Antigua, GT: Epicure Restaurante – Excellent French baked goods and the perfect Canele de Bordeaux
Epicure is a French bakery, restaurant, deli and grocery selling … well … epicurean items.
There are two locations, one directly across from the artisans market with a breath-taking outdoor garden on the upper level and a smaller take-out location 1/2 block from La Merced.
The take-out shop was conveniently located across the street from where I was staying. I tried almost all the breads there. Not only is it a good bakery for Guatemala, it beats most French bakeries in the San Francisco Bay area where I live.
In addition to a menu that offers salads, pastas and sandwiches, entrees change weekly and may include dishes such as chicken cordon bleu, risotto or fish and chips. Brunch is also available on the weekend and offers crepes and a few egg dishes.
While the sandwiches and salads were good, the standouts here are the baked goods.
Here's what I’ve tried in my many, many visits rated from A+ to F -
A …... Canele de Bordeaux
A …... Pull-apart cheese rolls
A - …. Potato chips and plantanitos
A - … Croissants (plain, chocolate, ham and cheese)
A - … Morning bun
B + … Rosemary foccacia
B + … Quiche
B + ….Antigua’s Best brand coffee
B …... Baguette
B …... Empanadas (curry chicken or spinach and cheese)
B …... Pan centenot integral (rye bread
)B …... Raisin rolls
B - …. Waldorf salad
B - …. Croque Monsieur
B - …. Roast beef sandwich
C – … Carnitas
IMO, all of this is A category food, but some items I liked more than others.
Service: B - Very good (take out shop), C - Average (restaurant)
Ambiance (restaurant): A - Way above average
The grocery is well stocked with crackers, cookies, teas, coffees, grains, beans, condiments such as gourmet mustard, sauces, jams, canned goods, etc. The grocery at the restaurant also has a refrigerated case with a nice selection of cheese and butter as well as a little produce.
The deli at the restaurant has house-made ice cream to go in flavors such as jamaica, Kalhua and cajeta.
In addition to salads and cold cuts, the deli sells some perfect-looking meat such as chops and chicken. Sausages include chorizo, longaniza and butifarra, an Antiguan sausage made with anis and other spices.
The take-out shop sells rotisserie chicken which always all gone by early afternoon. They can be reserved. This location usually offers one take out dinner such as lasagna.
On the weekend Epicure sells carnitas, the only thing that under-whelmed me. The problem was they were gourmet carnitas … epicurean carnitas … which should be a good thing, but not really. It would be how the French might make carnitas, more sophisticated and refined and not the gloriously greasy, teeth-shattering, porky, down-home version sold in the streets of Guatemala.
However, that was the item that thankfully first lured me to Epicure.
Flickr photostream with more pictures
Restaurant record with more info such as address, phone, hours and menu
Details in first reply
Stunning photos and great comments about the food at Epicure in today's Antigua Daily Photo post
"I had Epicure’s al dente pasta with a Camembert creamy sauce. It was simply delicious.
As far as I know, Epicure is the only place in La Antigua Guatemala where one can have British-style fish and chips, including the malt vinegar."
"Dined with a froup of 10 at Epicure last week, it was delectable.I really enjoyed a generous portion of mahimahi with giant shrimp and ratatouille. Dining in the garden was lovely but a bit cool, however the evening was capped off by the owner placing soft shawls around the shoulders of every woman at the table. "
More comments including other places to find English-style fish and chips in La Antigua.
EPICURE RESTAURANTE DETAILS
CANELE DE BORDEAUX: A … Exceptional
They are everything a great canele is supposed to be … crunchy caramelized exterior and delicate, almost custard-like interior. Even the best caneles can be inconsistent, so extra points to Epicure for always having the perfect canele and never missing. They cost 7 quetzales (about 90 cents)
PULL-APART CHEESE ROLLS: A … Exceptional
These addictive, soft, yeasty rolls topped with Gruyere cheese are another item I’ve bought repeatedly at Epicure. They are highly recommended. Everyone I’ve shared them with has raved about them. They are called flor de queso because the bread looks a little like a flower with petals.
CROISSANTS: A - … Way above average
All three croissants (plain, chocolate, ham and cheese) were crispy, buttery, many layered wonders. The chocolate filling is top-notch. Another item that is not only the best in Guatemala, but one of the best I’ve had anywhere. There are also almond and cinnamon croissants. So many croissants, so little time to try them all.
MORNING BUN: A - … Way above average
Of all the delicious pastries, the morning bun is one of my favorites. It is just the right size for this buttery, crisp roll with raisins that is sprinkled with sugar.
