Entrée, French Georgian Bakery Chain, 33 Azerbaijan Prospekti (near Winter Garden) and 220 Dalariya Aliyeva (near 28 Mai), Baku www.entree.ge
In the US an entrée is the main course of a meal but almost everywhere else, it is what us Brits call the starter. People in the UK, of course, have a historic snobbery about using French words, which is why they say napkin and not serviette or lavatory instead of toilet or excuse me rather than pardon. It’s all very confusing! The word itself means entrance or entry. In Baku, Entrée is the name of three French bakeries which opened here at the end of last year following the success of seven such outlets in Tbilisi, Georgia since 2008.
I like a French Bakery, me. Croissants, pain au raisin, baguettes, little fruit tartlets, millefeuille and éclairs spring to mind. And they’re always pretty. And they’re small, so you have less of a bad conscience. I mean, it’s so much easier to eat two mini croissants than to have one large one, isn’t it? The coffee is always good and then there’s that wonderful Francophile croissant dipping. Honestly, all you need is a beret and a stripey t-shirt and you could be a dead ringer for Francoise Sagan. Or Francoise Hardy. Or maybe cute little France Galle? Sylvie Vartan? Jane Birkin? Mireille Matthieu? Edith Piaf? Enough already! Stop me now before I break into song!
I’ve been to two of the three Entrées in Baku, the one on 33 Azerbaijan Prospekti which is not too far from my apartment and another at 220 Dilarya Aliyeva near 28 May Mall. Both have seating areas, the on at 220 Dilarya Aliyeva is smarter and cosier and has a slightly more varied food menu, offering pizza, pasta, burgers and other hot dishes and you can see the cooks and bakers in action . So rather than buy and take home, I thought I’d buy and try right there.
At 33 Azerbaijan Prospekti, the ambience is more that of a sandwich bar than cute café. It’s self service. You order at the counter and then take your food to a tan and olive coloured leatherette banquette running along the wall behind a spaced row of little formica tables. There’s another wooden bar height table with 12 or so stools around it for larger groups. It’s all very clean and neat looking but not especially cosy or the sort of place where you might while away some time, more of a builders caf with dainty lady food rather than fry ups. Well, I say that, thinking of the pretty cake and bread display but having had breakfast there, I have to say that the portions are rather more man sized. Entrée offers three different types of breakfast, The ‘Breakfast Light’ at AZN4 with a hot drink of your choice and a French or Georgian pastry, a ‘Breakfast Entrée’ at AZN7 with a hot drink of choice, a French or Georgian pastry, either fruit juice or a dairy product (yoghurt?) and any kind of sandwich and finally a ‘Breakfast Continental” at AZN10 with a hot drink of choice, a French or Georgian pastry, a fruit juice, a small French bread roll, 10 g of butter, jam or honey, ham and cheese omelette or any kind of sandwich. Scrambled egg orders are separate and range from AZN2 for basic to AZN5 with smoked salmon. It was a Saturday morning, about 11 am and we were peckish because we hadn’t had any breakfast yet, so it made sense to grab some food at Entrée. We ordered one Continental, one Light and a separate order of scrambled eggs with salmon. This certainly turned into a very filling and substantial meal and lasted us for the rest of the day. The coffee was excellent, though literally just in a small cup each, the orange juice was freshly squeezed, the omelette was kind of chunky and builderish but tasty. The scrambled egg was nice too, though a bit odd in that it came in a cast iron pan and was more a scrambled omelette than a light fluffy scrambled egg. There were two quite thick bits of smoked salmon with it, not overly generous but adequate. The two small brown bread super crusty rolls were fresh but quite dense, quite chewy. We each had a croissant and they were enormous but lightish and flakey. There was just one very small potlet of jam and two little honey potlets. To my mind, honey, lovely as it is, doesn’t really go with croissant and I would have preferred more fruity jam. Then to top it all off came the super challenge….. a half length baguette fully, no gapingly, stuffed with shredded chicken, a few small bits of tomato and a couple of floppy lettuce leaves, a streak of mayo, nothing much else. Although it initially didn’t look all that appetising, the chicken had been marinated and cooked well and was very juicy and flavoursome but it was just all too overwhelming and too much to manage after our already pretty substantial carb fest, so we had it wrapped and took it home. We needed nothing more to eat all day, not a single crumb, and in the evening, we had the chicken with a nice crunchy salad. Not bad, a whole day’s food for two people for a total outlay of under AZN20!
At 220 Dilarya Aliyeva a very nice chicken wrap with a cup of coffee was AZN8.
As breakfasts go it was about as dainty and French at Gérard Depardieu in a tutu. French in format, yes, but applying for Russian, or rather, in this case, Georgian, citizenship. Heavy on the carbs with some protein thrown in and no vitamins aside from the small orange juice, it wasn’t possibly the healthiest breakfast you could have but it sure was filling and tasty! And you can’t beat the price. At Entrée you can get a small meal for virtually the same amount of money as you might pay elsewhere for just a cup of coffee.
Entrée do party catering at very competitive prices too and judging by the photos I have seen, their trays of canapés look elegant and bite sized. Breakfasts are available weekdays 8 am till 11 am and 8 am until noon at weekends.