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Eggs benedict: six versions of a New York classic

From sardou in New Orleans to florentine in Paris, here’s our pick of the world’s best eggs benedict variations.

Published 26 Mar 2021, 17:00 GMT
Dating back to the turn of the 20th century, eggs sardou is the creation of Antoine’s ...

Dating back to the turn of the 20th century, eggs sardou is the creation of Antoine’s — the oldest restaurant in New Orleans — and is named after Victorien Sardou, a 19th-century French playwright who was staying in the city at the time.

Photograph by Chris Granger

Created during America’s Gilded Age, eggs benedict marks the beginning of a new love affair with breakfasts. The US economy was booming and the rich, enjoying their new lives in urban sprawls like New York City and Chicago, had discovered the art of weekend brunching. The boiled egg was reserved for weekdays, so something a little more luxurious — say, a stack of delicately poached eggs, thick Canadian bacon and decadent French sauce — was required. What followed was a breakfast revolution. From New Orleans to Paris, eggs benedict spawned countless variants, making an indelible mark on the world’s breakfast menus.

1. Eggs benedict

Two iconic New York establishments lay claim to the original eggs benedict. The first is Delmonico’s, whose chef published a recipe for Eggs à la Benedick in 1894. The second is the Waldorf Hotel (now the Waldorf Astoria New York), where the dish is said to have been whipped up when a hungover regular ordered ‘some buttered toast, crisp bacon, two poached eggs and a pitcher of hollandaise sauce’ that same year. Whatever the truth, these early blueprints have much in common with the modern version of the dish, which comprises two halves of a toasted English muffin, each topped with Canadian bacon and a soft poached egg. But the real magic is in the hollandaise sauce, that classic French emulsion of egg yolks, melted butter and lemon.
Where to Start: New York City, of course. Most brunch spots feature the dish on their menus, but for a recipe that’s gone unchanged since the late 19th century, book a table at Delmonico’s.

2. Eggs florentine

‘à la florentine’ is a French culinary term that refers to dishes prepared or served with spinach and, often, mornay (a cheesy bechamel sauce). Meaning ‘in the style of Florence’, the term’s origins are blurry, with one theory claiming the combination was brought to Paris in the mid-15th century by Florence-born Catherine de’ Medici, the queen consort of France. Staying true to its name, eggs florentine swaps Canadian bacon for a bed of creamy spinach slowly simmered in butter. Traditionally, the egg stack is topped with a gruyère mornay, although many restaurants use hollandaise sauce instead.
Where to Start: Benedict, a restaurant in the heart of Paris, offers eight varieties of eggs benedict, including an exquisite eggs florentine served with black truffle. 

3. Eggs royale

This popular option is simply eggs benedict with the Canadian bacon replaced by lashings of smoked salmon. The fish pairs beautifully with velvety smooth, mildly citrusy hollandaise sauce and a sprinkling of fresh chives. A lighter option than a classic benedict, it’s popular in city brunch spots across the world, particularly in the UK, Canada and New Zealand.
Where to Start: For a premium royale served with champagne, try Jean-Georges at London’s The Connaught. The Modern Pantry in Farringdon, meanwhile, serves its eggs royale with a hazelnut and macadamia dukkah.

For a premium eggs royale served with champagne, try Jean-Georges at London’s The Connaught. 

Photograph by Jean Gorges

4. Eggs sardou

Dating back to the turn of the 20th century, eggs sardou is the creation of Antoine’s — the oldest restaurant in New Orleans — and is named after Victorien Sardou, a 19th-century French playwright who was staying in the city at the time. The star brunch plate features the classic combination of a muffin, poached egg and hollandaise sauce alongside buttered spinach, slow-cooked artichoke and anchovies.
Where to Start: Antoine’s, in New Orleans’ French Quarter, still serves its original eggs sardou, while neighbouring institution Brennan’s offers a version with tomato béarnaise. 

5. Eggs neptune

This version takes the essential benedict ingredients but swaps the bacon for a mountain of fresh crab meat. It’s most popular in coastal regions like New England, the Gulf Coast and Northern California, the waters of which are home to some of the world’s best crab, including the blue, king, snow and stone species.
Where to Start: Try Havana’s on Carolina Beach, North Carolina, for a delicious blue crab eggs benedict (an eggs neptune in all but name). It also offers a version with oysters. 

6. Eggs cochon

Another eggs benedict variation we have New Orleans to thank for, eggs cochon is a Spanish-influenced dish that swaps the bacon for apple-braised pulled pork. The cochon, or suckling pig, is slow-roasted in its own juices until it’s soft enough to be turned into what New Orleanians call ‘debris’ — strips of juicy, succulent pork meat. A buttermilk ‘biscuit’ replaces the English muffin, but the hollandaise sauce and runny poached egg are ingredients too good to ditch.
Where to start: The Ruby Slipper in New Orleans serves eggs cochon all day, as well as half a dozen other takes on eggs benedict, including versions with corned beef, shrimp and fried chicken. 

Published in Issue 11 (spring 2021) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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