Metro Manila is full of hidden gems, and even though some might not be literally so, you’ll never know they exist till you stumble upon them by accident. That is exactly what happened to me the other day while as I was strolling around Serendra in BGC, looking for a quiet little café other than the one I had been frequenting. I came across L’Epicerie Gourmand, a café slash restaurant slash grocery store. Let’s call it a “grocerant”, shall we?
Warm lighting, wooden furniture, Steinlen’s famous poster of the “Tournee du Chat Noir” on the wall, a cat almost purring welcome in French, glasses dangling at the bar reflecting different color patterns—these sights and more are what will greet you upon entering L’Epicerie Gourmand’s doors. The grocerant’s ambience is casual and inviting; it’s the kind of place you want to swing by for lunch breaks with colleagues, after work cocktails with friends, lunches and breakfasts with family, or even solo escapades in between errands, like in my case.
Monsieur Bruno, the manager of the restaurant is very pleasant to talk to, attentive to all his visitors, and helpful when it comes to suggesting what to try from their extensive menu. He is clearly passionate about his place, and such passion is evident when he talks about his restaurant and his dishes. The rest of the staff were also friendly and attentive.
It was 1:00 in the afternoon when I stumbled upon the place. I had already had my lunch but it would have been such a pity to order a sad espresso so I settled for a fruity and zingy Sauvignon Blanc from Pay d’Oc, France. It turned out to be the perfect company while I got lost in my latest read by Michael Faudet, Dirty Little Things.
Last weekend, I took the boys back there for aperitif. My son couldn’t care less; he saw croissants and that was the end of story. Hubby, on the other hand, was impressed. We ordered a plate of cold cuts and cheese to share, deep fried brie cheese served with jam and on top of that, gnocchi, which Monsieur Bruno highly recommended.
Gnocchi is one of those tricky Italian dishes. While it requires very few ingredients, it’s absolutely difficult to nail. Most of the time one ends up plating a chewy disaster. But Monsieur Bruno’s take on the dish did not disappoint. His gnocchi pillows were the real definition of what gnocchi should feel like—plump, fluffy, and melts in your mouth. Served with a simple pesto sauce that wasn’t too rich and creamy, the gnocchi was simply divine. It stole the show, but believe me, we enjoyed everything, so much so that we even stayed for dessert and coffee. Their caramelized upside-down apple tart with vanilla ice cream is sinfully delicious.
L’Epicerie Gourmand has an extensive selection of drinks ranging from beer (both local and international brands); wine, of course (lots and lots of it); cocktails; hard liquor, non-alcoholic drinks you name it. The best part, or rather my favorite part, is shopping from their grocery section. There was beauty (and convenience, too) in eating something and loving it, buying the ingredients in-store, then going back home to try and recreate it. I bought this red pesto sauce that I now use when preparing my seafood zucchini spirals.
Plus, they have one of the essential ingredients to one of my favorite drinks! I love my Ricard with Grenadine. Ricard is a pastis with strong liquorice and aniseed flavors created by Paul Ricard in 1932. Grenadine is a fruit syrup quintessential to French childhood. It is made up of red berry fruits such as raspberry, red currant, black currant, and strawberry. I’m happy I can finally buy grenadine at the grocerant and, every once in a while, make myself a Ricard Tomate cocktail.
2 oz Ricard pastis
¼ oz grenadine syrup
Top up with:
5 oz chilled water
Best served in a highball glass
Ricard was introduced to me by my French friends. The first time I ever tasted it, or even knew of its existence, was in Kenya, somewhere amidst our magical savanna. But that is a story for another day.
Lora by Lora. x