If there will be 2 or 3 Coffee Shops that I patron the most: Epoch @ Quarry Bay is probably one of them on a regular basis, the other being Coco Espresso near my office. Little known to outsiders is that Wanchai & Quarry Bay's EPOCH stores have slightly different ownership structures, as the Wanchai store is partly owned by an ex-HK actress, unlike this outlet. Although 'illy' coffee is used in as prestigious as French Michelin 1-3 Star restaurants, filtering down all the way to Oliver'
Bad news 1st then! Served in a Double-shot Demitasse Cup by default, its rather difficult to score a great illy espresso here, or anywhere else for that matter! You can get an average shot normally, but some of them are below-par at either wanchai or quarry bay outlets. Personally - please think about how SO MANY people either love or loathe 'illy' coffees without understanding why! The reason is because illy is one of the most versatile but complex blends ever experienced, its difficult to get it right, and one can extract whatever flavours you desire from its 9+ beans depending on settings and skillz. If you don't know how to extract it well enough though, you'll think its thin, acidic and smoky: Unworthy. On the other hand, the few that can get it right on the odd occasions can't repeatedly maintain it either. On the extreme end? When done really really poorly, it somehow turns into a likeable coffee when added with milk. Most professional baristas won't touch 'illy' for a reason - they know it can be great but very rarely, and when extracted under strictest professional methods, its only good for half-a-day before it turns nasty, unpredictable and requires 'coaxing'. With this in mind, I sincerely believed that Epoch tried to do a decent job on average!
CAFFE LATTE & CAPPUCINO -
The Latte here is smooth and complex in layering but subtle - its illy's signature style but is often subdued, more exacerbated by the fact its usually unfresh by the time it reaches stores in HK cafes. Stronger here is the Cappucino version, as it carries less milk in the Ceramic cup: wonderfully complex on most occasions whether it is made by any of the residing male or female baristas. TRACY the gun-barista here has won the local 2009 HK BARISTA CHAMPIONSHIP and also competed in the AUSTRALASIAN BARISTA CHAMPIONSHIP 2009 AFTERWARDS, plus there were others here who competed. The average level of Coffee Making skillz here is really high - to me, everyone working here are knowledgeable and well trained, there aren't obvious Winners or Losers! If I were to gamble on a Coffee Team to win, much like others gamble on Football Teams, EPOCH @ QUARRY BAY would be my 1st pick! (The espressos' fluctuating qualities however, are probably half attributed to illy's inherent weakness & half attributable to the difficulty in understanding how to extract this blend properly, I suppose... )
POACHED PEAR IN SECRET SPICES w/ CHOCOLATE SAUCE -
This is stuffed with Haagen Dazs vanilla ice-cream, served cold. Its flavour reminds me of mulled-wine, full of wintery spice flavours!
HOT FOOD -
Equally Impressive and not to be neglected is the Kitchen here! The newly appointed French Consulting Chef on top of the existing French Pastry Chef has now designed specialty-dishes, rotated on daily or weekly basis. This sits in well on top of the interesting permanent Menu. Dishes from Italian, Mediterranean to lesser-known dishes from Basque Country are seen on their LCD screen each day - its very refreshing and also why I now eat dinner here occassionally. Not everything works perfectly, but most of them are satisfying enough for the relatively low pricing policy. They even serve many styles of cheese fondues lately! A must-recommend is the Bolognese Spaghetti: slow-cooked, complex in depth, albeit minuitly different on each visit, its better than 98% of Italian restaurants out there!
Epoch has always impressed with its dessert selections, with a famous award-winning French Patissier over-looking their offerings. Some cakes work really well, some not as well, but its guaranteed always interesting! Like Paul Lafayet, their Cake selection works on a rotational basis and are moulded in a remote central location.... ! The 7 Layers Valrhona cake is well-reknowned, but the Napolean mille-feuille is often under-rated and better than many other cake shops. It has a rare, separate chocolatey top pastry layer, then moist custard sandwiched between normal buttery crisp pastry as contrast!
EPOCH TO ME, JUST GETS BETTER AND BETTER BY THE WEEK, PARTICULARLY THE QUARRY BAY STORE! IT IS NOW ONE OF MY FAVOURITE RELAXING SPOTS AND YOU MIGHT JUST CATCH ME THERE READING MY PAPERS! THE ILLY COFFEE SERVED HERE HOWEVER OPENS A NEW CAN OF WORMS EVEN FOR THE VERY WELL-TRAINED BARISTA TEAM, ITS NOT SOMETHING THAT CAN BE CONQUERED EASILY.. LOW-MID '5'.
JUST REALISED THAT I HAVE EATEN A LOT MORE FOOD HERE THAN I REMEMBERED! SO PLEASE DO VISIT MY SUPPLEMENTARY PHOTO'S BLOG 1-2 DAYS LATER LOL FOR FULL PHOTOS, BUT WAIT UNTIL I UPDATE IT ON THE WEEKEND: [http://babedolphin.blogspot.com/ ]