POTATO CHIPS AND PLANTANITOS: A - … Way above average
I love thin, crispy potato chips and the texture for these is my ideal. They have good, fresh potato flavor, are perfectly salted and are not greasy. The fried plantano chips are also the right thickness (no teeth-chipping hardness like some). They also have fresh flavor and are among the best I’ve ever had.
ROSEMARY FOCCACIA: B + … Very, very good
This dense, chewy foccacia that is nicely permeated with rosemary had just the right touch of olive oil and salt. Unlike so much foccacia, it was still fresh-tasting the next morning.
QUICHE: B + … Very, very good
Quiche Lorraine or broccoli quiche are available. The shell of the small tart-sized quiche is flakey with the right touch of butter. The filling is light, yet custardy.
ANTIGUA’S BEST BRAND COFFEE: B + … Very, very good
The coffee served at the restaurant had nice body and rich flavor. Lots of stores sell this coffee. Epicure does a swell job of brewing it.
BAGUETTE: B … Above average
This isn’t really a classic French baguette, but closer to a sour dough bread with a chewy crust and crumb that is denser and more flavorful to me than most baguettes.
There was another round white bread that was also excellent. I’m not sure of the name, but it might be pan de tuza. The crumb was softer and lighter with a more delicate crust.
EMAPANADAS: B … Above average
Both the curry chicken or spinach and cheese empanadas had a nice balanced ratio of filling to crust. The curry wasn’t overly spicy and the chicken good quality. The spinach was bright-tasting and good with the salty cheese. The crust was thicker than a turnover with an egg wash.
PAN CENTENOT INTEGRAL (RYE BREAD): B … Above average
This is an excellent rye bread. The crust is chewy and the bread has a deep rye flavor
RAISIN ROLLS: B … Above average
These dense, chewy raisin and nut rolls that were almost purple inside were tied with corn husks. They looked like hot cross buns from a distance. The only sweetness is from the raisins.
WALDORF SALAD: B - … Very good
This is a classic version of Waldorf salad. My Guatemala friend who had never tried this said he would like it … if it didn’t have celery and apples.
CROQUE MONSIEUR: B - … Very good
The excellent white bread had a tasty slice of ham and was covered with good quality Gruyere cheese. However, I’m not a fan of the take-out croque in general and prefer them made to order in a restaurant.
ROAST BEEF SANDWICH: B - … Very good
Roast beef isn’t common in Guatemala and I was craving it. However, the beef cryovacked in plastic wasn’t any better than anything sold in a chain supermarket deli in the US. Even the roll reminded me of something from Safeway. It was good enough, but not up to the other items I tried.
I wanted a sandwich made from the rotisserie chicken, but for sandwiches, only chicken salad is available. My Spanish wasn’t good enough for me to have an “Easy Rider” moment.
CARNITAS: C + … Slightly above average
The fault here was these were too good, in sense. They weren’t the lardy, greasy street version with crunchy outsides. When we opened it up, everyone looked down and said “what’s that?” The different preparation might be overlooked, but even though I could tell this was quality pork, it had zero flavor.
Two native Guatemalans gave a thumbs down. It is only available on the weekends and made at the take-out shop. It can be ordered at the restaurant for delivery.
SERVICE: B - Very good (take out shop), C - Average (restaurant)
Despite my lacking Spanish language skills, the staff here has always been friendly and helpful. That was also the same for the deli people at the Restaurant. The servers at the restaurant when we ate there were slow and inattentive. It was difficult to catch their eye.. I had two Guatemalan friends with me, so there was no language barrier. They were not unpleasant, but they weren’t very welcoming or helpful either.
Ambiance (restaurant): A - Way above average
The lush, green, garden covered with flowers such as hanging yellow orchids is one of the prettiest in Antigua.
The bakery, ice cream and deli counters are on the first level. The grocery on the second and gorgeous garden is way in the back of the restaurant on the third level past the bar area.
I didn’t rate the take-out shop for ambiance. While there is a narrow counter along one wall with three bar stools, it is meant as a take-out store. This is where the actual bakery is located. It is neat, modern and clean. One room has the bread case, rotisserie and deli case. Another room has the groceries.
This is the business I have visited the most in Antigua. While some of it had to do with proximaty, I always make a stop here when I’m in the city.
If you like excellent French baked goods, you’ll love Epicure. I know I do.
Did you ever get to try the chiccarones at Epicure? It sounds from the description as though that was what you were expecting when you ordered the carnitas. I don't think of carnitas as having a "crunchy" or "teeth-shattering" component, but that's the perfect description of the chiccarones I've had from Epicure. And if that final picture is the carnitas, the chiccarones look entirely different. They look like the fried pork skin they are, with only a bit of meat clinging to them.