advance and are a bit tough to enjoy if you don’t catch them fresh—but if you do manage to get them hot, they’re well worth a try.
The Millstone’s servers are welcoming and attentive, and they’ve always been the same people, enough so that they remember my group each time we come in, which is a welcoming touch. Sundays also have Mimosas on special, so if you need a morning pick-me-up, or a cure for the night before, this is a great location.
The Millstone Eatery’s Sunday brunch buffet might be a great location for students or other casual diners, but it’s invisible to most of those searching for a brunch buffet. For those wanting an elegantly served brunch or a high end restaurant, this is not it, but it does provide good food and service for a reasonable price.