*Please note that 14 Horses, the restaurant reviewed below, has changed location. No longer in Hotel Pacai, it is now located in Senator’s Passage. It still offers the best brunch in Vilnius, with a slightly different concept than the one outlined here! Please see the new review of the 14 Horses brunch.
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Pacai (pronounce pat-SAI) is the latest luxury hotel to open in Vilnius. Once the residence of a noble family, in addition to its rooms and suites, it maintains two restaurants and a spa in the center of Old Town, on Didzoji St. Much has been made of the buffet and a la carte breakfast selections at Paciai’s restaurant 14Horses. So, does breakfast at Paciai live up to the hype?
In presentation, Pacai’s buffet breakfast is appealing with its earthy stoneware and tiered displays of tasty-looking items. The granola stand is especially impressive, with its generous selection of cereals, nuts, yogurt, and dairy and non-dairy milks. The main buffet selection is a combination of vegetables, which tend to be on the preserved side (think olives, capers, and mushrooms); fresh fruit, both whole and sliced; deli-style meats and cheeses that languish a bit sadly in their serving dishes; a natural cheese board; and various types of smoked fish. The pastry section occupies significant real estate and includes plenty of savory and sweet options. Warming pans open to reveal hot choices such as bacon or sausage. If you aren’t staying at the hotel or don’t arrive early enough, this spread, which no doubt looks bountiful when first laid out, feels sparse towards 11 am, when the restaurant stops serving breakfast.
Is the buffet a good value? It depends. If carbs excite you and you don’t need the benefit of fresh salad, 25 EUR for the buffet may feel like a good deal, particularly if you order an omelet or fried eggs (included in the price of the buffet) to go with your other choices. Depending upon your dietary requirements, you do have the potential to fill plates and bowls with a generous quantity of food.
However, the a la carte offerings may be more appealing and better value. The Pacai Breakfast consists of a nice portion of duck sausages, a whole roasted portobello mushroom, a roasted tomato, potatoes, and toast with salad and apple jam for 18 EUR. The meal is beautifully presented, with sprigs of dill and parsley bringing color onto the plate. The smoked mackerel omelet comes with kale, potatoes, toast, and salad and is very filling and tasty at 15 EUR. Other a la carte options include Belgian waffles, an avocado sandwich with egg, a ham-and-cheese sandwich, and rice porridge with granola.
The Pacai breakfast concept does stand out from other offerings around Vilnius. Unfortunately, we must speak about the level of service. When we were there in November, though the hostess was pleasant and quick to help us find a table, afterwards, the service was slow—as per usual, too few servers worked the floor. The wait for our hot meals and coffees seemed interminable, all while the buffet breakfast selections diminished.
Furthermore, when the clock struck 11 am, it was as if a fairy godmother waved her wand and cleared the buffet. No last call was given to offer diners a chance to fill their plates or snatch an extra pastry—we can only imagine all that uneaten food going to waste. To top it off, the cleaning staff were not far behind the serving staff, running the vacuum cleaner even over our conversation. Our welcome had clearly been revoked, which, for a hotel of Pacai’s supposed standing, felt stingy. One of my companions remarked, with disapproval, how “Soviet” this attitude is—a reminder that Lithuania has only been independent 30 years and still, in some respects, particularly in customer service, differs from other parts of the world.
Pacai’s breakfast is still an experience, for good or bad, though I recommend the a la carte menu over the buffet. Also, if you plan to have a leisurely morning chatting with a friend over coffee, either arrive early or have a favorite café to retreat to when breakfast at the hotel closes up shop.