Dalloyau, 111 Neftchilar, Baku Tel.: (+99412) 4934010 www.dalloyau.az
One of the things I still find difficult to get used to here in Baku, is being followed around in shops by sales staff, literally centimeters from my shoulder. It makes me feel quite claustrophobic and completely inhibits me from examining merchandise and then buying. I try to remind myself that this is a local cultural thing, considered a way to provide good service to the customer by being at their beck and call to answer questions or help with explaining the product, not in fact, as it sometimes feels, a mistrustful shop detective scenario to make sure I don’t pocket the goods without paying. Or at least that’s what I tell myself.
At French Restaurant/Café Dalloyau, they’ve taken this to a fine art form. Every time I rose from my chair to look at their food displays, and very attractive they were too, a waiter, sometimes two, accompanied me in very close proximity. I was also very politely told that it was forbidden to take photos of the cake counter. Now, if this were an armaments factory or a military facility I’d quite understand but cake? Seriously? What do they think I’m going to do with my record of it? Copy the cake designs and set up a stall outside? Pass this secret information on to the enemy? Or do they maybe have something to hide? Do the cakes spell out a covert message, perhaps? I was flummoxed. In the event, it was too late, the snap had already been taken. Please, if you see something interesting in it beyond good looking cakes, do let me know. I’m always keen on a bit of cloak and dagger stuff.
Dalloyau was first established in Paris as far back as 1682 with a close connection to the Versailles Court. Just after the the French revolution, in 1802, Jean-Baptiste Dalloyau founded the first ‘Maison Gastronomique’ to offer the emerging bourgeoisie restaurant meals and catering which, to that point. only the noblesse had enjoyed. Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité for foodies. One of their most famous products is the opera cake, invented in 1955, a rectangular confection composed of three layers soaked in coffee syrup and garnished with coffee flavoured butter cream and a chocolate ganache, covered with dark chocolate. Dalloyau is a family-owned, independent business with well over thirty outlets worldwide and now also one in Baku on the corner of Neftchilar and and the square opposite the puppet theatre where the mushroom shaped fountains are.
The café is elegant and pretty, all in cream and muted gold tones with smart crockery to match. The food display really is very attractive. There’s a savoury counter with mini quiches, paté, cold meat and cheeses, a counter with artisan chocolates, another with a wide variety of scrumptious macaroons and finally, the aforementioned cake counter. The menu is also very tempting with a great choice of dishes you don’t normally find in Baku.
I had two Americano coffees, a bottle of sparkling Badoit water and two macaroons, one coffee flavoured, the other pistachio. Both were delicious, fresh and perfect and on a par with Ladurée or Pierre Hermé. My companion also had two Americano coffees, Badoit sparkling water and a Faubourg 101 salad of leaves with smoked salmon strips, mushroom, spinach sauce, artichoke puree, a small and tidy poached egg, all topped by two pretty edible pansies. I tried some of this and must say that it might possibly be the best salad I have eaten in Baku to date. The dressing had a certain je ne sais quoi and the whole thing tasted simply divine. I’d certainly come back for the food which is of a much higher standard than most other café/restaurants here. Top marks for that. The service was very good too and, as I’ve already mentioned, very attentive. Perhaps a bit too much so.
It came as no surprise then that the bill was not cheap, to say the least. In life you get what you pay for we’re always told, so the decent portion of excellent salad at AZN11 was just about acceptable. The two small bottles of Badoit at AZN5 each seemed pricey, as did the Americano coffees at AZN5 each, bearing in mind that they came in quite small cups. The macaroons too at AZN2 a piece were on the expensive side but what took the biscuit, so to speak, was that we were billed AZN1 for the little jug of milk that came with the coffee. That I take umbrage with. Aside from being quite ridiculous, it also seems unnecessarily petty and one wonders whether Dalloyau charge per sugar cube too. As neither of us took sugar, we didn’t have the chance to find out. I’d recommend the food any day, it really is of quite superior quality and taste but being followed around, however well meant and, even more so, being charged for a drop of milk in my rather too small but expensive coffee puts me right off this place. Non mais allo quoi?!
As a final word on this experience, let me tell you that just out of interest, I checked what a comparative order would have cost at the famous Wolseley Restaurant, cafe and restaurant to the celebrities, on London’s Piccadilly. It seems that had we consumed the same or very similar food and drink there, we’d have saved almost AZN10 …..