“Everything has a story.” That’s a common phrase for Lawrence Elliott, the co-owner of Williamsburg’s newest brunch spot, Monarch.

As he moves around the restaurant at 146 Metropolitan Avenue, he points out lamp fixtures, curtains and menu items, each of which has its own backstory.

From the Black Sesame French Toast recipe, over which Elliott’s wife and co-owner, Ayako, spent “months and months” obsessively perfecting; to the bench in the upstairs bathroom—made from a found piece of yellow pine, now extinct; to the opera lights, an Escher-esque staircase and intricate tiling, the very restaurant itself– the former home of an avant-garde theater– nods to a past, present and future.

The interior of Monarch. Photo: Jonathan Mora for the BK Reader.
The interior of Monarch. Photo: Jonathan Mora for the BK Reader.

On Sept. 30, Monarch started serving brunch, after more than two years operating mainly as a dinner spot since its opening in March 2019.

The move to brunch coincided with the closure of the Elliotts’ renowned Williamsburg restaurant Rabbithole, just a couple of blocks away on Bedford Avenue. Rabbithole was known for its brunch menu and frequently appeared on lists of “best brunch in Brooklyn” during its 15-year tenure.

A couple enjoys brunch at Monarch. Photo: Jonathan Mora for the BK Reader.
A couple enjoys brunch at Monarch. Photo: Jonathan Mora for the BK Reader.

Now it’s time for Monarch to step into the spotlight, and it’s doing so with a fun and joyful menu that puts an East-Asian spin on North American brunch staples.

Try, for example, the kimchi waffles with poached egg, cumin cilantro sauce and spring onion. The dish is a nod to the best kimchi or scallion pancakes found in Chinatown, but with an obvious twist.

“A kimchi pancake is usually kind of gummy in the middle,” Lawrence said. “The waffle is thin and has a lot of surface area where it is seared. It’s very crisp, has tons of flavor.”

Some of the Monarch menu items on offer. Photo: Supplied by Monarch.
Some of the Monarch menu items on offer. Photo: Supplied by Monarch.

So far, one of the most popular menu items has been the breakfast bahn mi: a homemade baguette with a cilantro and pickled vegetable omelet and duck liver pate, served with lots of pickles and cilantro, Korean red pepper thread and maggi sauce.

The dish is likely to be a hangover favorite: it’s eggy, bready and packed with flavor — although, the Gochujang fig jam egg sandwich on a buttermilk everything-biscuit and Szechuan sweet spiced bacon might give it a run for its money.

There are vegetarian and vegan options, too, including the veggie sandwich, a vegan burger made in-house with pinto and garbanzo beans, and served with grilled zucchini and pickled purple cabbage.

Upstairs at Monarch. Photo: Jonathan Mora for BK Reader

There’s also a range of dim sum options for all diets. The vegan KFC Korean-fried cauliflower with seared peanut and spicy Korean chili sauce is a textural delight and is well paired with either the mushroom edamame dumplings, crab rangoon or a pork belly bao bun.

The Elliotts, both bakers, make all of their bread, brioche, scones, waffles and baguettes in-house.

“Rabbithole was best known for brunch, and we’re bakers and that’s what we offer, that’s what we bring to the table,” Lawrence said.

Of course, brunch would not be brunch without a choice selection of cocktails.

Alex Ross. Photo: Jonathan Mora for BK Reader

Mixologist Alex Ross has put together a delightful cocktail list that riffs off the classics with a South Asian twist.

For example, the classic mimosa is replaced with “Monarch’s Sakura,” made with hibiscus, fresh grapefruit, maraschino liqueur and sparkling wine. Ross describes it as an “aromatic, Asian-inspired mimosa,” with woody notes that nod to cherry blossom trees.

The menu also features a “Seoulfire Bloody” — a twist on the classic Bloody Mary made with ginger and kimchi brine, with optional shochu. Ross says he “played Mr. Potato Head” to make the drink, making swaps like tabasco for kimchi and horseradish for ginger.

The "boozy bubble tea." Photo: Jonathan Mora for the BK Reader.
The “boozy bubble tea.” Photo: Jonathan Mora for the BK Reader.

Finally, one of the most Instagrammable items on the menu is surely the boozy bubble tea — or “Willow’s Wake-Up Call.” The tall drink features Earl Grey-infused white rum, brown sugar boba balls, honey, lemon and coconut milk.

Monarch also honors the bakery staples that helped make Rabbithole so beloved, including Lawrence’s famous scones. He learned to make them as a 20-year-old, while stuck in England and staying with Brits.

“They ate scones every day, so they taught me how to make them,” Lawrence says. “Someone told me the other day they’re the best they ever had, it’s not unusual for me to hear that.”

Scones at Monarch. Photo: Jonathan Mora for the BK Reader.
Scones at Monarch. Photo: Jonathan Mora for the BK Reader.

As he says, everything has a story. To make yourself part of Monarch’s story, stop in and say hello to Lawrence and Ayako.

Monarch is now open for brunch, Saturdays and Sundays, from 10:00am.

Jessy Edwards

Jessy Edwards is a writer based in Bushwick. Originally from New Zealand, she has written for the BBC, Rolling Stone, NBC New York, CNBC and her hometown newspaper, The Dominion Post, among others.

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